Better Joy, the alternative-pop band created and led by Bria Keely, is a deft fusion of classic and contemporary influences, boldly celebrating the tensions between
opposing states. Introversion and extroversion, complexity and simplicity, the literal and the metaphorical are all polarities put under the microscope on her forthcoming single ‘Hard To Love’. And it’s more than just a heady introduction to the band’s Manchester-based front woman – it’s a compelling addition to the rich musical legacy of the north-west of England.
Born into a house full of music, Bria was brought up on singalongs, classical piano and singing lessons and a record collection packed with the greats, from Johnny Cash to the Beatles, Tracy Chapman to Oasis. It was only when she strayed from the formal framework of her classical education that Bria’s true musical potential was unlocked. Late night sessions performing covers in her university years and the support of her peers prompted Bria to contemplate music as more than just a hobby, and she started writing her own songs.
From then on, Bria devoted every spare moment to crafting original songs, initially on piano, before her evolving musical tastes drew her towards guitar. “Stranger In The Alps [Phoebe Bridgers’ debut] was such a huge inspiration when I first started writing,” Bria recalls. “She opened the doors into the indie world and guitar music, and sent me off on a proper explorative phase of getting into bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Cure”. It was during this time that she started making demos and sending them out. She was put in contact with record producer Mike Peden through a mutual friend and he introduced her to his sons, Joe and Chris Peden and the trio started writing together. Mike co-produced the debut single with legendary Happy Mondays and New Orderproducer Steve Osborne. The single caught the attention of Colin Barlow, former RCA and Polydor label boss and he signed Better Joy as the first act on his new label, Fader Amp.
Recorded in Chapel Studios in Lincoln, ‘Hard To Love’ offers abundant proof of Bria’s creative prowess. “I know I can be hard to love, but I’m just scared to be forgotten,” she coos, her self-lacerating reflections set to indelible guitar riffs. Evocative of early Wolf Alice, it’s powered by breezy guitar and taut drums, and boasts the sort of deceptively uplifting, major key sweetness that only makes lines like “I would drown myself in tears if you left me now” all the more impactful.
Like her great songwriting hero Bridgers and New Zealand dream-pop artist Fazerdaze, Bria revels in exploring the bittersweet beauty of love, be that in a romantic context, through friendships or by examining her relationship with herself. “Love is messy and so are humans,” she explains. “I think there’s an empowerment to be found in just owning that. To be like, I am what I am, but I’m trying to figure it all out.”
The constant friction between seemingly rival forces is what makes Better Joy so intoxicating, manifesting itself as a tussle between vulnerability and an innate steeliness; deep lyrics combined with deceptively simple melodies, hauntingly sung. Better Joy feels at once timeless and utterly contemporary, life-affirming and innately