Scotland’s Biffy Clyro are heading to Metro City on Friday, September 12.
Bassist, James Johnston, chats with AARON BRYANS about their newest album, Opposites.
Since their formation in 1995, Simon Neil and the Johnston brothers, Ben and James, have committed their lives to music, performing on a global scale and opening for some of the biggest bands in the world.
Slowly working their way up to the stars they are today, the trio have six studio albums and over two dozen singles. All their hard worked paid off in August last year when Biffy Clyro headlined the Reading and Leeds festivals.
“The first night in Leeds it was pissing with rain,” James Johnston retells. “It was absolutely brutal for a full hour before we went on stage; the heavens just opened. We were really worried that everybody would be washed out. But we came on stage and everyone hit us with this, ‘Yeahhhhh!’ and they almost sort of cheered us up. I thought we were going to have to go out and work hard to get their energy levels going; but they were the ones who were supporting us through it, which was incredible.
“The next night when we got to Reading it just felt like one of the biggest festivals in the country if not the world and we’d made it. Sometimes a huge moment like that it can be slightly overwhelming and difficult to take it all in but we managed to enjoy it and soak it all up. It was an incredible moment for the band.”
Soon after the band hit Australian soil in March for the Soundwave festival which saw the trio play on the main stage alongside Green Day, Placebo and Jimmy Eat World.
“Soundwave has got such a great line up. The amazing bands that are playing before you and after you; you know you’ve got to put on a good show. I think because it’s in the sun it felt like a heavy metal holiday for us. Touring around the country with some of your childhood heroes is an amazing feeling, but it’s nice to feel a part of a community. You feel you could walk up to any band and you’re on common ground… there’s that kind of feeling of an adventure.”
Since their first EP in 2000, Biffy Clyro have come a long way musically and mentally; finding their place in the industry and their preferred style. Experimenting over the years has led to evolution and a growth in maturity.
“I think we’ve become more confident in trying out different things,” Johnston explains. “We’ve never been too scared to experiment and we’ve always worked really hard on the songs before we’d go to the studio. I think now that we’ve become more confident in the studio we’re able to really dive into it and almost use it as a tool and a little instrument itself. We’re not too afraid to try some weird ideas or push things as far as we could go. If we’re going to get an organ sound, we’d go up to the biggest church organ we could find and mic it up. If we wanted mariachi music we’d get a mariachi band and do things properly.
“Life’s a journey and you can go up and down; but as long as you enjoy it, sometimes the down moments can be the most fun. Last year one of our biggest moments was playing at Reading and Leeds Festival and then getting a chance to headline there after eight years of playing small stages and slowly working our way up. To finally headline was a dream come true.”
The trio’s evolution is evident in their recent release Opposites, a double album featuring 20 tracks of impactful and moving alternative rock. The release has been so effective that the newer tracks have virtually solidified the band’s setlist.
“I think we’re lucky that we still love the first album. We love all the albums we’ve made. We still play a lot of those songs live. I think any band will see their more recent songs; the ones freshest to their memory as their favourites. I think Different People, that opened Opposites, is one of the stronger songs we’ve ever had. We’ve been using that to start the set. It’s really beautiful how it reveals itself as it goes along and it starts off very lonely and solitary with Sam and his guitar on his own before the band kicks in and it all gets deep and it goes crazy. I think it’s a good way of showing all sides of the band and actually start the record the way we start the shows.”
The vigorous touring efforts of Clyro following their fifth LP, Only Revolutions, left the band burnt out and isolated from home life. It was during the three-year writing gap before Opposites that the band reset and found their best selves.
“We were writing and working hard. We were just on the road being a band, going to new countries and trying new things. I think for a lot of bands the touring cycle now is getting even larger for every album; bands tour for two years for every album and we just needed a little bit of a break after that. After every long couple of years on the road you need a break just to reset and spend some time at home and do a little bit of living outside the band and I think that’s what keeps the hunger going.”
The Scottish rock band is now at full strength and ready for a 2014 Australian return. With promising rumours of a b-side release imminent; we may be seeing some new tracks closer to the tour dates.
“It’s on the way,” Johnston says. “To put a double album out and being able to bring out a whole bunch of new music again that shows a slightly different side of the band is exciting. The b-sides have been recorded in a slightly different way with a bit of an edgy sound. With the albums we always spend a lot of time making them a certain way whilst the b-sides are just recorded and performed in a different manner and I think it keeps things exciting and interesting.”