Quickfire Questions #1: The Joy Formidable (In-Person)

By on Monday, 28th March 2011 at 2:00 pm

For anyone who’s seen the American tv programme Inside the Actors Studio, you know that at the end of the show, host James Lipton asks each of his guests the same 10 questions based on the Proust Questionnaire. My thinking was, if James Lipton has one for actors, why not make one for musicians? Then I started thinking this new feature needed a snappy title. NME’s concept of the 60-Second Interview came to mind, and in particular, this one from Reading last year (see 0.59).

So now we bring you the first of what I hope will be a long series of enlightening, possibly funny, possibly tawdry, silly and insightful exchanges between us and your favourite bands. The very friendly Joy Formidable – Ritzy Bryan, Rhydian Dafydd and Matt Thomas – were up for answering the TGTF Quickfire Questions when I chatted with them last Friday during a stop on their North American campaign of touring ‘The Big Roar’– so let’s get to it! (Editor’s note: the references to Tylenol make more sense when you read the rest of my interview with the band, coming soon along with the live review.)

1. What song is your earliest musical memory?
Rhydian: Definitely ‘Hey Joe’ by Hendrix. Yep.
Matt: What could it be? [deep in thought] Hmm…
Rhydian (to Matt): It’s probably something by Jamiroquai, innit?
Matt: Something earlier than that, but something horrible, I’m sure. Probably ‘The Birdie Song’, do you know that one? [I say no.]
Rhydian: [starts singing ‘The Birdie Song’, which we recognise as ‘The Chicken Dance Song’ here in America; everyone starts laughing]
Matt: You know those horrible primary school discos you used to go to? That’s probably where I heard it.
Ritzy: [who has just ducked back into the room] My grandfather used to pick me up when I was tiny and shake me around the room to ‘Come on Eileen’ (Dexy’s Midnight Runners). I remember that very well, he used to fucking throw me around!
Matt: The worst thing was, you thought your name was Eileen! [adopts girly voice] And I thought my name was Ritzy!

2. What was your favourite song as a child?
Rhydian: I’ll say ‘Hey Joe’ again.
Matt: I’ll say ‘Happy Birthday’.
Rhydian (to Ritzy): Yours is definitely something by Elvis Costello, surely.
Ritzy: No, I think it’s ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ (the Supremes). That’s the one I used to dance to. [smiles]

3. What song makes you laugh?
Rhydian: Oh god. You’ve got to see the STS version of…what is that Rolling Stones song? Oh yeah, ‘Start Me Up’. Oh my god, I think it’s the funniest thing ever. The STS mash-up.
Ritzy: And if you watch anything by this Russian singer called Vitas. That’s a guaranteed…you have a drink and a joint and play some Vitas, you won’t stop laughing.
Matt: That guy sings real high!
Rhydian: What’s yours, Matt? You have something new everyday, don’t you?
Ritzy: The Tylenol Song!
Matt: Yeah, it doesn’t really matter. It could be so simple…
Rhydian: It’s not the song, it’s the Tylenol!
Matt: However much Tylenol I’ve had…
Rhydian: He could be listening to ‘A Day in the Life’ and just be laughing…
Matt: I’m just sitting there pissing myself to ‘The Funeral March’!
Ritzy: Matt does laugh quite maniacally…
[Rhydian steps out for a moment]

4. What song makes you cry?
Ritzy: Ooh… [takes a deep breath]
Matt: Well, we know Rhydian’s, that’s for sure…
Ritzy: Yeah, Rhydian’s would be Men at Work. What is the name of that fucking song, I’ve forgot it. The really famous Men at Work? [I offer ‘Down Under’.] Yeah, ‘Down Under’. There’s an emotional thing…
Matt: He has vivid visions of living down under, I think. It’s a beautiful thing.
Ritzy: Mine would be Roy Orbison’s ‘It’s Over’. That kind of gets me.
Matt: I’ve never had a song that made me cry. But made me feel sad, maybe. ‘The Last Goodbye’ by Jeff Buckley.

5. What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet or naughty.)
Ritzy: Oh man! I don’t know if I should say anything… [looks sheepish] No, I’d say that one of the songs I listened to…that very first love, the break-up when you break up with the first person you ever loved? I remember playing ‘I Know It’s Over’ by the Smiths on a continuous loops while thinking “fuck you, jerk-off!” [I comment that the Smiths sort of lend themselves to that sort of situation.] Absolutely! Or ‘Sing Me to Sleep’… [says to Rhydian who’s just walked back in] What was the first song you fell in love to, or it might be an anti-love song?
Rhydian: I think it was ‘Morning Theft’ by Jeff Buckley, maybe.
Ritzy: Ooh…Matt picked a Jeff Buckley song, too! [giggles]
Rhydian: Did he?
Ritzy (in a sing-song voice): Did you fall in love together? [everyone laughs]
Matt: Yeah, and it wasn’t the first time! [more laughter] It wasn’t ‘The Last Goodbye’, lemme tell ya. The last time was ‘Endless Love’ by Lionel Richie! [Rhydian starts singing ‘Endless Love’ in a really high-pitched voice]
Ritzy: We’ve got to stop (drinking), or this is going to be the worst show…
Matt: We need equal up the Maker’s Mark with sweet relish. [points to condiment bottle on the table]

6. What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, etc.)
Matt: The song that’s at the end of Titanic. It makes me really angry.
Rhydian: You mean Celine Dion?
Matt: Yeah! It drives me nuts.
Ritzy: Just drown, would you?
Exactly! Flippin’ heck!
Rhydian: You just reminded me, actually…’The Birdie Song’! (says to Ritzy) He said his first memory was ‘The Birdie Song’!
Matt: Yeah, what’s wrong with that? You know, primary school discos?
Rhydian: That is the most annoying, fucking song, ever.
Matt: Yeah, exactly. That’s why it’s great!
Rhydian: …with the most annoying memories that you ever had.
Matt: But it’s not as annoying as ‘The Lambada’. [starts singing ‘The Lambada Song’]
Ritzy: I was going to say the worst song, all those fucking knobheads doing ‘Agadoo’. All looking like perverts! Do you have that in the States? In a party, they get you to sit down so you’re in a human caterpillar with some dirty bloke straddling your behind. It’s bad, man. It’s like a really perverted line dance.
Matt: Wasn’t there a Wham! song about a time machine?
Rhydian: ‘Time Warp’!
Matt: That’s annoying as well! [Rhydian starts doing the hand gestures to ‘Time Warp’]
Rhydian: “And you’re turnin’ to the right, and you’re turnin’ to the left…” It’s all those disco songs…

7. Which song (any song written in the last century) do you wish you’d written yourself?
Rhydian: There’s a few. Just so I remember, I’ll say ‘A Day in a Life’ (The Beatles), really special.
Ritzy: I would like to have written ‘Beside You’ by Van Morrison, although nobody would have done it as well as he did.
Matt: I dunno…
Rhydian: ‘The Birdie Song”!
Matt: Yeah man! No, fucking Celine Dion. That’s why it makes me so angry! [slams fist on the table] “Why didn’t I write this?”
Rhydian: Either that or the Eastenders theme.
Matt: It’s just a major scale!
Rhydian: It’s just ‘cos it starts with drums.
Matt: How hard is that? [starts singing the Eastenders theme]
Rhydian: But the best songs are simple, man!
Ritzy: What about Coronation Street? [starts singing the Coronation Street theme]
Rhydian: It’s ‘cos it starts with a drum roll (the Eastenders theme).
Matt: [‘sings’ the Eastenders drum roll] Is there any more after that? I always change the channel. That’s it. That’s the best bit done!

8. Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Rhydian: This is really hard. I’d say Hendrix because he changed my life. But as for a writer, I’d say he was all-encompassing.
Ritzy: This isn’t music related, but just for the sheer effort, cinematic nature and imagination, I’d say Thomas Hardy. That’s dedication.
Rhydian: H.G. Wells, maybe?
Matt: Back to the time machine again!
Rhydian: Yeah, there’s a few. Morrissey…
Matt: A cross between H.G. Wells, Morrissey and Thomas Hardy.
Rhydian: A love child of all of those? Pretty scary.
Ritzy: With a little of Dickens.
Matt: “What the dickens?”
Rhydian: What’s yours then, Matt? Ian McNabb?
Matt: I’ve never written anything by Ian McNabb!
Ritzy: That is so rude!
Matt: Who’s that guy that wrote that book about what it was…
Ritzy: DaVinci Code?
Matt: Yeah, we’ve been stuck together for so long, we know what each other are talking about. Scary. I just finished reading Anna Karenina.
Ritzy: Oh yeah, Dostoyevsky. [Editor’s note: Actually, this is by Tolstoy.]
Matt: Yeah, that bloke! [laughs]

9. If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
Rhydian: I think it would have something to do with being creative. But realistically, we’ve all done temping jobs to scrape by. Something that gives you an outlet, whether you can make a living out of it or not.
Ritzy: I think we’d always be writing, whether or not we’d be sharing it the way we are. I think I could be quite content with doing something with conservation, the environment, or animals. All those sorts of things.
Matt: “Save the Orangutans!”
Rhydian: But that would be your dream job, really, if you weren’t doing this.
Ritzy: Yeah, I’ve always had to do something creative and sharing as a side thing.
Rhydian: I can’t handle monotony, I can’t handle the same formula every day. But of course some people don’t have that privilege, do they, you know? In order to make a living. All you can do is fight as hard as you can to not fit into those.
Ritzy (to Matt): If you weren’t a drummer, what would you be doing?
Matt: I’d probably have a go at carpentry.
Ritzy: I think you’d be a good carpenter.
Matt: Do you? Really? That would be amazing. After finishing a long day of “carpenterising” – I invented that word! – then I’d just down a few oysters…
Rhydian: …and listen to ‘The Birdie Song’!
Matt: Yeah, exactly!
Rhydian: Every day, breathing in the sawdust… {starts singing “The Birdie Song” again]
Matt: With a couple of oyster shells in each hand, banging them together! Being really happy about the banisters I just carved. “Those are nice banisters!”

10. If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why?
Matt: ‘The Best of Everything in the Whole World’. [everyone laughs]
Ritzy: ‘Heaven’s Greatest Hits’.
Rhydian: No, ‘Titanic’s Greatest Hits’.
Matt: ‘100 Harp Songs’.
Rhydian: ‘The Songs of Titanic on the Flute’.
Matt: No, with Peruvian panpipes!
Ritzy: I actually went to the theatre with my mother, and they were playing that Titanic song on panpipes.
Matt: What did you go see?
Ritzy: I forget what it was but…
Matt: Shrek 3? [laughs]
Rhydian: I’d say ‘Physical Graffiti’ by Led Zeppelin. [I say, that was the example of something you couldn’t pick because it’s a double album.] Noooooo! Double albums aren’t counted? How can you not allow double albums? What?
Ritzy: But what if Satan says, “I allow double albums!” [laughter]
Rhydian: I’ll say ‘Rage Against the Machine’ then.
Ritzy: I’d take ‘This Year’s Model’ by Elvis Costello.
Matt: I’d take a blank CD and copy everyone else’s.
Rhydian: Not ’12 Variations on The Birdie Song’?
Matt: No, ‘The Birdie Song’ on Peruvian panpipes!

And with that, I thank the Joy Formidable for their time and they serenade my departure with their impressions of Peruvian panpipes…

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