It came out last Friday (8th July), and the Scottish trio’s latest work trims the fat of previous epics while employing a new, more playful side.
Dressing gown guitar solos and blast-beat reggae songs galore, it’s an utterly bonkers record. Below, Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil, James and Ben Johnston give us a glimpse into their brilliant new album ‘Ellipsis’.
Wolves Of Winter
Simon: This was one of the first songs that came together in the practice room. It was kinda the closest song to ‘Opposites’.
James: For me, it really became unlocked when Simon put on his dressing gown and belted out that solo…
Simon: One day, the boys came over to my house at about midday and I came down at five past. I had barely woken up, had my dressing down on and I was like, ‘Alright, fuck, I’ll do this solo just now.’ It sounds like I’m making it up but I played the whole fucking thing! Then I went and got my coffee.
Friends and Enemies
Simon: We knew we wanted to fuck about with the way we worked, and this track was the first leap of faith. I had the chords and we had a bit of guitar and singing and then we built the song from that. It was the first glimpse that our leap of faith was working, and it reminded us that we’re not necessarily here to show what we can do, it was about what the song needed. You can probably hear our Tears For Fears influence in there, too.
Simon: ‘Animal Style’ is probably our most heads-down rock song ever. Normally with Biffy, it’s al rhythm changes and quiet-loud. This was a riff I had for a few months and I recorded at my friend John’s studio. To be honest, I think if we’d worked on this track together as a band initially, it would’ve become a more traditional Biffy song, but because I was in the studio by myself, it took it somewhere that it probably wouldn’t have gone if we’d been together in a room.
Simon: Once ‘Re-arrange’ came along, it felt like we were ready to make a record, like it was the last piece of the puzzle – ohhh, ‘Puzzle’, our fourth record! There was a sweetness and a feel to this song that suggested more of an R’n’B swing. I’ve always wanted to put trap beats on a Biffy song, which I don’t think I ever thought we’d do, but this song has got some in!
"'Herex' was our blast-beat, reggae song!"
Ben: Well, it used to be bonkers than it is, but then someone pointed out, it’s actually quite a good song so maybe we shouldn’t have it be quite so bonkers…
Simon: This was our blast-beat, reggae song! It started with just over a minute of us all going nuts and it was a great idea! But it came to down to the fact that, if we felt it was a struggle to listen to, it ain’t good.
James: It does have a fun vibe, though. I think to go from ‘Re-arrange’ into this, I think gives you a hint that the record ain’t fucking over yet, and there’s still a few twists and turns in store.
Simon: The song’s about certain things that you require, or are addicted to, in your life to get through things and it’s about trying to break free of those chains. Musically, if we’d recorded this with GGGarth, we know it would’ve been a lot closer to ‘God & Satan’, but we really wanted to embrace hip hop production ideas and make it textured and dreamy. It feels more emotive because we restricted ourselves somewhat.
James: There’s a groove on this one that’s unfamiliar to do us as a band: we’re all playing different rhythms.
Simon: I feel like we’re Paul Simon’s backing band – you’re going up while I’m going down!
James: Some of the percussion we’ve got in there is really tasty, and the song sort of slaps you about the fact a bit at the start, with that guitar tone.
On A Bang
Ben: I’d say this is the angriest song we’ve ever had… possibly! This is a good example of how we’re not doing what we’d usually do: you’d think on the angriest Biffy song ever, there’d be a really distorted guitar but on this, not so much. We got the drums and tried to make them sound really aggressive and weird, despite us staring at the distortion pedals and wanting that heaviness!
Simon: We definitely had to fight Rich on that – it was a bit of a battle when it came to what we wanted the song to be.
Simon: This is where we decided to go a little country! We’ve always toyed around with folk music in some of our B-sides.
James: There was something kinda friendly about it; every time you played it, there were smiles all around! There was something kinda familiar.
Simon: And we wanted it to feel like we were in a pub, so much so that we thought about going to a pub to record it. Then we realised, ‘Shit, we’re in LA!’ so that didn’t work, but we tried to capture that ourselves.
Simon: We were unsure where this song sat – it had a bit of a 50s vibe – and then we listened to a band called Midnight Oil and there was something about it. So, we tried to build this almost acoustic rock sound, as inspired by them. I think it’s really quite pop and I think we might’ve been a bit scared of the simplicity of a song like that on previous albums. This time, that wasn’t in our thoughts at all.
James: I remember the first time I heard the chords being like, ‘What’s that?!’ The feel of it was just absolutely amazing, and I don’t think there’s anything else on the album that has that cinematic feel.
Simon: Rich didn’t actually like this song, but I kept going back and playing it. It kept talking to us. As soon as we recorded it and we had put our stamp on it, it immediately became the last song on the album. We wanted to end it not with an exclamation mark, but with a dot dot dot…
Biffy Clyro’s new album ‘Ellipsis’ is out now via Warner Bros. Records / 14th Floor.
Taken from DIY’s July 2016 issue, out now. Subscribe below.