MON THE BIFF! It’s been over three years since Biffy Clyro have hit our shores, although we’ll finally be seeing them on the back of their latest offering, ‘Opposites’ when they play Soundwave Festival. Ben Johnston took some time out to chat to Killyourstereo.com ahead of the visit.
Hey Ben, how are you doing this morning?
I’m doing really well!
What’s been happening for you and the boys in Biffy Clyro of late?
Of late, we’ve had some time off for Christmas. It’s been well deserved as well, I think. We did quite a lot last year. With the double album being released, and the huge reception we got, even though people said it was crazy in this day and age. We got to go all over playing some huge shows in support of it.
‘Opposites’ came out a year ago this week actually. Having been touring the album for the past 12 months, how have the songs been translating into the live environment?
Really, really well. We had a headlining tour about two weeks after album came out, and the new songs were a hit live. We really threw everything at the album, and I think we got a really good result. There’s a lot to do when we play it live, because we’ve got all the horns, and the bag pipes, and the tap dancers and all of that. Luckily we’ve had Mike Vennart and Richie Ingram helping us out at shows, who were in a band called Oceansize, who were this incredible British prog band. Having them has given us a bit more freedom in what we do. You often find that bands release a new album and everyone just goes ‘play your old stuff,’ but it hasn’t been like that at all.
A lot happens in a year. Do the songs on Opposites still hold the same meaning to you guys as they did when you released them this time last year? Has any of that changed in the transition to playing them live?
I guess not. I don’t think an album can ever hold the same meaning for you a year after you release it, or even when you release it from when you’re recording it. It becomes part of our repertoire, but before that it’s a lot more raw, and the meanings are a lot more fresh. Realistically, I just enjoy the songs now, and to be honest, I think we think of it more in terms of the live environment rather than on the record. I love all the songs, every single one of them. I don’t think we’ve released any filler on the album.
‘Opposites’ is interesting obviously because of the format of the album. Why the choice to release a double album?
I guess the reason we did it was because of the sheer amount of songs we had. Simon had written about 45 songs, I think, and heaps of them were really good. We couldn’t whittle it down to any less than 22, so we took these 22 great songs and said ‘We’ve always wanted to do a double album. Let’s do it!’ It felt like a benchmark for us.
Heaps of people around us we’re telling us it was crazy, but we were just like ‘F**k it! Let’s do it!,’ and I think we did it without sacrificing integrity. Every song is there for a reason, every song has a point. It’s really concise, and it all fits together really well. I think a lot of double albums can be really self-indulgent, and we were careful not to go down that path again.
No band ever wants to become stale doing the same thing over and over. How do you feel this album was a progression for Biffy Clyro?
You’re definitely right, no one wants to do the same thing. At the same time though, it’s really difficult to put your finger on how you’ve changed. I guess, really, that’s up to you guys to decide. All we really do is wonder if we could see it on a stage or if we would pay for it, and if we think yes, then that’s the test. I think ‘Opposites’ will be the last ‘epic’ album we do. It’ll be interesting to see where we go from here.
Your most recent Australian tour was quite some time ago now. I believe it was in 2010 supporting Muse. How were those shows?
Those shows were amazing! The country is always really good to us. The people are nice, all the radio stations treated us really well, and then we have to leave, and it’s kind of like ‘we won’t get to be back here for ages now’ and it sucks. (laughs) We wish we could spend more time over there, but unfortunately, we can’t, so we’re really excited to get back there. There really isn’t any downside to touring Australia.
Your headline sideshows for that tour were played at venues with a capacity of no more than 1000, which contrasts heavily to headlining Reading and Leeds back home. Do you find the difference in popularity over here to be much of a challenge for you guys?
It’s not a challenge at all. Lots of places we’re still playing small shows, and we love that. There’s pros and cons to both kinds of shows. Playing Reading and Leeds is really overwhelming, and you can’t deny the thrill you get when there’s that many people watching your band play, but you really miss the connection that you get with everyone from the smaller shows. We get such a buzz from every show, and I say that not for the sake of it, but because we really do. Whether to 50 people or 50,000, we love it.
Moving on from that, you guys are going to be hitting Australia in less than month now. Are you excited to be on the Soundwave lineup?
Of course! It’s insane! When you look at the amount of amazing bands playing the festival, it’s just crazy! I don’t think there’s any other festival in the world with such an incredible lineup, in my opinion at least. There’s so many bands we grew up listening to it, and people that we love, and we’re thrilled and honoured to be a part of this festival.
This’ll be your first time playing the festival. Have you heard much about it from other bands that have played the festival?
Actually not. We’ve not talked to anyone about it actually. Looking at the lineup, there’s a few friends of ours on there. We toured with Walking Papers over in Europe. Jimmy Eat World we’ve played with a couple of times. It’s always nice to play with your friends, but we’re excited to see some new bands as well while we’re down there. I can’t wait to see Baroness and Down.
You guys have played your fair share of festivals over the years – What’s your craziest festival memory?
We played this festival called ‘V Festival’ in the UK, which is very much a pop music festival. We went on, and blew the PA 3 times in a row in our first song, which was kind of embarrassing. Nothing too crazy has happened to be honest when we play. We just get out there and do our best, because anyone that’s paying to see us deserves to see us at our best.
What other bands on the lineup are you excited to see when you play the festival?
Can’t wait to see Down. Never seen them. Baroness. Jimmy Eat World. Walking Papers. Mastodon. Rocket From The Crypt. Clutch. We’re really spoilt for choice there. I think we’re going to be like little fanboys most of the time. (laughs)