Scottish trio Biffy Clyro has done very well in Norway, and it's one of the countries that seem to always pop up on their touring schedule - often 2 or 3 gigs at at time. The band has even played for the Norwegian royals, during the Crown Prince and Princess' 40th birthday party.
The band has released 6 studio album, and really went all the way when they in 2013 released the double album Opposites and its 22 songs. The band is now back after a long break, and in July their new album Ellipsis (the sign "…") will be released. The first single from the album Wolves of Winter is already out, and the band is currently getting ready for a long and hectic festival summer. Musikknyheter got the chance to catch up with the band at Warner Records' headquarters in London, and it was a very relaxed and cheerful group of guys that met Musikknyheter's journalist.
Vocalist Simon Neil, bassist James Johnston and Ben Johnston are practically glowing with pride in their new album, and it's clear the break has done them well - even though they seem to have felt like they've been in training and are now finally ready to come back and take over the world. James says he feels it is really important now and then to take some time off to readjust and reassess your life: «I think everybody goes through periods of existentialism; 'why am I here, what's this all about?'»
«But why are YOU here?» Simon asks and the guys break out in loud laughter. «Yes, why are you ALWAYS around??» Ben agrees laughing.
«But now we know exactly why we're here», James continues, trying to steer the conversation back onto a more serious track, «we have a common goal and purpose, and it's really exciting! I think for this to be our seventh album, and for us to be this excited, and this much looking forward to the future, it's a really fortunate place to be.»
He feels it might be easy for bands to become blasé and blinded by their own success by what - despite being a very special occupation - tends to become a routine. You simply get to used to it. Simon agrees: «That's why this last year off has proven to be very important for us. Before you know it, this is just what you do. And if it becomes a routine or a habit, that's when the magic and romance dies. I think we needed time off more than we realised ourselves.»
He expains that though they had a great time touring the last album, it's easy to lose your "everyday self" in the middle of it all. Suddenly, interviews and gigs are all you do every day, and you live in a situation where you're "James from Biffy Clyro" all the time, rather than the actual person "James Johnston". It was very good to be reminded what it was like back when they started: «We'd just go out and practice, like, three days a week! Well… » he's interrupted by more loud laughing, «… yeah, really hard at it, haha!»
«Three days a day», Ben suggest while Simon raises the stakes to: «48 hours a day. But like James said, it was very necessary and very healthy for us.»
This is the first proper break the boys have had since they started what would later become Biffy Clyro, in 1995. They had a slightly forced break in 2006 while moving labels, but that was six months of stress and worries while their lawyers were dealing with things. This time, they almost panicked a little bit when the break began, because what on earth were they gonna do now? In a world where every day is lined up and dictated by a so-called "day sheet" which tells you times and places for every little thing that's going to happen, it's not easy to suddenly fill the days yourself. Or even to handle the everyday problems that pop up in a family where everything isn't as perfectly planned and problem free.
Simon says that he, after playing some gigs in their hometown of Glasgow in 2014, got a total writer's block. They'd played songs from all their albums, and suddenly he got so proud of everything they'd achieved, that he tried to write each new song in the context of all the old ones: «It wasn't a healthy way of writing music, and I struggled with my identity for a while. I went from being "Songwriter Si" to becoming "Songwriter Sigh"», he grins uncomfortably, «even my name became a negative thing.»
He says the record company would have liked them to release the album last year, but the boys just didn't feel ready for that:
«We're under no illusion that the record industry isn't all business, but if recording a new album becomes a machine, that's the "kiss of death" for a band. We had to go with our instincts and they said 'wait'. We had to shake off the feeling of a machine and, ironically, shake off some years of success. We needed to just be three guys who make music again. We needed time to just be US». «Surprisingly long time», Ben adds, «we thought it would last a couple of weeks, but it took us a surprisingly long time to get used to just being us». He explains: «Now that we're getting ready to go out on tour, we're just waiting for that to begin. When we're on tour, we're just waiting for it to finish. And when we get home, that isn't quite what we thought it'd be either. We're basically never happy!» he chuckles, and Simon agrees: «We walk around for two years saying we need a break, and when we get one we go: "Well this is fecking shite! BORING!"»
After the break though, the band feels that Biffy Clyro has gone through a bit of a rebirth, like starting from scratch again. The cover art of the album visualises this by showing the guys naked, in foetus position, in the formation of an ellipsis. Listen to the guys talk about the album art and tattoos here:
Ellipsis contains a lot of references from music the guys themselves listen to, from hardcore punk, to metal, to jangly piano pop. It's as far away from a boring album as you could possibly get. Musikknyheter's journalist was lucky enough to get a copy of the album two months early for the sake of the interview, and when the guys hear her opinion of it, the reaction is such a loud cheer that you'd almost think they were actually nervous to hear what the crowd feels about their work this time: «Oh my God that's so good to hear!!» Simon exclaims, while Ben is laughing and James is applauding and cheering. «It's exactly what we wanted to do», Simon continues, «making a non-boring album. We wanted an album that was a bit of fun, a bit of aggression... every moment should give you SOMETHING. You've made us very happy now, we haven't met a lot of people who've heard it yet. That's great!».
The album was produced by Rich Costey, a producer known for playing with sounds and experimenting with equipment and effects. Together, they've made a very eclectic album, with light and dark sides which seem to embrace each other, but also fight each other. Hear the boys talk about it, here:
One of the places Biffy Clyro will visit this summer is Norwegian festival Bergenfest, and they're very honest about how fond they are of Norway and of playing live there. How many times have they already been there? Well... that, they're not quite sure of: «…A dozen?» Simon suggests, «The last five years we've been in Norway a lot. You've been so kind to us. We're not really used to that so we just keep coming back», he laughs. «No matter where we've went, we've had to really battle to be heard and seen, but it fees like Norway's kind of understood what we were doing right from the start. We've felt extremely happy there, we're a confident in Norway. We've got a spring in our step - I don't want to sound arrogant - but we have a swagger there.»
He says that to Biffy, Norway is also on of the easiest countries in the world to visit, it's beautiful in every single way. «Even though it's expensive?» Musikknyheter asks, and the boys laugh: «Well, Scotland seems to be modeling itself from Norway so if we can get half way there at any point, then we're doing something right. But yes, we love it. And now we've started making friends there as well, we've been there enough to actually get to know people properly.»
And with a technically challenging album coming out soon, which songs are they mostly looking forward to - or dreading - playing live this summer?
«Well... there are a couple that we really threw ourselves into, being in the studio», James says, «and [try and find out] what we could achieve in the studio and try and get out of our minds what it might be like to play those songs live, so... That was great for the record, but...» The band chuckles.
«It wasn't quite so good when we first met in the practice room together», James continues, «but maybe...'Friends and Enemies' I think. Which is really the one I'm talking about.» «Singalong potential», Musikknyheter whispers, and James laughs: «We hope so! Because we're gonna be busy doing other things!»
And then we'll let Simon and Ben finish off the interview by talking about which songs they're looking the most forward to:
Ellipsis will be released on July 8th.
This interview was first published at Musikknyheter.no.