The Joy Formidable: “We haven’t seen our gear for three years!” (10/27 at Underground Arts)

“We have lots of happy memories of playing there!” says Ritzy Bryan when I ask for her thoughts on the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.  Ritzy is...

“We have lots of happy memories of playing there!” says Ritzy Bryan when I ask for her thoughts on the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.  Ritzy is the lead vocalist and guitarist for Welsh alternative rockers The Joy Formidable (alongside bassist Rhydian Dafydd and drummer Matthew James Thomas), who have been friends of PHILTHY for quite some time.  Since 2009, the trio have headlined the stages of Kung Fu Necktie, Johnny Brenda’s, North Star Bar, Union Transfer, Underground Arts, and Boot & Saddle (In that order, but each more than once… with the exceptions of KFN and the North Star…)  The Joy Formidable are currently about two-thirds of the way through a pretty massive US tour that will have them returning to Underground Arts this coming Thursday, October 27th, where they will be joined by LA post-punky indie rockers Cuffed Up, who Ritzy tells me — during a recent phone chat – she is very happy to be on the road alongside: “They’re a great band and a lovely group of people, as well, which is important…  It’s important to have a sense of family behind the scenes, backstage and all that.”

I got a chance to catch up with Ritzy in August, just as the band returned to America and prepared themselves to get reacquainted with their equipment for the first time since the pandemic: “We’re going to our storage container today!  We haven’t seen our gear for three years!”  While their Twitter account has the band located in North Wales, The Joy Formidable have actually spent a fair amount of their time in the Western United States for quite a few years now: “We live in Southern Utah for half the year…  At the time, I was living out of a suitcase, and I was ready to just have a place to go home and write.  It wasn’t particularly well thought-out, but I’ve been here for nine years now [laughs].”

The Joy Formidable are currently touring Into The Blue, their fifth studio album, which dropped in August of 2021 and whose deluxe edition hit shelves just last month.  As with most pandemic albums, Ritzy tells me she felt a bit less pressure than usual in conceiving the LP: “I was given a bit more time with this, which was good because I was at that point in my career when I really just needed to step back, and this gave me a lot more time to write.”  However, according to Ritzy, the pandemic did provide some hurdles for the recording process: “From a production point of view, it was adapted from what we’d originally intended for it.  We were going to go back to North Wales and do it, but then with COVID we had to stay in Utah, while Matt was overseas in London…”

And while Into The Blue was never intended to be a commentary on the pandemic, when I ask Ritzy about her mindset while writing it, it would certainly seem to reflect some of the things so many people were going through at the time: “It’s definitely a record that was exploring some feelings I’d been having: happiness and peace.  And whatever happens in your life, still being able to have a peaceful existence.  I got to really dig into some of that stuff and self-discovery, where I wanted to go to and how I wanted to grow.”  However, despite the emotional heaviness of much of the album, when I ask if she’s had any favorite reactions to the music, she tells me that many of them have been about “Gotta Feed My Dog,” which she refers to as, “A tongue-in-cheek song about who I’d really like to spend time with,” going on to say, “People have been sending us a lot of pics of their dogs eating, which I love because I’m a huge dog person.  Send me pictures of your furry babies!”

As far as what can be expected of The Joy Formidable this Thursday, in addition to the full-on Rock N’ Roll show they’ve been bringing to Philly for so many years, Ritzy tells me that it will likely be a survey of their entire catalogue: “We obviously have a set and, at the moment, it feels like it’s a coming-back-to-touring kind of set.  It’s across the board, celebrating all our albums.”  However, our chat was two months ago, and she tells me that the setlist always tends to evolve throughout the course of the tour, so fans maybe shouldn’t be so quick to expect what they see on “We’re not too tied down to anything…  We’re gonna enjoy experimenting a little bit.”

*Get your tickets here.

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.