Normally, a canceled gig is a big setback for a touring band. For The Joy Formidable, however, one particular ditched show turned into creative gold. Dial back to Thanksgiving 2011 and the British rock band’s U.S. tour for their debut, “The Big Roar,” was headed to Portland, Maine. But when venue abruptly closed, it led to the cancellation of what was the last show before a week off. What to do? Head home early for a rest, or travel further into deep Maine, to Casco? They chose the latter.
“We’d been writing on the road,” says singer/guitarist Ritzy Bryan. “It’s difficult to track on buses and in hotel rooms. There’s only a certain amount of charm that having background noise brings to a record. … We were very excited by what we were writing and we needed time to reflect on it.”
So the trio chose a different type of lodging.
“We rented a cabin in the woods for a week,” says Bryan. “The cabin had such a great energy we decided to go back there in January to finish the record; to make sense of it all.”
Their stay didn’t turn into a horror movie. Instead, with no distractions — no wifi, no phone – Bryan and her bandmates, bassist Rhydian Dafydd and drummer Matt Thomas, found the perfect spot to craft their sophomore album, “Wolf’s Law.”
Isolation morphs into contemplation, giving the record contrast as emphatic orchestration and Bryan’s airy crystal voice tops driving, spiraling rock. Unusually, the title song is a hidden track, but in many ways, it’s the album’s most important. It was written in London, one of the first new songs after their debut: It’s the link between the nascent band and what is now a seasoned trio.
“‘Wolf’s Law’ was a big part of making this record, almost too big,” says Bryan. “We needed to include it, but we always felt that it belonged on its own because it was conceived almost as an art piece. It needs a space on its own.”
Bryan recalls those three weeks in the dead of winter in Maine and laughs: “To the locals, it was quite a mild winter, which we were completely bewildered by. We were scooping up nine feet of snow in the backyard. But it was perfect. There’s an extra level of serenity that befell the cabin from having that much snow.”