The Joy Formidable: Where Culture and Music Meet


The Joy Formidable is definitely aware of the world around them. Not only is their album named after a scientific theory, but one of the tracks off of said is album is dedicated to and inspired the late, great activist Wangari Maathai. Leave it to the British to do something this cool. (OK, technically they’re Welsh but let’s not get into that). To top it all off, they have a chick guitarist (and co-lead singer), killer accents and the colourful language oh so present in the U.K.

This three-piece tandem from Mold, Wales released their latest endeavour, Wolf’s Law, in January. The name is in reference to a scientific theory first posited by Julius Wolff and states that bones may become in response to stress as a form of adaptation. Ritzy Bryan says this relates to the overall theme of the album, which is about “relationships on the mend an feeling invigorated”. In addition, Native American mythology, social issues and nature also play a big role in the album. The ninth song, “The Leopard and the Lung” was inspired by Wangari Maathai – a Kenyan environmental and political activist, MP, minister of environment and natural resources, as well as a long feminist, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2004, and Honourary councillor of the World Future Council. In 1970 she founded the Green Belt Movement – an environmental NGO focused on planting trees, conservation and women’s rights. She was by all accounts a remarkable woman and there was deep admiration from Bryan when I asked about her.

“Wolf’s Law” was actually written while the band on the road, during the tour for their last record “The Big Roar”. It is much more layered and, arguably, more experimental than “The Big Roar”. Yet, at the same time it is much more polished. All the players know their roles as well. During our interview, drummer Matt Thomas stayed silent for the six or seven minutes, finally piping up when I posed a question directly to him. Like so many drummers, he prefers in the background. Ritzy and Rhydian did most of the talking and, like most Brits (yes, okay Welsh), they aren’t afraid to use language to get their point across. Which is what I like and admire about them. They’re not hiding behind a facade or artistic creation. What you see is what you get.

The album itself is quite good. They take the traditional indie rock sound and fuse it with orchestral instrumentation. The result is a often melodic, harmonious post-rock lovechild of Sigur Ros and Keane, with a dash of Richard Ashcroft and The Verve mixed in. They bring joy to my life.

Wolf’s Law was released by Atlantic Records on January 21st, 2013.

RIYL: Sigur Ros, Keane, The Verve.

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