SINCE THEIR first full-length album in 2011, The Joy Formidable has consistently grown a devoted fanbase worldwide and released a captivating brand of shoegaze, dream pop, and post-punk. Their most recent effort, 2018’s AARTH, is a natural and brilliant evolution of their sound and they've been touring around the globe in support of it since it was unveiled.
The band is set to headline Savannah Stopover Music Festival’s final night on March 9 at Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum, and we had the chance to catch up with singer and guitarist Ritzy Bryan while the band finished a European run in Berlin, Germany.
I’m curious about the intention behind the new record, because it sounds to me like it leans a bit more in the shoegaze direction than your last few records. Did you have an idea of what kind of record you wanted to make this time around?
Bryan: It's funny - it always feels like there's material that kind of bridges between records. We're the type of band that's constantly writing, and there's just kind of a natural movement that you almost don't really consciously feel or evaluate. That's almost how we get to the process of having a full length, I suppose.
I feel like there are a lot of layers on this record that hint back to our earlier records, but we were quite playful making this record. Which surprises me, because we were in a pretty bad place in terms of [what was going on] outside of the studio. There was a lot going on that maybe wasn’t that positive, but the playfulness is there in the recordings. I feel like we felt very free with it. I notice a lot of things coming in and out - it has that sort of aesthetic. Little moments kind of coming in [to songs] and then disappearing, and you don’t hear them again. I’ve been using the word collage a lot, but that was definitely the process. It was definitely quite free and playful, and we’ve made ourselves a little bit more buoyant again.
I think some of that was a reaction to maybe just feeling a bit fucked off in a way [laughs].
Do you feel like the reason things were more playful in the studio was because you were sort of channeling whatever complicated things were happening outside of the creative structure of the band, and maybe that’s just how it was manifesting?
I think that’s definitely a way of looking at it. We were at a bit of a crossroads, and we didn’t even know if we wanted to make another fucking record or whether it was better for us to have a little bit of a breather to reset ourselves. But we made the decision to go into the studio, not overthink it, and have it as our happy space [laughs]. I definitely feel like it was a transformative [experience].
Having made several records now, do you feel like you’ve found a way that you like to do things in terms of writing? Or does it change depending on the song?
When I think back on some of our back catalog and the tracks on certain records, I kind of remember the starting points on certain songs. Some had little lives as poems first, others were guitar or riff-based. I think we’ve been quite varied, and that comes from having two main songwriters. I mean, we’ve had a long time together - we’ve been writing together now for maybe 12 years. So we’ve never allowed ourselves to get too formulaic or bored, and there’s kind of an intuition that comes from a lot of time spent together. I think that when you have that, you can try all kinds of crazy shit. And you kind of want to do that! That’s what keeps everything interesting, really.