THE JOY FORMIDABLE with TEAM SPIRIT and RIBS at the Phoenix (410 Sherbourne), Friday (April 12), 7 pm. $18.50. RT, SS, TF. See listings.
The wildflower-in-the-wilderness trope has been an indie rock cliché ever since Bon Iver's Justin Vernon first secluded himself in a rural Wisconsin cabin to write his band's debut album.
But when the Joy Formidable holed up in Casco, Maine, to record their sophomore album, Wolf's Law (Warner), they weren't attempting to force feelings or signify sensitivity. They just needed a break.
Since emerging on the scene with their aptly named debut LP, The Big Roar, the Welsh rock band have spent most of their time on the road. They've rarely stopped writing, but without forced isolation they struggled to put anything on record.
"We're of the opinion that you have to live and breathe your music," says bassist Rhydian Dafydd, taking an interview break before soundchecking in Salt Lake City, Utah. "But when you're constantly playing and touring, you don't really know what's happening until you take some time away. So that's what we did, and it all came together really quickly."
The Joy Formidable's music couldn't be further from the hushed acoustic tones of Bon Iver. They play up the "power" in "power trio," delivering big hooks sweetly sung by diminutive bandleader Ritzy Bryan, within enormous, whooshing guitar tones. They've been crafting their music to reach the rafters of stadiums from the beginning - even before they were playing for huge crowds in the last year as openers for the Foo Fighters and Muse.
Critics have been quick to compare that aesthetic to shoegaze and alt-rock heroes of the 90s, but Dafydd says they're influenced more by lyrically driven classic rock. When Bryan was a child, her mother would outfit her with a boot mic and take her to see singer/songwriters like Van Morrison and Elvis Costello. She knew security would never check a child. Fittingly, for an upcoming Record Store Day release, the Joy Formidable have recorded a cover of Bruce Springsteen's Badlands.
As for the constant grind of touring, Dafydd says they're equipped to handle it. "It's up to you whether or not it's going to be Groundhog Day. We're not up there onstage just going through the motions. That's how you get bored. And fucking hell, I don't want music to be boring!"