Biffy Clyro - Scottish backwarrrds...
It was a warm Saturday afternoon when I sat down with Ben from Biffy Clyro. Who? Ben, the drummer of Biffy Clyro! Okay, I had never heard of them before. But I received a promo copy of their latest record Puzzle and hell, it rocks! Biffy Clyro is a three-piece rock band from Scotland. They were playing together with Bloc Party that night at the Vredenburg Music Centre, Utrecht.
After a short chat and giving Ben a package of Dutch finest stroopwafels, I asked him if he could give us a short introduction for those who were not yet familiar with Biffy Clyro.
‘Well, I’m Ben from Biffy Clyro. We play sort of weird melodic rock music, I guess. I cannot describe it any better then that. So we are playing together now for eleven years, but doing it serious for about 6. We have three albums out on Bakers Banquet, a small independent label. After doing three albums with them we changed labels. Now we’re with Fourteenth Flour Records, Warner Music. We had about two years off when we changed labels. And we now have our fourth album coming out in the start of June.’
‘Yeah, I do love the Dutch accent. It sounds like Scottish backwards, haha.’
I just had a quick listen to Puzzle and I think it’s great. What are the key elements that you use in your music/songs?
‘Melody is very important. Our first three albums were a bit crazier. Especially Infinity Land with putting loads of ideas into one song. But the main thing is that the song has to work on acoustic guitar. They have to stand up on theirselves. The songs have to be strong enough to stand on the guitar before we arrange them and add bass and drums to it. But definitely melody. And we also need to keep ourselves interested. It’s very important that we get of with it and that we enjoy our songs. We only make the music for ourselves.’
Is that how you write the songs? Acoustic?
‘No, Simon writes the songs on his acoustic guitar. Then he will play it for the first time on the electric in our rehearsal room.’
You have already said that your previous three records are a bit different than Puzzle.
‘Yeah, we try to make every record different then the last one. The last thing that we want tot do is to repeat ourselves musically.’
Why is that?
‘We want to keep ourselves interested. We don’t want to get bored. If we would get bored you would see that on stage. So every album needs to be different. For this album we felt we should try to strip down the songs and make them more direct and focussed. Because we haven’t done that before. On our previous record it was all really crazy with 12 ideas in one song. So it was our challenge to do this different and to focus on letting the songs breath. It’s easy for us to write complex music and to go crazy. So this was our challenge.’
Aren’t you afraid of losing some of your fans? That they expect something like your previous albums and get something totally different with Puzzle?
‘No, we never think of our fans when we write our music. We make music for ourselves. The minute you start to think about how people are going to perceive your music or if your fans will like it, you’ll start to lose your soul in it. It has to be for us. It has to be interesting for us. We have to be progressing and changing all the time.’
So what’s up for the next album then?
‘That could be everything. It could be funk, it could be dance. I don’t know. We don’t have any plans yet. I think the reason that we have such a dedicated and loyal fan base back in Britain is because of this. Because we do things in our own way on our own terms.’
With your album title Puzzle and song titles like ‘Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies’ it all sounds pretty heavy. Is their a story told with this album?
‘Basically, most of the album is about living with losses and grief. I already said Simon writes the songs. Well, he just lost his mother right after releasing Infinity Land. He struggled to cope with that. Previous albums were inspired by books and films and stuff. Puzzle is more personal. It’s about him and about us. Everybody lost someone at a time. That’s why it’s a very dark album. And the title, Puzzle, is maybe a bit cliché and cheesy, but you have these bits and that’s how live is. You have these bits and you try to be happy. But there’s always a piece missing. Like you’re always on the road but you also want to take care of your social live. You can never be completely happy with everything. It kind of echo’s that.’
So it was a pretty dark period for you?
‘Yes it was.’
And that’s why it took three years before Puzzle came out.
‘Yes, and also because we changed labels and lawyers like to take the time. Because they get paid more when they do. So it took a long time. The labels had to talk a lot because we had one more album to go with Bakers Banquet so Warner had to buy us out. In the mean time we had like 30 songs written. So we could’ve recorded like 3 albums at that time but we had to pick the best songs and put them all together.’
So how did this period infect your band?
‘It was hard. But it made us stronger. We talked a lot and moaned about other people. About how shit record labels can be. And a lot of that came out in our music and the lyrics. We also had the time to arrange the songs. To sit down and try out all different ways to play them. In the past we would’ve settled with things much quicker. This time we took a lot longer to arrange the songs.’
What’s the strength of Biffy Clyro to keep going and to distinguish themselves from other bands?
‘We are not kidding anyone. You can see that in our live shows. Like we’re here with the crowd and it’s all so intense. This is not our job, this is our life. We’re doing this for so long but it’s still so honest. I think that’s our strength.’
James is your brother right? How is it to be in a band with you own brother?
‘He’s my twin brother. It’s great. But honestly, I have never been in another band. So it’s normal for me. But it’s great. We’re the same age, have the same friends. But we’re all brothers in the band. We know each other for years now.’
Okay then. If you could choose one superpower to make touring or other things that come along with playing in a band, a lot easier, what would it be?
‘Haha, well, I’ve been watching Hero’s and it’s fucking great. Hhmmm, I think I would choose for the skill to stop and bend time. It’s always hectic and stressful. Like you want to do this but you have to sound check. Or sometimes even fast forward time. With travelling for example. It would be great to travel from here to Glasgow in only a few seconds. With snapping you fingers and bam…you’re there. It’s also handy for holidays or visiting family.’
Well, that’s about it. Do you have any words left for our readers?
‘Sorry we haven’t been to Holland more. It’s wasn’t our fault as the label didn’t give us the money. We love Holland and we hope to come back soon.‘
And so do I. Unfortunately I missed like the entire show of Biffy Clyro. I only saw the last two songs of their set. One of them was ‘Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies’ and that was a killer! If you ever have the chance to see them play, you should definitely check them out!