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Biffy Clyro Interview

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Biffy Clyro - "A lot of people are good at talking a good game but really they can't play a good game"

It does the heart good to be reminded that nice guys do occasionally come out on top, and Biffy Clyro - Simon Neil, Ben Johnston and James Johnston - are three of the most likeable people to ever rock for a living. They talk to Harry Guerin about their current album, 'Only Revolutions', their upcoming Oxegen appearance and the underground heroes who made them the band they are.

Harry Guerin: Your current album, 'Only Revolutions', came out last November. Now that you have a bit of distance from the promo for it and the studio, how do you feel about the record? I thought it was the best thing you had made so far.
Simon Neil:
I think we were of that opinion as well. We don't really listen to the [an] album much once it's been released, so I guess we haven't been back and listened to it properly in a while. I guess we wouldn't keep going unless we thought that we were getting slightly better every record! If you're proud of the songs and you write them from the right perspective and in an honest manner then you never really get sick of them. I mean, some bands look back to their earlier records and think, 'Oh, what were we doing?' I think we knew exactly what we were doing and we've enjoyed the growth.

HG: What's very admirable about Biffy Clyro is that while you've been very successful in recent years, it's been what I would call a 'quiet success'. You're not in every paper all the time; you're not photographed all the time. You go about your business and the music speaks for itself.
SN:
Absolutely, It should be that for most bands, really. It should be about the gigs: you play a gig and everybody's dying to come back and see you again. You release a record and everybody that listens to it and gets it really wants to hear the next one. A lot of people are good at talking a good game but really they can't play a good game. When we're onstage it's the opposite hopefully.

Ben Johnston: When you come to see us live we barely introduce song names or anything. We just say, 'Hi, we're Biffy Clyro' and get the job done. Like you say, hopefully the music speaks for itself.

HG: A lot of the bands that you grew up listening to were the same bands that I listened to - Braid, Burning Airlines, Jawbox, Far etc. I've always looked at those bands and wondered why they weren't bigger. Do you ever think, 'How come it happened for us and it didn't happen for them?'
SN:
Quite often!

BJ: We've been asked why we seem to have no specific demographic and why certain people like our music - [BBC] Radio 2 listeners might like our music as well as people that are into purely metal apart form Biffy Clyro. And I don't think we quite have the answer for that either - yet.

SN: It was something we really couldn't get our heads around for a long time because the bands that inspired us didn't have a lot of fans and didn't do that great. We'd be playing to more people and talking about these bands that really were the reason that we started playing and people had never heard of them. It's like, 'How's that possible?' We wouldn't sound like we do without these other bands.

I guess it is just down to luck and timing. And I guess maybe some bands get tired and especially some of these American bands: they just tour so hard around the States and just burn themselves out. Plus, a lot of the edgiest and [most] forward-thinking music doesn't connect and is just slightly ahead of its time and people don't quite know what to make of it.

HG: Someone once said to me that if you don't make it by year three or year four as a band it's a real slog to keep at it.
SN:
We were kind of fortunate, just the way with timing, I guess. We were just able to keep moving forward and stepping up a slight level. People didn't get bored. We didn't play the same venue for five years in a row; we'd always kind of shift up a venue. And even things like that [help]. When you see a band in your city in the same place [twice] you might not go and see them a third time in the same place.

We loved Kerbdog and they were a huge inspiration and influence and we could not understand why 'On the Turn' [Kerbdog's 1997 album] wasn't just the biggest rock record of the decade. As a band if you make a record that you really believe in and then no-one likes it and your record company says, 'See you later' you kind of lose a lot of motivation. If you don't think you've done a good job you can probably keep going but if you think you've nailed it...

HG: Someone else once said to me that you wouldn't go and see two football teams play in a pub so why should you go and see a band playing in a field. You've done a lot of festivals, what's your take on them?
SN: We weren't festival-goers before we played festivals. I've never been to a festival as a punter, so I guess we've always quite enjoyed them for that reason! They're definitely a good chance to play in front of people who otherwise wouldn't hear you. That's probably the best thing about festivals for bands. And also the opportunity to meet other bands because everyone's in that melting pot backstage and sometimes quite cool things are bred out of that - just meeting your heroes and that.

James Johnston: I've seen a few bands that I remember seeing for the first time at festivals - The Flaming Lips, and Mogwai bizarrely enough even though they're from Glasgow and in particular At The Drive-In who we were all really excited about. We hadn't had the chance to see them before that. You can find out about bands you haven't heard of or haven't had the chance to see, so it is good for people in that regard.

HG: You've become regulars at Oxegen over here and are back again this year. Have you many memories of playing it?
SN:
Yeah, yeah. The first time we were at Oxegen we were in the tent at about 12:15pm. That was one of our first festivals outside of the UK. We didn't know what to expect and we were really blown away that people knew the songs. Things like that give you a confidence boost - 'We need to come back here as soon as possible'.

HG: You've been back a lot since.
JJ:
It's still not enough, though! It still feels we can still come back more!

HG: And this year you've got a great slot.
SN:
We've got a few really good ones [festival slots] this year. Oxegen will be mega. It's just a pinch yourselves moment. You've just got to make sure you play the best show you possibly can. We don't really start celebrating until after the show - just in case!

'Only Revolutions' is out now. Oxegen takes place at Punchestown Racecourse, Co Kildare from 9-11 July.

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