The Joy Formidable's Ritzy Bryan talks about their next album, joining the 'Twilight' family and turtle-spotting in Tampa
For all the aggro machismo that'll be onstage at Saturday's 97X Next Big Thing, the most kickass rocker in the lineup might just be a nice young lady from North Wales.
That would be Ritzy Bryan, the pint-sized singer and guitarist for The Joy Formidable, one of the breakout alternative rock bands of 2011. Her electric wail and hurricane-force guitar skills are part of the reason why the group's live shows are not to be missed -- and part of why swirling, shoegaze-punk songs like Whirring and Austere have become unlikely modern rock hits.
Before The Joy Formidable takes the stage at Next Big Thing on Saturday, we swapped emails with Bryan about great female guitarists, the band's upcoming sophmore album and their first trip to Florida, a show at Orpheum in September.
I was told you’re in the studio this week. I imagine you’re working on your second album? How far along are you?
We've been hiding away in the woods in Maine. It's been very peaceful and magical and the second album is taking shape. We have a lot of songs to record; it's important for us to just lose ourselves in the creative process, without too much structure or time constraints. The tracks are sounding great, we're enjoying some new instrumentation, widening our sonic palette. There's no radical departures in style from our debut album, but a very natural, exciting evolution.
In September, you played your first show in Florida at the Orpheum in Tampa. Our concert reviewer said you hung out with fans after the show, and were overheard remarking how there were lizards and palm trees everywhere. How would you describe your first trip to Florida? What do you remember about it?
We had a great time, loved the show at the Orpheum, the crowd were great. We had a walk around Lettuce Lake Park, alligator- and turtle-spotting, admiring these massive spiders hanging from the swamp trees. It looks very different to North Wales.
It's 2011, but some people still seem surprised whenever a kickass female guitarist breaks onto the scene, whether it’s Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney, Annie Clark of St. Vincent or yourself. Why is that? Growing up, were you ever surprised to see a woman shredding down on guitar?
I have no idea. Women have some great representatives in the world of music. But the more ladies picking up guitars and playing the hell out of them, the better.
You have a song on the Breaking Dawn soundtrack. How does it feel to be officially part of the Twilight universe? Have you noticed any unexpected effects on your life, positive or negative?
Nothing's changed. We're happy to be on the compilation, Twilight has a great legacy when it comes to soundtracks, we're proud of the track and glad to share it. We're not apologetic for reaching a different audience, we want our music to be heard; to challenge people's listening habits.
Walk me through a typical performance of Whirring, start to finish. It’s a long, chaotic song, and you have to keep the energy building the whole time. By the end, it seems like your goal is just to create as much onstage chaos as possible.
Nicely put, we'll leave it at that.
A lot has been made of how Dave Grohl called Whirring one of his favorite songs of the year. Let me flip that question around -- what are the best songs YOU’VE heard this year?
I really love Dutch Uncles' Cadenza and a download track called Face In. They have their own sound that's quirky and melodic. Anna Calvi's Blackout is emotive and beautiful and Airship's Algebra always gets us going.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*