Matt Thomas on Joy Formidable, Bonham, Moon and Grohl

The Joy Formidable
The Joy Formidable

In the last couple of years alt-rock three piece The Joy Formidable have released a critically acclaimed debut album, toured the world and were named as Dave Grohl's favourite band.

So what does 2013 have in store? We asked drummer Matt Thomas just that…

2012 has been a huge year for the band, are there any highlights you can pick out?

"There have been so many great shows and experiences, but my highlight of the year is finishing our new album Wolf's Law, getting it mixed with Andy Wallace and having a chance to get it out there and play it live next year."

The new album is all set for early 2013, what approach drum wise did you take in the studio?

"As a band we try not to limit ourselves to what is physically possible, or what people's perception of our band might be. We wanted the drums to sound really regimented like a machine, but still human, so I recorded takes of each drum and cymbal separately. After a lengthy recording process (which sometimes involved splitting double bass drum parts between two different sized drums in different rooms) we layered it up like a giant drum sandwich. At points it sounds like I have a hundred arms!"

Did you go in with any major drum influences in mind?

"Each song on the album is very different. There are elements of heavy rock, metal, calypso, '60s crooners, fusion and disco, so I approached each song with a variety of drummers in mind. John Bonham, Keith Moon, Billy Pat Ellis, George Kollaias and Horacio Hernandez are just a few."

What kit/set-up were you using?

"I set up three different sized kits in three different acoustically treated rooms. Kit one was a Bonham style kit in a stone room consisting of a Gretsch New Classic 26" kick, 14" and 18" toms, Paiste Twenty Series 15" hats, 24" 2002 ride, 22" 2002 Crash, 20" 2002 Crash and an 18" 2002 China. Kit two was a standard rock style kit in a large hall consisting of a Gretsch New Classic 22" kick, 13" & 16" toms 22" Paiste Dark Energy MkII Ride, 20" Paiste Signature Crash, 18" Paiste Signature Crash, 14" Paiste 2002 Medium Hats and an 18" 2002 China. Kit three was a jazz style kit in a room with virtually no acoustic reflection consisting of a Gretsch Renown maple with an 18" kick, 10" & 14" toms, Paiste 14" 2002 Sound Edge Hi Hats, 16" Paiste Signature Crash, 18" Paiste Signature Crash, 20" Signature Ride."

Are there any tracks you're proudest of from a drumming perspective?

"I'm really happy at the way 'The Maw Maw Song' turned out. I used a combination of kits to create a huge contrast in sound between the verse and chorus. The verse has a really tight, dry room sound made even drier by putting t-shirts on the snare and toms, whereas the chorus has a huge kit in a shatteringly loud stone room, so the drums explode in your ears like Bonham rocking out in a cave."

Dave Grohl is a fan of your band. As a drummer, how amazing is that!?

"I've always been a huge fan of Dave Grohl's drumming and everything else he does as a musician, so when I first heard Dave was a fan I didn't really believe it. Somehow my band got in touch and within a few months we were touring the East Coast of America supporting the Foo Fighters in venues like Madison Square Garden. It was literally a dream come true."

Rich Chamberlain

Rich is a teacher, one time Rhythm staff writer and experienced freelance journalist who has interviewed countless revered musicians, engineers, producers and stars for the our world-leading music making portfolio, including such titles as Rhythm, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, and MusicRadar. His victims include such luminaries as Ice T, Mark Guilani and Jamie Oliver (the drumming one).