Biffy Clyro have been touted as the “Champions Of Stadium Rock” with one phenomenal live show which they are bringing back to Australia this April. There’s plenty happening in the Biffy Clyro camp with a new album not that far off as well as a soundtrack for a movie which has James Johnston excited. James spoke to Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles about the tour and the new music they have planned.
It sounds like 2018’s going to be a massive year for Biffy Clyro.
Yeah I think so. I think it’s going to be a bit of a different year in some regards. I guess the last ten years, like so many bands, for us, has been a few months in the studio, working on an album, and then tour for eighteen months then repeat that process. I think this time around, we’re working at the moment on some songs for a movie. It’s a fairly collaborative endeavour so it’s not just a case of providing songs for a movie that’s already been made, that’s an interesting approach for us. It feels exciting after a long time of being a band to try and do something a little bit different.
When you start mentioning the word “movies” that gets a bit exciting. Working collaboratively is something that’s probably a little bit different for the band to do?Absolutely! Traditionally with movies, sometimes a movie is made, it’s in the bag, and someone delivers a song, job done, but sometimes when you’re actually involved in the soundtrack and you’ve really got to edit your music as you go, it’s really got to match the moods and match on a timescale as well so it can fit a scene. I think some of that’s still to be worked on, but that’s an exciting bit for us. The themes of the movie will really be dictated by the themes of the music.
Are there a lot of those elements of working on a movie soundtrack that you’d actually incorporate into making a normal, traditional Biffy Clyro album?
I think a lot of our music is quite filmic, it does have that scope, that kind of sound. I think being a three-piece rock band, we’ve tried to broaden our horizons, to incorporate maybe a little bit of synthesizers and things that ten years ago we would have shouted at you if you’d suggested that we’d be going down that path. Maybe trying a little bit of production, a little bit more electronics and that sort of thing, maybe not just a traditional band sound, a band set up. So I think it’s really exciting to try and keep pushing that, I think it’s within the band, but I definitely think we’re going to push ourselves to something a little bit new.
Is there going to be a bit of a contrast between that movie soundtrack and the album that you’ve started working on, or about to start working on?
I think so. I guess anything you approach when it comes from you it’s going to have a similarity. Making a movie, we don’t have to be a rock band, we can do anything. That’s the same with with making any kind of album. There’s a blank canvas, it’s a little bit strange at the moment to know which one we’re concentrating on, and I think that’s quite interesting. I guess we’ll find out as we’re going, but not having certain boundaries, it’s really exciting. I think it feels a little bit free at the moment.
At one point there was discussion about there being a companion album to Ellipsis. Is that something that’s still on the cards, or has the band moved on, moved forward and it’s about the next album, next concert, or whatever that might be?That’s a bit difficult because we had songs that we felt were companioned to those. They came from the same time, they came from the same sort of headspace. I’m not too sure if too much time has passed for that still to be relevant. That’s something we’re wrestling with at the moment, because we don’t want to let those songs go, but whether it’s a case of maybe reimagining some of those songs for these future ideas, that’s something that’s open. In some ways it doesn’t feel right now just to put it out, it feels a little bit too late. I’m not too sure. I don’t really have a direct answer, it’s another one that we’re trying to work out at the moment.
It must be hard when you’ve got songs that are really, really good that probably just didn’t quite fit, that it’s hard to know what to do with or whether they’ll just sit on the shelf or make something else?
Exactly. That’s the thing, we’ve never really left anything on the shelf, we’ve never been that band. We’ve got everything out there, good or bad. It is a better time and a place, we haven’t often taken songs that haven’t made it from one album on to the next that I don’t think naturally happened for us. We wanted to get these songs out, so they’re not crowding us, but we might have another look at them to see if we can’t rework them in some way.
I know you talked about the creative freedom, but having potentially two albums out in the same year, do you feel a little bit of pressure, or maybe some sort of expectation, whether that’s from fans, or industry, or yourselves?
Yeah we do. I think most of it comes from within, just like “Holy shit, we’ve collected something now and we’ve got to deliver”. I think that’s healthy, I think if you just leave it open, give yourself too much time that can also be an issue. So I think because we’re up in Scotland, we’re so far away from what I would perceive to be the industry, as it were, it doesn’t feel like we’ve got people directly breathing down our neck like that, although they may be checking from time to time. It’s more about us trying to deliver something that we are happy with.
We spent some time in the studio last week and it was invigorating, it was really great to be back in the studio, to feel like a real band. That sounds crazy, but you spend a lot of time outside of a studio and you kind of forget what it’s like, and it’s so nice to get back in there again and to discover experimentation in a way, and to have things go in a direction that you could never really have imagined. That’s something that’s really, I keep using the word “exciting”, but I think after a long time of being a band, it’s great to find things that are quite new.
Absolutely! I was reading, I think it was in NME, that the album that you’re working on was going to be quite political. Is that the way that it has panned out lyrically, or are you pursuing other ideas and themes?
We were at a stage where we were on a slight break. We spent last week in the studio and recorded a bunch of music, and now we’re going to take a break while Simon goes to write some lyrics and then put down the vocals next month. So I haven’t heard a lot of the lyrics.
The thing is at the moment where we are, if you pick up your phone or put on the television or near enough to anything, then politics is a part of your life. Even if you’re not interested, it’s really hard not to be engaged in some way. So that’s got to be a part of Simon’s conscience, it will end up informing some of the lyrics I’m sure. You can’t turn a blind eye to it at the moment, it’s everywhere and it’s quite depressing, but it’s quite important at the same time.
There’s an Australian tour coming up, which is really, really exciting. Are you looking forward to this run of shows?
We can’t wait, it’s been too long. I was just sitting thinking before we came on the phone about our previous trips and what a great time we’ve had, and trying to figure out why we have a great time. It’s such a mixture of things, I’m sure that a lot of it must be personally being so far from home. If you feel like a pirate, or a renegade, there’s definitely a freedom. There’s something about the people in Australia which also inspires that freedom. I think people down there have their problems like anybody else, but there seems to be a bit of a get up and go attitude. I don’t know if that’s the type of person you are and you’re going to say “I don’t know what you’re talking about”, but that’s certainly something that I’ve found when I’ve been in Australia is that people seem to get after it. People get up early and get things going.
I don’t want to be negative before we’ve even made this trip, but I think we left it too long, basically, and I hope not to repeat that mistake. I hope to come to some of the cities that we’ve missed out. I think it’s really important, as we’ve found in Scotland when we started out as a band, it was important to go to all the little towns and just be a part of people’s night out, a part of people’s life, and one night only. It’s certainly important to us, so hopefully we can do that next time around.
Interview by Rob Lyon
Biffy Clyro are touring Australia on the following dates…