Getting Cozy With The Joy Formidable

Every once in awhile, a song comes along that stops everyone dead in their tracks with its greatness, and in 2011, that song was “Whirring” by The Joy Formidable. Aspiring DJs at college radio stations across the country lapped it up and threw it on a regular rotation. Any given twenty-something’s earbuds were blasting it at some point over the course of a morning commute to the office. Both veteran rock critics and the self-appointed tastemakers of the blogosphere heralded “Whirring” for its addictive hooks and that inspirational tsunami of a chorus, and for the reality show producers who needed that perfect song to round out the soundtrack to somebody else’s scripted feelings? Game over.

“Whirring” was the perfect pop rock storm of a track from the start, and it’s the track that’s led them to gigs opening for Muse at London’s O2 Arena and an indisputable international rock god reputation. Because of their meteoric success and the rooms—sorry, stadiums—they’ve grown accustomed to playing, it’s a bit of a shock that The Joy Formidable have chosen to introduce Wolf’s Law, their sophomore album slated for a January release, to the States with a slew of intimate, small-scale shows. Before kicking off this run of dates at the Bowery Hotel tonight, we caught up with The Joy Formidable via email to talk about their set list, a shift in creative process in between records and how Wolf’s Law represents the collective, perpetual strength of an unstoppable band with an unforgettable song to sing.

You’re kicking off the US touring efforts behind Wolf’s Law with some incredibly intimate shows at smaller venues. Why did you choose to go this route?
These shows are a special precursor to the touring that will celebrate Wolf’s Law in 2013. They’re a chance to debut the newer tracks in intimate surroundings and in less traditional venues. We thought it’d be a unique way to end the year, a chance to get close and cozy with our audience before the happy mayhem of next year begins.

What’s the most exciting aspect of taking on a tour like this?
We love the interaction, the energy and the vibe of smaller shows. Technically speaking, some quirky venues can be challenging: loading in and out can be interesting, us squeezing on stage can be a pickle, but it makes it memorable. It makes it real.

Going from the O2 Arena with Muse to a 100-person room is quite a jump. Are you changing up the setlist at all to reflect the change in scenery?
The setlist will change, not because of the size of the venue. It has more to do with the audience and giving our vested audience a taste of the new album, as well as tracks from the EP and The Big Roar. The approach never changes. Our intent and the energy is the same whether we play an arena or a tiny basement.

Which songs from Wolf’s Law do you think will soar in this cozy setting?
The new tracks are sounding great live. We’re keen to share them all, and we’ve made sure that all the venues have a PA to cope with either the bombast of “Cholla” or the delicacy of “Silent Treatment.”

Of the twelve songs on Wolf’s Law, which of them almost didn’t make it to the record? Were there any songs that wound up on the cutting room floor, so to speak, that you wish you could’ve included?
There are tracks that aren’t on the album that were written in Maine, but none of them will stay on the cutting room floor. We’ll be sharing them all at various points throughout the year.

What were the changes in approach or style between The Big Roar and Wolf’s Law?
The approach to the songwriting was different. Many of the tracks on Wolf’s Law were conceived with voice and one accompaniment, piano or guitar, which brings a lot of melodic and lyrical focus to the writing. The breadth of instrumentation is different, too—there’s harp, piano, orchestral sections, a lot of texture and color. It’s very direct and bold in its composition. There’s more clarity rather than being part of a mesh.

What was the biggest challenge you saw as a band in making Wolf’s Law happen?
It was compositionally ambitious at times. Tracks like “The Turnaround” definitely stretched our scoring skills. It heightened our appreciation of orchestral instruments, their versatility, their range and their relationship together.

In the two years between The Big Roar and Wolf’s Law, you’ve toured extensively, played a handful of high profile TV performances and become regular fixtures on the major festival circuit. How has touring affected your output and your performance as a band?
If you already have good chemistry and a strong band dynamic, then touring is bound to enhance that and bring another level of intuition. We’re a strong unit. We’ve spent a lot of time together, so there’s a drive in the writing and in the evolution of this band that anything is possible. And that shows on the new album—the creative push, the sense that you can turn your hand to different things and not feel restricted. We want to be artistically brave at every new juncture, but we don’t want to discuss it—we want to be on the same page from the start.

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