After putting out its second album, Wolf's Law, in 2013, Welsh band The Joy Formidable was shaken by the end of the longtime relationship between Ritzy Bryan (vocals, guitar) and Rhydian Dafydd (bass), two-thirds of the trio. Rather than let their diverging personal lives break up the band, the two took a break, regrouped with drummer Matthew James Thomas and recorded their third, as-yet-untitled album, which is due in 2016.
"We needed a little bit of time to ourselves — each individually — to feel like coming back into the studio again," Bryan says. "Once we were back in there, we didn't want to leave."
Joy Formidable recorded Wolf's Law in a secluded studio in Maine, but the band returned to its Welsh roots for the new album. "This was the first record that we'd written since Rhydian and I had split up," she says. "I think we felt kind of like we needed to go back to a place that was familiar, and north Wales was that."
Bryan and Dafydd were friends and musical partners long before they formed The Joy Formidable in 2007. Personal issues and difficulties outside their relationship helped give the band's first two albums a dark, emotionally tinged alt-rock/indie rock sound full of gritty guitar riffs and hard-driving rhythms. On Wolf's Law, "The Leopard and the Lung" starts with a frenetically paced keyboard backed by softer drums until the bass and guitar jump blast into the song. The band excels at producing heavy melodies that build to explosive conclusions, while Bryan's vocals soar above the fray and keep things from getting out of control. The songs exude strength, while lyrics pore over life's fractures, a balance achieved through moments both soft and loud but always emotionally resonant.
The new album retains that tone but also has a brighter side.
"There are love songs, and very simple love songs that are just happy," Bryan says.
Some of the album's tunes digest what it meant to end the lengthy relationship and move forward. "It captured a lot of the things that you go through when you've been with someone for six years — that grief and that relief," she says. "Certainly after a romantic relationship, sometimes it feels too optimistic that you can still be good friends, but in our case it's a real sense that there's going to be a bond there." The transition didn't come quickly or easily, she adds.
The forthcoming album explores the hurdle of getting back on the dating market. "We've both found new partners and love in other ways, so there's definitely songs about going back out on the scene as well," Bryan says. "It definitely captured all those things that go into a breakup and then some of the very unique things, the unique side of this band as well."
This Voodoo Arts + Music Experience appearance is not The Joy Formidable's first New Orleans show, but Bryan is looking forward to Halloween weekend. "In Britain, we don't' really make a big deal of it," she says. "I'm a bit of a kid when I come over here. Matt's already making his costume. I'm not quite that zealous."