Welsh rock trio The Joy Formidable are back with another incredible and brightful album by the name AAARTH. We talked with the band’s lead singer and guitarist Ritzy and bassist Rhydian about their new release and how the changes happening in the world had a huge impact on their songwriting.
You guys played a sold-out show at Robert Smith’s Meltdown Festival. How was it for you?
Rhydian: Yeah, it was great to be back because it’s kind of strange for us to not to be playing all the time, but that was our first show about a year. It went really great. It was nice to connect with the fans again and then the road life that’s where the magic is. We played so many shows and building things in a very natural and organic way. We had a great time.
Ritzy: For that to be the first show back as well and actually getting an invite from Robert Smith… I mean, we’re all The Cure fans and it was little mind-blowing to play on that festival.
You have already announced the first leg of the new album’s touring, which included main stage performances at this year’s Reading and Leeds Festivals. What’s it like being on the road for you at this moment of your career?
Ritzy: We’re going to enjoy this new album live. We’ve kind of started to feel these tracks. I love the energy of this album. I think it’s going to be like a really great new live chapter and it will be something special because we have great tour plans.
Rhydian: We’ll be busy next year as well. This is just a glimpse really. There’s plenty more we want to go and we’ll be able to go for next year as well. This is just the taste and we love playing live, so being back on the road is completely not boring. We’ve been wanting that actually quite a long time. [laughs]
You new album is titled AAARTH and it was released this last September. What’s the meaning behind this title?
Rhydian: All titles in general probably have more than one meaning. First of all, Arth is the word for bear in Welsh. Welsh is my first language and Ritzy’s second. We enjoy mystical and symbolic elements in stories and storytelling references.
Ritzy: It kind of feels almost like a release of an emotion somewhere between scream or shriek, but maybe something more exotic than that as well. We recorded a lot of this album in the Southwest of America. The bear kind of seemed like quite a big symbol in some cultures of wisdom and strength. We’re talking about a lot of different things on this record. We’re talking about injustice, division and come to different places in terms of the way that we all kind of lived together, so it kind of feels like this chapter culturally feels like we need to have a little bit of more reason, a little bit more strength of fighting against things that are happening in the world.
Rhydian: From a personal level, we were very faithful on this record, which it was important for us. We like the album to be a new sense of colorful and playful like the album artwork, which I think it represents that.
The album’s artwork is quite incredible and it was created by Rhydian. What did inspire you while creating it?
Rhydian: Actually the front cover was made by Fernando Chamarelli from Brazil. We just saw his work for a while. The pictures were really the perfect marriage for what kind of things we were writing at the moment… Like we said, it’s very colorful. I also think that it’s very layered in small layers. We’ve done many multi-layers records before, but I feel this one has a lot of little pure moments and memories coming in and out a lot more. It’s really important for us that the visual go hand in hand with the music. It can really compliment each other. We have a lot of images around each of the songs and support them. They’ll all be available in booklet that we’re putting out in a box set. There’ll be plenty more to come as well. We’ve definitely been heavily involved.
“This chapter culturally feels like we need to have a little bit of more reason, a little bit more strength of fighting against things that are happening in the world.”
Like you said, there’s a connection with the music and the artwork and in it feels like that because this new album is so vivid and bold with an incredible energy throughout the whole album. How did you guys approach the songwriting for this album? Did you do anything differently this time around?
Ritzy: I think we were very fed up when we were making our last record [Hitch, 2016]. It was a very live sounding record. I think this record has a lot more experimental and playful with the production, just using things a little bit differently and maybe not being kind of quite pure from a performance point of view. We were just sampling, rehearsing and just really having fun. Looking back to it, it was a really great session and made us feel alive.
This album has strong themes such as the changes happening in the world, injustice, division, but also about letting go and be both vulnerable and strong at the same time. What did you have in mind while writing these lyrics?
Ritzy: So many different things… I think from a personal point of view, we went through a lot of big personal changes and trying to come with terms with some things that happened that really took us to somewhere quite dark and happy. At the same time, we were seeing bad things happening along with big changes happening in the world. I think it was kind of like a period of trying to come back from that and throw ourselves to make this record and to feel better and write all the things that were actually important to us and get back to it.
Rhydian: We tried to find balance. Personally, we needed a rebirth and I think maybe that’s where came some of the psychedelic elements of the album and this whole thing of losing yourself and finding yourself again. This is a time that we need to heal more than ever right now. We’re not necessarily doing that like, “Let’s all be positive and happy now.” I think we have to recognize the things and have a discussion and a debate, but also you need energy to push out through and energy to stop people that are trying to divide people with their agenda. We saw that a lot in the past naturally, but I think it’s important recognize the marriage of the darkness and the lightness.
“You Can’t Give Me” is such a stunning song. What’s the story behind this one?
Ritzy: It’s about letting go of somebody you love and saying goodbye, almost like just coming to terms with the fact that you’ll not be able to change quickly enough or understand the situation that’s too late. There’s only two ways: you could either be completely crushed by that by losing something, or you just to be more understanding of your role, just trying to understand and realize the flaws.
What was the recording process like for this album? Was there any major differences this time around?
Rhydian: It definitely was. We knew that we wanted a bit more of a collage. It was quite a process to get that and so we’re seriously happy with it. It was in a place like nicely uncomfortable because I think it’s important to challenge yourself with each album, you know, we don’t want it to be the same every time.