Ritzy and Rhydian's rural beginnings laid foundations for refreshing rock
Growing up as an only child in the rural North Wales village of Mold, Ritzy Bryan immersed herself in her parents' extensive record collection, a pursuit that now stands her in fine stead as singer and guitarist with loud, melodic, experimental rock trio The Joy Formidable.
"There was never any silence in our household. My parents were into vinyl and bootlegs – borderline obsessed with music," she recalls, ahead of the band's date at Exeter's Phoenix on March 5, proudly airing the songs from their sophomore album Wolf's Law, released in January, and the 2011 debut The Big Roar.
"It was a very eclectic selection and there was no snobbery about it; they had everything from John Martyn, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, through to Motown and prog rock," adds Ritzy. "It could have gone either way, I suppose, and maybe rejected music, but I went with it and I have never looked back."
Her father played guitar for pleasure and there were always instruments lying around, although Ritzy's first forays into playing were on flute and harp.
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"But it was instant with the guitar and I had a lyrical draw to music, so I was always writing songs, even when I was quite little," she says.
Ritzy, now 27, and bassist Rhydian Dafydd were childhood friends and played in rival bands through most of their school days.
"Mine were much better, by the way," she laughs, adding that it was a great environment where creativity was actively encouraged. "It was probably good that we didn't team up at that point because we would have clashed a lot harder, I think."
After school Ritzy escaped the restrictions of North Wales and tried her luck in the USA for a while.
"I was living in DC doing a terrible job in Washington when Rhydian contacted me to say he was in a band in Manchester and the dynamic wasn't working out. He'd got my number from a friend of a friend and he asked me if I'd like to join; so I packed up and went back to the UK," she explains.
Being part of Tricky Nixon wasn't the best of experiences.
"It was really miserable. The vibe was very negative and the personalities didn't work at all," admits Ritzy.
"Rhydian and I broke loose from that and for the first time started writing together, and we have never really looked back. The previous six months had chipped away at how much I loved music. But as soon as we moved back to North Wales in 2007 it all started to make sense."
Relocating to London in 2009 with a healthy cache of songs, they recruited Matt Thomas on drums and became a solid touring and, at that point, bedroom recording entity.
Wind forward four years and the trio's enthusiasm, commitment and ongoing vision is absolutely clear, but without unreasonable expectation. After releasing their debut album, they toured extensively in the USA, Europe and Australia as well as the UK, on headline and high-profile support tours for two years, before taking time out to write and record Wolf's Law in a snowy Portland, Maine.
Its title plays with words and imagery and for Ritzy represents a time of healing after her relationship with her divorcing parents broke down.
"It was about reconciliation and finding yourself again after feeling a bit numb. That was absolutely the vibe when we were writing the album," she reveals. "Being packed in with the snow brought balance and clarity; we had time to reflect on ourselves as a band and as people and we battled all our demons."
The result is a grand and emotional new collection that works both on record and the band's natural place in the live arena.
"I can't imagine not constantly writing and playing; it's a lifestyle and the only true way of growing as a band," says Ritzy.