Interview: Biffy Clyro: dot to dot

Biffy Clyro by Mike Massaro

In 2016, the Scottish trio started down a new path with seventh album ‘Ellipsis’. So far, it’s clear it’s paying off.

Biffy Clyro aren’t exactly new kids on the block. Seven albums in (plus a hefty stash of B-sides, EPs and then some), they’ve headlined festivals aplenty before, but 2016 saw years of work click together, taking them to a whole new level. ‘Ellipsis’ stormed to Number One in the UK, they returned to Reading & Leeds to top the bill for a second time with a fire unlike ever before. Though the year’s almost over, for Biffy, it’s barely begun.

“It’s crazy how much we’ve done in a year,” reflects bassist James Johnston. “When I remember back to the start of the year after playing at Hogmanay in Edinburgh and then going to finish off the album and how much we’d done since, it’s quite crazy. We’re having as much fun as we ever have had as a band - we couldn’t be happier.”

‘Ellipsis’ is the first of a new trilogy. The studio trilogy. It pushed the boundaries of how they personally worked with songs, and where they could take them, and has now had a few months to seep into people’s lives. “At first people are always a little bit quiet,” says James. “They’re listening and scared. They’re probably so scared in case they don’t like it! The songs [from ‘Ellipsis’] are becoming part of people’s lives now. They’re starting to be part of memories, maybe memories where they’ve seen us at festivals or where they’ve heard the song at a certain moment of their life. It always takes a little while for that to happen, but it has started to happen now.”

‘Howl’

“You’re never fully comfortable standing in front of 50,000 people.”

James Johnston, Biffy Clyro

The album and its success are an obvious highlight of the year, but there’s one weekend that unequivocally steals the show. They returned to Reading & Leeds as triumphant headliners, and slotted a home show to tens of thousands at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow snugly in the middle. “It was such a buzz of a weekend that we’re only really just starting to come to terms with it,” he beams. “It was such a dream to come back and play at Reading & Leeds, a festival that we’ve grown up with, and played at every stage that the festival has, from the smallest and worked our way up, much like we have at T in the Park.

“That was a big moment for us personally. I mean, people have been coming to see us there for a lot of years - we feel at home. Then to actually come home and play Glasgow to that many people – to feel like it was our people there, that we’d brought that many people together - we felt so proud of that.”

The numbers alone would make it a memorable weekend, yet from the other side of the barrier, the growth of the last few years was evident. Biffy have always been a force in a live setting, but they well and truly crossed an unseen threshold where they not only held the title of headliner, they smashed it. “I think it’s just practice,” he says. “I don’t want to take away too much of the mystery!”

Biffy Clyro by Emma Swann
Biffy Clyro by Emma Swann

“I think it’s just the more you do anything, the more comfortable you are in that environment. You’re never fully comfortable standing in front of 50,000 people,” he laughs. “Certainly, there’s still an edge to that situation and that’s a good thing - it keeps it exciting, it keeps you on your toes. It’s trying to push things in terms of the technical aspects of the show - the production is important. I think we can mix [the band’s performance] with some really pretty images and striking things, and this time we tried to play on the perspective a little bit with the stage setting. But I don’t think that should ever overshadow the band.

“We always want to maintain the feeling of a band in front of your face sweating, that it feels like it’s got elements of a sweaty rock club, just like a club show even in big arenas or outdoor festivals.”

It’s a skill they’ve pretty much nailed at this point. 2016 has been their year, and they’ve learned some important lessons. The main one? Time off doesn’t suit them. So as for what the future holds, it’s obvious really. “More Biffy,” he laughs. “We’re going to be in your face. We’re not going anywhere. We took a break before the last album and we didn’t really like it. It didn’t really work. We’re going to keep going, keep playing shows and keep trying to push ourselves.” More Biffy? Sounds good.

Photos: Mike Massaro / DIY.
Taken from the November 2016 issue of DIY, out now. Subscribe below. 

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