Biffy Clyro came together in 1995 in a school in Kilmarnock, just outside of Glasgow, when childhood friends Simon Neil (vocals/guitar) and twins James (bass/vocals) and Ben Johnston (drums/vocals) started playing music together. United by a love of underground, experimental rock and post-hardcore bands such as Braid and Karate, along with the starrier likes of Guns N’Roses and Metallica, they quickly honed their own unique sound, a mind boggling mix of off-kilter tempos, itchy, unpredictable guitars, soulful choruses and feral screams, sewn together into a strange tapestry of sound that sat resolutely apart anything else being made at the time, both in spirit and – thanks to their admirable refusal to uproot from their hometown for the dog eat dog music community of London – geographically too.
Seven albums in and Biffy Clyro are still looking towards new horizons: to tour fresh countries and to further travel to places they’ve only previously touched upon. But the biggest thrill still comes from capturing that lightning-in-a-jar moment in which a great song suddenly emerges from seemingly out of nowhere. Despite the challenges and growth along the way, the fifteen-year-old members of Biffy Clyro would realise that their subsequent selves aren’t so different after all.
1. There is a definitive Biffy sound, but each record is unique unto itself. What were the biggest influences on Ellipsis, specifically on the single, “Howl”? How does this record fit into your cycle of record trilogies?
Moving on to our 7th album we were very aware that we didn’t want to repeat ourselves, there’s nothing worse than a band that just keeps releasing the same record over and over. We tried to find different ways of working, right through from writing to recording and always trying to find a way to do things a little differently than before. With “Howl”, Simon actually wrote the song on a trip to LA. He took a couple of months away from home to shake things up and perhaps find a different angle of attack, and it led to some pretty unique results for the band. It (the record) definitely feels like the beginning of a new chapter for the band and we hope to keep exploring different pastures.
2. You just played a bunch of US shows. What were the highlights?
The shows in the US went better than we could have hoped and it feels like we’re building a really strong bond with our audiences. The sixteen year old boys inside of us are still giddy at the thought of playing shows in the birthplace of some our favorite music and we’re relishing the chance to discover more of this fascinating country. We were lucky enough to play in the Fillmore in San Francisco, what a venue! The walls are dripping with history and to be there to create our own little bit of history was amazing, oh and the crowd was incredible too!
3. This summer you will be sharing the stage with Guns N Roses. What are you most looking forward to with those shows?
I can’t actually begin to explain what it means to share the stage with them. We were talking about our first musical idols and it’s almost too intimidating to imagine what it’s going to be like for us. I’m sure it’s going to be surreal. The thing I’m most looking forward to is hearing the songs and seeing the band. We’re still big fans and to hear those songs of our youth live will be amazing.
4. What do you guys do to pass the time on the road?
We still enjoy each others company after all these years, so whatever we’re doing, we’re usually having a laugh. We’ll listen to some new musical discoveries in the dressing room and on the bus we watch a lot of TV. We love Veep and Modern Family and we’ll watch any musical documentary out there… We recently enjoyed watching Supersonic, the oasis documentary, it was amazing to see the journey the band went on.
5. Biffy Clyro has been putting music out since 1999. What have been the greatest lessons you’ve learned about being career musicians?
I would say, take the music seriously, but try to have a bit of fun doing it. It can be a bit of a grind on the road, being away from home for so long and always traveling, so try to find people you enjoy doing it with and try not to forget how lucky you are to be doing it in the first place.
6. Besides your own music, which current records do you think people should be listening to?
There’s a great band from Belgium called ‘Brutus’. They’ve got an amazing singing drummer who just plays like a machine. I’m really enjoying Minor Victories at the moment and if you haven’t heard Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes’ record Modern Ruin there’s something wrong with your life…