Festival headliners talk new music and feeling creative!
Biffy Clyro may be headlining Sonisphere Festival this Saturday night but, behind the scenes, very little has changed for the British band. The trio have journeyed from pubs to clubs to arenas and beyond (a story told in the latest issue of Rock Sound) while maintaining a relentless work ethic, integrity and commitment to writing truly unforgettable music.
In this new interview singer Simon Neil looks back at the road travelled while peering forward at where Biffy go next with their sixth album, the follow up to 2009’s platinum selling ‘Only Revolutions’.
Where do you write music these days?
“All along I only ever wrote songs at home, so the actual act of writing songs has not changed for me one bit and I think that is very important. I still want to feel like I’m writing my first ever song, I don’t want to feel like I’m in a band and we’re sitting in a big, fucking expensive studio trying to write a song on the clock. That’s not when you are feeling creative and inspired by music.”
You rehearse in a cowshed near Kilmarnock, how comfortable is that for the band?
“We don’t have seats or chairs in our practice room. For us when we go in and practice we want to be playing the whole time, if we start putting in a TV, couch, seats and whatever else we’d do less work. We go to the practice room and play music for four hours and then we leave, we’re not a band that hangs out in the practice room, we go and get things done. It’s served us well so far.”
Given that it’s you at the genesis point of a Biffy Clyro song how much new material is currently being worked on?
“I’ve already got about 21 song ideas for the next record. We’ve been trying to work on them when we can between tours.”
How sophisticated is your method of recording these ideas? Are you a Pro-tools or tape recorder man?
“I try and remember the song, no recording of any kind. I always think that if I’ve written something good I’ll remember it. Before we go in and demo a record my mind is close to bursting as I’ve got all the songs floating around my head with none of them recorded in any way. We’ve played a few but I don’t like to record anything until I feel it’s close to completion. It’s a game of mind-gymnastics when we are getting an album together, I have no space for anything else and I become an absolute nightmare to live with. It’s a conscious decision to not record early, I never want to be a slave to the early idea or first thought.”
Do you even write down lyrics?
“Mostly not. Often the lyrics don’t come to me very early and I need to work on the ideas a lot towards the end. I use mental quality control and let myself forget all the shit lines I come up with, the good ones I remember long enough to build the song with.”
So the songs come out as strangers then?
“It’s so important to remain naïve about what you are doing. I would hate to be a band that over thinks things. Over the last couple of records we have become more popular but I always want to write songs the way I did when no one gave a shit about our band, that way I know we are always being true to ourselves.”
Oceansize guitarist Mike Vennart has been playing live with the band for a long time? Is he ever going to write or record Biffy Clyro songs with you?
“To be honest, Biffy I always see as the three of us. Oceansize were one of the best bands ever, he was one of the best lyricists ever and I would never want him to be seen as the second guitarist in our band. Mike and myself have a project called the Empire State Bastard and at some point we are going to make a fucking crazy rock and roll record, but I wouldn’t necessary let that infiltrate Biffy. The three of us is the chemistry and it’s been that way for so long. People deserve to hear what Mike can do without making him trying to slip in to what we are up to, if no one has ever heard Oceansize they should go and check out all their albums, they are truly life-changing.”
Are people already trying to put deadlines on the band or get you into a studio to start making the new album?
“Not really as we don’t let anyone hear anything until we have all the songs we want to pick an album from. We don’t let anyone book studios until we have the album written and a clear idea of what we’re recording. No one influences what we are doing; no one forces opinion on us or takes decisions away from us. It’s always our band name on the front cover and it’s always our reputation on the line so we have a responsibility to make something we are proud of. When we are proud we will start talking and making plans.”