“We’re basically trying to rewire Biffy Clyro on this record.” Simon Neil is sat on the other side of the world, in what he describes as “the gorgeous sunshine” of Los Angeles. The Scottish trio are currently in the midst of their first set of recording sessions at Eldorado Recording Studios in Burbank, where they’re working with producer Rich Costey, and – in his own words – are “in the process of making potentially the best Biffy album you’ve ever heard.”
That’s a grand statement after releasing an album as huge as their previous effort. After all, not many bands would’ve dared to release such an opus as ‘Opposites’, their 2013 double-album, let alone start throwing about statements like that already. “We’ve got to believe that!” Neil chuckles. “If we didn’t believe it was the best one, then we probably shouldn’t waste our time; there are plenty of great bands out there making music and I wanna make sure we’re hopefully one of the best and try to remain that.”
With their sixth album, they proved themselves to be exactly that. The final record to come from their loosely-tied trilogy of records – they happily admit that they tend to create in threes – marked a host of massive landmarks for the band: from earning another Number 1 record, to headlining Reading and Leeds festivals, there’s no denying that they became one of rock’s finest offerings. Understandably then, the pressure finally began to creep in.
‘Black Chandelier’, from ‘Opposites’ (2013)
“I ended up writing some of the best songs that I think I've potentially ever written.”
— Simon Neil
“I think it's probably the first time that I've felt pressure on a record to be honest,” Simon admits. “I think for previous albums I've just been able to avoid the pressure,” he says, a laugh in his voice. “For the first time, just because there were quite a few landmark things for us on that record, it felt like, 'Shit, people care about what we do now!' I know that sounds like a very naive point of view, but the first time I sat down, and those first few songs I wrote, I just didn't think they were that good. That was the very first time I was judging the songs I was writing off what we've previously done.
“The start of this year was an odd headspace for me,” he goes on. “I felt like I should've been writing, and I didn't know whether to I force myself through the songs so that I can get to where we want to be, or to stop writing for a bit. What I ended up doing was keep writing. After our third Biffy album, I went away and made a couple of records with Marmaduke Dukes; what I needed this time was to do almost exactly the same. I made a record by myself called ZZC - that'll hopefully come out next year - but I needed to take myself out of the Biffy headspace. Don't get me wrong, pressure is a great thing and it means that people care and we care about what we do, but I needed to put my guitar down and make some music that didn't matter, that could be shit! As soon as I did that, the Biffy songs that I was almost battling against in my mind came alive and I ended up writing some of the best songs that I think I've potentially ever written. If I hadn't done ZZC, I think the pressure and the responsibility I feel as the songwriter of the band, that could've potentially swallowed me up.”
“I wanna make a record that sounds like Deafheaven meets Tears for Fears meets Death Grips.”
— Simon Neil
Now also marks the time for a shift in sound: after the stadium-ready epicness of their previous three full-lengths, this time, they're fucking with the rules. “I don't think we could make anything as epic or as cinematic as the last three records,” he readily admits, nodding back to 'Puzzle', 'Only Revolutions' and their more recent record, “and I don't want to try that.” The name of the game now is to strip things back and be rawer. “With these songs, there are some really, really aggressive ones. Some have grooves to them for the first very time; for the first time, the songs have come from the rhythms more.
“I truly believe that we're doing something on this record that we haven't ever tried to do before. We're really trying to fuck with the sound of what we do, and we're not trying to do it as a live band in a room. My main aim of this record is that I wanna make a record that sounds like Deafheaven meets Tears for Fears meets Death Grips. I don't know if we'll get anywhere near it, but that's the three touchstones of songwriting and sonic architecture that I want us to try and go for.”
Get your facts straight:
WHERE: Eldorado Studios, Burbank, CA
DUE: July 8th, 2016
OTHER DEETS: After working with producer GGGarth Richardson for their previous three records, the band have changed things up and recruited Rich Costey for the team.