It’s been a busy year for Welsh alternative rock trio The Joy Formidable. In addition to touring North America virtually nonstop, they released their sophomore album Wolf’s Law in January, contributed to Record Store Day in April, and released an EP, Silent Treatment, in July. But they wouldn’t have it any other way. Bassist Rhydian Daffyd took time to speak with C-VILLE Weekly by phone about what a crazy year it has been.
C-VILLE Weekly: You’ve been touring heavily this year. How has that been going?
Rhydian Dafydd: That’s always been a big part of the band, right from the start. After we got together, we were on the road essentially a week later, and it really hasn’t stopped since. That’s been four years now. We love being on the road. It’s a really stimulating environment for us.
What was your mindset heading into the making of Wolf’s Law and what were you hoping to create?
We wanted to get lost in our work and be proud of what we’d written. We’ve never felt like we’ve released anything that we can’t stand behind, and music is something we don’t take lightly. Wolf’s Law actually came together relatively quickly. We felt like we were on fire and couldn’t stop writing. We were in this cabin in Portland, Maine for about a month and a half and just felt really inspired.
In terms of what we were trying to achieve, I just wanted to write good songs and have the music be both broad and intricate. We’re fans of all kinds of music, so we don’t feel an album should be some kind of marketing plan. It should just be things that inspire you.
Did any of the tracks on Wolf’s Law surprise you in terms of where they went sonically or thematically?
Not really surprised so much as excited. We’ve always written a lot and written a variety of tunes, and that’s what makes it fun. You don’t always get an opportunity to share all those songs. The release of an album can be quite a staggering thing, but there’s a dichotomy to it. It’s like you don’t want to bombard people with all the things you can release.
For us it’s not even about genre. It’s about intent and what the song and the story are saying. We scored orchestral pieces for the first time on Wolf’s Law, and that was an exciting challenge. If you have something you want to say you should be able to say it. We don’t want to feel restricted.
What was the inspiration for “This Ladder is Ours?”
We knew we wanted to start the album in a certain way, which goes back to this idea of intent. The album talks a lot about how time is precious, and some of that comes from losing people—friends, family, and all that—along the way and how you inevitably start asking bigger questions. So the song’s a call for all of us to live in the moment, essentially. A lot of the songs on the album touch on that subject. It was an introduction, thematically, to a strong core of the album.
Is the album fairly autobiographical? Or a meditation on things you see happening around you?
I think it’s a mixture. “Maw Maw Song” talks about disparity and greed and the distribution of wealth and how unjust that is, and then a song like “The Leopard and the Lung” talks about someone [other than us]. There was a lady down in Kenya who was an environmentalist, and her story absolutely inspired us. She basically fought singlehandedly against the government for Women’s Rights.
Some subjects aren’t just about us, but there’s a big underpinning of personal emotions on the album, and there always is. Even if you are writing in a conceptual manner, how it’s done is still very much a reflection of what you think and feel.
How important is music to you?
When I turned 19, for whatever reason, I completely changed as a person, and I needed a creative outlet. Music saved me. I was going down some pretty bad paths, and I remember hearing Hendrix for the first time and thinking, “Holy shit! What is this?” That’s the power of music, and if you can put it together in such a way that you can touch people, it’s an amazing thing.
We’ve had people come out to shows saying that they’ve been suicidal, they’re alcoholics, all kinds of stuff, but that the music helped keep them in check. It’s not a fucking savior, yeah, but it helps a little bit, you know? I think it’s easy sometimes to forget that music does have power. It’s not just about it being a commodity or selling something or making money. It’s the fucking action that really gets people.