Passion Pit's Pals: The UK's Joy Formidable Take Manhattan

Last night at NYC's Mercury Lounge, Wales-born trio The Joy Formidable played to a sold out crowd along with Brooklyn locals, She Keeps Bees. The now London-based ensemble, with a pop-infused grunge sound, has toured with mentionable bands such as the Temper Trap and Passion Pit -- whose Ayad Al Adhamy penned the three-piece as the first band to join Black Bell Records.

Niteside got a chance to chat with the band before their set in the basement of the venue about their newest EP, the reputation of New York crowds and how people still can't find The Box.

The Joy Formidable just played its first festivals in the U.S. How was that experience?

Ritzy Bryan: I think wherever we are, particularly, it's always nice to do something for the first time. I think there's a big novelty factor, but I think we just like festivals in general -- I think there's a different atmosphere, if you had a normal gig situation it's different since you're usually not playing at 3 o'clock in the afternoon before anybody has gotten a drink. I think you just get a different reception, maybe…

Ryhdian Dafydd: Well, it felt really special to me because, like you say, it's the first festivals we've done in the states, you know. We played in New York just a handful of times, and with that being our first festival experience, you find out new things and stuff. I suppose what [Ritzy] is saying is that we revel in playing live wherever.

Ritzy: It is quite special though, people are just kind of up for it, I suppose. They were both really different festivals as well because Truck was like kind of set in the middle of nowhere, very, very rural and beautiful and kind of had this quaint atmosphere about it … and then Bamboozle seemed a little more full on and in your face, so it was nice to get a mix.

The reviews must be rolling in with the release of your EP "A Balloon Called Moaning" last week. How do you handle the press attention?

Rhydian: It doesn't really affect me, but I generally don't read our own reviews. I think we already put so much pressure on ourselves and if we're happy with something, we've already gone through that step where we've self-criticized so much. You inevitably hear certain things, and then you also can't complain when someone says something nice about you, but I think it's important to just keep focused. And if you're proud of what you do, then that's the most important thing -- you can't please everybody.

Ritzy: No point trying either [laughs]. Our manager always tells us, he revels in the comical ones. Recently [one] said something like listening to our record was like vomiting into his lap, and I think we all really liked that as a review. I think that was pretty special. If it induced that, then I'm extra proud of the EP, to be honest.

Tell me a little bit about your relationship with Passion Pit.

Rhydian: They're great guys and they invited us on their tour in the UK about six months ago now, or something like that.

Ritzy: It was around September time in the UK and I think it was just a really honest pairing of bands just 'cause we had been listening to their "Chunk of Change" EP, and I loved it. And that was around the time when we were touring around the UK with it on in the background. And it sounds like they had been doing the same thing with the Balloon, so they just got in touch and asked if we'd like to support them [on their tour] and we just obviously delighted with the chance to play with them. So it was the music first, and then we just  got on the road with them and they were such good tour companions -- they were very, very easy and we had a lot of fun, maybe too much fun.

Rhydian: Yeah, I mean it just felt from the very first day like we had known each other for a very long time, and that's a rarity when you tour. So we now obviously keep in touch, and they just asked us now again to support them in New York and I think in a way it was a great kind of benchmark for us. I mean, we had only done a handful of dates in New York and we've already sold out the Mercury Lounge twice. I suppose they opened the door to that for us since those were the first gigs we played over here.

The full-length is expected out in the U.K. later this year, when can we expect it to be released here in the U.S.?

Ritzy: I think they'll actually be at the same time. I think for once we're gonna try to make everything kind of simultaneous. That's sort of the aim, but we'll see. We're hoping to release it at the end of September or very early October.

Rhydian: We're finally finalizing a deal, and talking with quite a lot of labels and stuff. It's important to have your own plan, but it's certainly time for us to get the full-length out.

With the little bit of time you've spent in New York, have you been able to enjoy some time on the town, or has it been all about the music and then you're gone?

Rhydian: We've had a little bit of time, not much. We only had one or two days off but we've tried to squeeze some time in.

Ritzy: We've had some time for drinks. We're staying in Manhattan and Ayad [Al Adhamy], since we haven't seen him in a while because of all the organizing of the EP, took us out to a couple of bars. He took us to a place called The Box.

Rhydian: It seems to be a very secretive club… for very good reason, I guess.

Ritzy: There were all these people in the street when we were headed there asking us like, [whispers] 'Do you know where The Box is?' We were kind of like, 'We don't even know where we're going.' And there's no sign, and I guess it's a staple super secretive place here.

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