Band to Watch: Joy Formidable Revive Female-Fronted Nineties Rock

Welsh trio's debut disc recalls classic albums by bands like Hole, Elastica and PJ Harvey

January 25, 2011 8:55 AM ET

Who: A three-piece indie band from North Wales. The group have been together for only two years, but singer-guitarist Ritzy Bryan, 26, and bassist Rhydian Dafydd, 29, go way back (27-year-old drummer Matt Thomas joined eight months after Bryan and Dafydd formed the band). "Rhydian and I, even though we grew up together, missed the chance to write music together when we were in school," Bryan says. "We both met up a few years later, and that started the beginning of the Joy Formidable."

Sounds Like: Loud, tuneful Nineties alt-rock. Though Bryan says the group draw their inspiration from a wide range of music, the songs on their debut album The Big Roar (released yesterday in the U.K.; out March 15 in the U.S.) mostly recall that time in the mid-Nineties when female-fronted bands such as Hole, PJ Harvey, Veruca Salt and Elastica had a major presence on rock radio.

Welcome to America: Though most of their releases so far have been mainly promoted in the U.K., the trio was pleased to discover that they already had a number of devoted fans in U.S. when they toured the States last year. "Sometimes we'd turn up in kinda smaller towns that we weren't familiar with and there'd be a good audience waiting,” Bryan says, “and they’d all know the back catalog and get very vocal.”

Good Heckling vs. Bad Heckling: “Doing a show, we like it to be a two-way kind of experience,” Bryan explains. “We like rambunctiousness and a bit of heckling.” As it turns out, the group have had some very generous hecklers at the American gigs. “People shout out for the songs,” Bryan says, “and some stories got around that I’m a bit partial to a dirty martini, so I got a few offers of drinks from the audience.” Back home, the hecklers aren’t so kind, Bryan says. “Sometimes we’ve had to put up some not particularly witty people who do stuff like ask the boys in the band to get their tits out.”

Learning From the Greats: Bryan says she is most inspired by great songwriters like Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. “It’s all quite removed from the sort of sound we’re making,” Bryan says. “But at the same time I think classic melodic songwriting is the big thing for us, and lyrically as well.” She says that Bruce Springsteen is particularly influential on the band. “In terms of the live experience, there’s no better mentor than Bruce Springsteen,” Bryan says. “I’m telling you, if I’m doing some three-hour concerts when I’m 40 or 50, then I’m going to be a happy girl.”

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