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Live: Biffy Clyro @ Northampton Roadmenders – 11 July 2008

July 14th, 2008

When Biffy Clyro played their first ever show at Northampton Roadmenders as a T In The Park festival warmup show, Anne Waites was there to witness the magic with Graham Pentz photographing the Scottish trio.

Biffy Clyro in the park Thrash Hits James Johnston Ben Johnston Simon Neil

After well over a year spent touring the arse off Puzzle – zipping across America, Japan and Australia as well as hitting most of Britain and the rest of Europe for good measure – you’d think Biffy Clyro would spend the night before their triumphant T In The Park homecoming performance having a nice sit down at home with a cup of tea and a biscuit.

Fat chance. Rather than conserving their apparently limitless energy, they’re to be found playing an intimate show in the dark and sweaty confines of Northampton’s Roadmenders, blazing through an hour-long set as if it only dawned on them this afternoon just how powerful their triple-attack rock actually is.

Clad in a uniform of red jeans, they blaze into ‘Saturday Superhouse’, hair and beards flying and sweat-soaked within seconds, as a crowd of ever-loyal fans launch their bodies skywards in response.

Watch the video to ‘Mountains’ by Biffy Clyro

They’re rewarded with old favourites punctuating Puzzle highlights – the euphoric ‘Justboy’, the attack dog bite of ‘There’s No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake’, the irresistible bounce of ‘Glitter And Trauma’ – and new single ‘Mountains’ hits like a tsunami, every bit as huge as its title.

This visceral night is an example to all newcomers of just what they’ve been missing for all these years, and a reminder to everyone else of exactly how this band reached their recent lofty heights in the first place – by blasting us into submission until it’s impossible not to join in the fun.

Biffy Clyro @ Northampton Roadmenders photo gallery

Biffy Clyro @ Northampton Roadmenders setlist
‘Saturday Superhouse’
‘Who’s Got A Match’
‘Whole Child Ago’
‘9/15ths’
‘Justboy’
‘Love Has A Diameter’
‘Jaggy Snake’
‘All The Way Down’
‘Mountains’
‘Get Fucked Stud’
‘Machines’
‘Now I’m Everyone’
‘Living Is A Problem’
‘Glitter And Trauma’
‘As Dust Dances’
‘57’

‘Mountains’ is released on 25 August 2008 on 14th Floor Records

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Biffy Clyro: The last piece of the Puzzle

June 26th, 2008

After their most successful album to date, Anne Waites talks to Simon Neil from Biffy Clyro about Puzzle, Dave Grohl stealing his beard/hair combo and receiving elaborate portraits from Japanese fans.

Biffy Clyro Thrash Hits Simon Neil James Johnston Ben Johnston

How would you sum up the first half of 2008?
“Hectic! It’s been amazing actually, we’re going to places we’ve never played before, doing things that we never thought we’d get a chance to do. Spreading the word of our music.”

How was your first trip to Japan?
“It was really full on. People just obsess over the bands that they like. They seem to research what you’re really like. We kind of thought the shows might be quite quiet atmosphere-wise. But it was the exact opposite of that.”

Did you get any good presents?
“James did! He’s written on the on-line blog that we didn’t get to see the cherry blossom because it was the wrong time of year. A girl did this crazy airbrushed painting of James with his glorious ginger locks standing in front of this big blossom tree. It must have taken her ages! Me and Ben got a couple of letters saying ‘thanks for coming’, and James got this beautiful portrait. I think he’s a messiah over there because he’s got ginger hair.”

Watch the video to ‘Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies’ by Biffy Clyro

What was the biggest culture shock?
“They don’t really do hangover food. It’s still all fresh fish first thing in the morning. Which is lovely, but if you’re feeling green you don’t really want to eat a bit of raw squid. But the biggest surprise is that people are the same everywhere. And Marty Friedman who used to play guitar in Megadeth is a huge megastar over there. He’s got his own TV show, we went on it. He was absolutely tiny! But with a big poodle perm on top.”

What’s the new single Mountains about?
“It feels like an in-between albums song. It’s kind of putting a full stop on Puzzle lyrically. It’s taking up from where ‘Machines’ left off, with its little bit of hope. With this one it’s where you’re completely trying to start again and just have confidence in yourself again. Just having the bit between your teeth and going for it. I try not to think too much about what I’m writing about, but that’s the impression I get from it!”

Watch the video to ‘Machines’ by Biffy Clyro

How’s the other new stuff sounding?
“We’ve got some quite bizarre songs. We’ve got one that’s sleazy, a bit like Nick Cave. We’ve got a big dumb rock song. There’s one with this groovy riff, a southern rock riff, which is my favourite to play. It puts a smile on my face every time I play it. I’m really pleased we can still take ourselves by surprise. It feels like we’re constantly evolving, and that feels mega.”

Last year was a bit of a rollercoaster. How’s that affected you? Are you getting big headed yet?
“We’re confident in what we’re doing musically, but we’re not really hugely confident dudes. So I feel as if we’ve almost got more to prove now than we did before. It felt like with Puzzle we took a huge step forward, as we have on every record hopefully. We want our next record to be better than Puzzle. We’ve put a lot of pressure on ourselves, so we definitely don’t have an abundance of confidence, but I think that’s a good thing. I think if you start thinking you’re the dog’s b******ks you forget why you’re doing it. And we still live in Scotland so we can’t get too carried away.”

Watch Biffy Clyro perform ‘Folding Stars’ in a Virgin Radio Session

Would that be a sure-fire way to a beating?
“Exactly! Actually, there were two Russians found dead in a big ship, and they were docked across from our flat. There were two dead Russians facing me when I got back from Madrid. And a young mum was stabbed to death just up the road. Ayrshire is kicking off. People are losing their f*****g minds, I can’t believe it.”

The Daily Mail can always blame it on emo.
“It’s unbelievable. Movies and music cannot make people into psychopaths. It’s got nothing to do with it! There’s always going to be something that triggers a maniac to do what they do. It’s nothing to do with what you listen to. We’d all be f*****g nuts if that was the case!”

Heard any good rumours about yourself lately?
“No, I try and stay far away from news about our band as possible. Before the Foo Fighters shows everyone kept saying we were playing with them, which was just because Dave Grohl’s nicked my beard and hair combo.”

Biffy Clyro support Bon Jovi at Twickenham Stadium on 27 June 2008
‘Mountains’ is released on 25 August 2008 on 14th Floor Records

EXCLUSIVE: Thrash Hits hears new Biffy Clyro material

June 4th, 2008

Biffy Clyro in the park

Biffy Clyro invited Thrash Hits .com down to their record label offices this afternoon to have an early listen to some brand new, just-recorded songs.

Simon Neil and co have been recording some demos and while they have rough versions of about ten tracks, there is only one song which is completely finished and it’s called ‘Mountains’.

It is 3min 19sec of slightly angular, stadium-filling riff rock with a killer refrain of, “I am the mountain / I am the sea/ You can’t take that away from me.” It will stick in your head after the very first listen – I guarantee it. Expect a hell of a lot of distortion and a more positive outlook for their forthcoming fifth album, touted for release in 2009.

Listen to ‘Mountains’ by Biffy Clyro
‘Mountains’ will be released as a single on Monday, 25 August 2008 after Reading & Leeds Festival and you can pre-order it at Amazon. ‘Paperfriend’ is a possible B-side – a song which was fully recorded during the Puzzle sessions but was left off the final cut.

Watch this clip of ‘Mountains’ being debuted at Electric Weekend Festival in Getafe, Spain on 30 May 2008. It’s really crappy quality both in terms of sound and vision so don’t expect too much from this but rest assured ‘Mountains’ sounds amazing.

Since the release of Puzzle in May 2007, the Scottish trio have toured incessantly with the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Bloc Party, Oceansize and Linkin Park and have played festivals around the world.

Biffy Clyro will be performing at Download, Glastonbury, T in the Park and Reading & Leeds festivals this summer.

Look out for an interview with Biffy Clyro on Thrash Hits .com, where they talk about the new album as well as coming to the end of the Puzzle campaign, very, very soon.

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Biffy Clyro on their Puzzle: “A lot of people have jumped to conclusions…”

June 4th, 2007

Prior to the release of Biffy Clyro‘s #2 charting fourth album, Puzzle, Thrash Hits editor Raziq Rauf was flown out to Barcelona to chat to the Scottish trio about their long-awaited major label debut.

biffy clyro thrash hits 2007 14th floor puzzle promo photo

Following a warm afternoon sunning myself on the beach, I catch up with Scottish masterminds Biffy Clyro at what must surely be the best club in Barcelona. I talk with the trio for nearly an hour at Club Razzmatazz, but this is no time to trivialise matters with wacky articles documenting Raz on The Raz @ Club Razz, oh no. With a move to a major label for their fourth album, this can be nothing but deadly serious.

The first thing that I see when I enter the dressing room is the twins, James and Ben Johnston, huddled together on a couch receiving finished copies of their new album, Puzzle (review), for the first time. As Simon Neil gets his hands on his copy, he just gasps.

It’s expected that they would be excited as they receive their copies. It’s expected that they would paw the records gently, like children opening their Christmas presents to find exactly what they’d asked Santa for. But what’s unexpected are the first words out of both their mouths.

“It’s so shiny. I love this inlay. It’s so shiny.”

When quizzed upon the reasons for checking the shininess of the album’s inlay cover, Ben explains that it was the third album by Icelandic hardcore-turned-rock ‘n’ roll band Minus that provided the inspiration for such a shiny cover – and, by gum, it really is shiny. They’ve not tried to gloss over anything, though, for the artwork has as much thought in it as the album does.

“The artwork to us isn’t an incidental part, as it’s the first impression you get,” explains Simon Neil. “Every one of our albums, we’ve taken it very seriously and have tried to tie it all in together and have themes running through it.

“Previously we’ve just chosen pieces of art rather than have someone actually do it. This time we had Storme Thorgerson [who also designed Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, and The Mars Volta’s Deloused… albums] doing it and he just threw himself into the music. He got the very first set of demos and it was quite nerve-wracking because we didn’t know what he’d come up with. But in the end he really nailed it.”

“Storme was quite adamant that we were going to get something we were happy with,” says James. “He said, a few times, that if we didn’t like it then we could part ways with no hard feelings.”

Biffy Clyro are a band that have been active for around the same time as DrownedinSound.com has. You’ll find many archived articles for Biffy and their peers – bands like Llama Farmers, My Vitriol, Hundred Reasons, Lostprophets and Muse also began their careers at around the same time.

Clearly, all of those bands have followed very different career trajectories, but everyone seems to be getting the feeling that, after years of toiling away, Biffy Clyro are about to hit The Big Time. A band that has been very close to both Thrash Hits’ and Biffy’s hearts over the past seven years is Aereogramme. They sadly announced that they are to split after this summer, and this has hit many people hard.

“We’re devastated about that,” says Simon. “It’s the perfect example of a band that can make great records – their new one’s the best they’ve ever made – but for whatever reason people haven’t picked up on it. We should petition for a Mercury Music Prize nomination for The ‘Gramme.

“It’s a bit of an eye opener because, when you’re younger, you believe that if you make great music it’ll be picked up. But you can make the shittest music around and, if you look the part, you can get around everywhere. If The Horrors played Aereogramme’s music it would be the perfect combination.

“We played a lot of our first gigs with Aereogramme. They’re all in their mid-‘30s, apart from Martin, and you can see the difference being that little bit older makes when you don’t have the time to spend months on the road not making any money. I’m sure they want to further their personal lives, and I understand that completely.”

The fact of the matter is that Biffy Clyro are still going and they’re about to release a record which is hugely personal to all three of them. Additionally, it is possibly the record that they’re all the most proud of.

“It seems a lot more real now. We would have preferred it to have been recorded sooner, but obviously record companies have a certain way of attacking things. Usually we just get the album out and then introduce people to it, but this time people have been talking about for a while now.”

Indeed, the current album’s promotional campaign has been rather long-winded. The first single (‘semi-mental’review) was a digital-only release in December, and it was followed up by another in the spring (‘Saturday Superhouse’review). The album is being released shortly after the third single ‘Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies’ (review), over two and a half years after their third album, Infinity Land.

“If we hadn’t taken so long between records we probably wouldn’t have released ‘semi-mental’ over Christmas. We just wanted the people who had been waiting and had been asking about the record to know that we weren’t fannying around and wasting people’s time. It was more of a taster for people who had been following us.”

These boys honestly eat, sleep and breathe music. While they were waiting for the green light from 14th Floor Records to go over to America to record Puzzle with acclaimed knob-twiddlers GGGarth Richardson and Andy Wallace, they found it was important to have a bit of fun. That fun involved writing and recording the second Marmaduke Duke album.

“We would’ve chucked it out last year if we’d known we weren’t going to record ‘til September, but we were in limbo for most of 2006,” explains Simon. “We were just playing shows for the sake of it, and we just wanted to make music. From midnight ‘til 8am we would write stuff. If it made us laugh we’d put it on the record. If it sounded cool, we’d take it off.”

Now that they are about to release Puzzle, some of the reception from existing fans has been slightly lukewarm. With lead singles thus far being the more conventional tracks from the record, many have questioned the musical direction the band has taken. But Simon Neil is more than keen to set them all straight.

“I think a lot of people have jumped to conclusions. We’ve always said that we’re not huge fans of singles. We’d rather people listened to the singles on the album – where they’re intended to be heard – because sometimes they become out of context. Take ‘Saturday…’, which is next to ‘Living…’. We think that fits immaculately, but you’ll hear people talking only about ‘Saturday…’ and moaning. Just wait ‘til you hear the album!”

He continues: “We knew people were going to have this reaction. We could’ve put out a couple of weirder ones first but we wanted to take people by surprise. Expect the unexpected… which this time is the expected.”

Maybe the question marks raised come from the move from an independent to a major label. The pressure of having to conquer the mainstream might involve a watering down in sound because the general public just can not handle any quirks and kinks in their music. The truth of the matter is found in a change in song-writing technique.

The subject matter of Puzzle revolves mainly around the tragic death of Simon’s mother and, while it’s not a sore subject any more (time heals after all), many of the songs were written during the darkest days of mourning.

“It was tough but it was the only thing that I could write,” recalls Simon. “There was nothing else in my mind… there was nothing else in any of our minds. The songs were all written over about a year or two and it was a tough time but it was exciting. Everybody’s not happy all the time so this was always going to be a dramatic, sad record but that’s why making it was tough. It had to be a perfect record.”

He goes on to explain how the record came to sound the way it does: “Not that there have been in previous ones, but lyrically there are absolutely no throwaway moments in this record. The lyrics weren’t so much complementing the music as much as the music is complementing the lyrics on this one. It just came out the way it did and we’re so proud of it.”

It came out in fantastic fashion. With the juxtaposition of tracks getting more and more contrasted the further along the album you go.

“We toyed with the tracklisting and it felt that ‘Folding Stars’ was really pretty and ‘9/15ths’ was really dramatic and dark and nasty and then ‘Machines’ closes the record perfectly. It just felt like there was something different with every song. I know calling it a journey is such a cliché but sometimes it should be a journey.”

If anyone knows what it takes to make a journey it is this band. I dread to tally the number of times I’ve seen them over the past few years. Biffy Clyro have toured incessantly, making sure that their fans are satisfied with their performances and winning over new fans along the way. On the eve of their biggest release to date, the hard work has to have paid off.

“We haven’t changed what we do as a band and people have gradually come round to it and taking us seriously,” says Simon, smiling. “For the first two albums the people who got it, really got it but most people weren’t interested and it’s nice for us to know that we haven’t changed. We’ve played so many gigs and we’ve toured so often and we’re just going to keep doing that. We’re not afraid of a bit of hard work.”

A problem would arise, however, if that hard work doesn’t pay off. Major labels are notorious for dropping bands on a whim if their record sales aren’t up to scratch but despite the pressure to sell, sell, sell, Ben Johnston refuses to be fazed at all.

“We know it’s a definite possibility but it doesn’t worry us because we’ve always just been a band that has had a bash at stuff. If we fail then we’ll just find ourselves in the position that we were in a year ago, and we’ll always have our music to fall back on.

We’ve made an album that is already a success for us… and it’ll still be shiny in 30 years.”



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