Biffy Clyro on “levitating” feeling returning to live shows ahead of Open’er Festival set

We catch up with the band’s James Johnston before they head to Poland this weekend.

With four days of live music you’d expect Poland’s Open’er Festival to pack a mighty punch when it comes to the big names - and, true to form, where there’s Dua Lipa, The Killers, Megan Thee Stallion and The Chemical Brothers, there’s also the world’s most stylish rockers Måneskin, US-conquering all stars Glass Animals, returning hero Sky Ferreira and Biffy Clyro, who are taking their arena-baiting riffs to somewhat smaller stages outside the UK, including Open’er’s Tent.

Biffy’s James Johnston gives us a glimpse inside their current (busy) schedule and the “unused energy” they’re primed to unleash this weekend.

“[It’s been] like playing our first ever shows all over again.”

— James Johnston

Hello Biffy! How’re you doing and what’s new in your world at the moment?
We have just returned from a tour around America, so slowly getting over the jet-lag and exhaustion! We had a blast, being out playing shows again and seeing the whites of peoples’ eyes - there was a great vibe at all of the shows and it really was a reminder of what we have all missed over the last couple of years - it’s great to be back.

The last time we spoke to you, you were just gearing up to release ‘The Myth of the Happily Ever After’. Now you’re a few months on from its release, how’re you feeling about it? How has the reaction been?
I feel great about it! I still can’t quite believe we did it ourselves on a farm… The reaction has been fantastic - certainly from what I’ve heard at least! You could feel a certain energy at the shows when we played songs from the record - I guess people have had a few months to live with the album and it seems like maybe there’s some people with a new favourite song or two.

You also released a special documentary - ‘Cultural Sons of Scotland’ - earlier this year; can you tell us a little bit about what went into making it? What made you decide to do it?
Looking back, it was a really fun thing to do! It obviously involved a lot of work, but I was so delighted to welcome people in to our little world. I hadn’t really considered the emotional aspect of sharing our lives with the world, but it’s something that really struck me sitting in the cinema during the premiere - it felt very personal and deals with an emotional and difficult time for us and indeed the whole world. We didn’t overly state in the documentary the difficulties of being a band during Covid, because we’re way down the list in terms of those who deserve sympathy, but the documentary will always live as a reflection of a really strange period of our lives.

Obviously we bet it’s been bloody amazing to get back up on stage playing live again - can you sum up how those first live shows actually felt?! What was it like having two whole new albums to choose from for the setlist?
I don’t think I’m eloquent enough to properly describe the feeling, but the closest I can get is to say that it felt like we were levitating!

The build up to the shows was like nothing else in terms of nerves and worry - simply the worry of thinking we couldn’t do it any more, or me at least. When you want something to go perfectly it can add an extra dimension of pressure, so I usually try to stay away from that kind of thinking, but this time around it was like playing our first ever shows all over again. Thankfully we were still able to do it, and having some really heavy and hypnotic new songs to add in to the set was amazing. It really feels with songs like ‘Slurpy Slurpy Sleep Sleep’ that we’re doing something we haven’t done before and it keeps the shows feeling fresh and exciting

You obviously played Reading & Leeds and a few other big events last summer, but how’re you looking forward to getting back onto festival stages across the world this year, especially getting back out to Europe?
We were just in practice today talking about how much were looking forward to getting back out to play some festivals. There’s something really exciting about seeing the calendar fill up for the summer. I think it may be the unknown aspects that keep it interesting - What’s the site like, what’s the stage like, what crazy bastard are you going to run in to? It’s usually Fat Mike from NOFX!

What do you think is one of the best parts of playing festivals?
Every festival is a little different, and that for me is one of the joys! Sometimes it’s a little more reserved and often it’s pretty raucous and I do like trying to judge the temperature of the audience. I particularly like it when it rains! It kind of sums up how much people love music, that they’d stand in the rain in a muddy field and still have the time of their lives.

You’re heading back to Poland for this year’s Open’er festival - what can people expect when they come along to your set?
If it’s anything like our previous shows in Poland, then it’s one to look forward to… I think I’d describe the crowd as raucous as opposed to reserved, and I think we’re going to have a fun night together. We’ve got new songs to play as we’ve talked about, and we still haven’t gotten over two years stuck at home, so there’s a lot of unused energy to get out!

Tags: Biffy Clyro, Open'er, Festivals, From The Magazine

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