Interview: Biffy Clyro

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By Ben Doy

Biffy Clyro are heading to New Zealand next week to play one show at the Spark Arena on Tuesday April 24th

The Scottish 3-piece, consisting of Simon Neil, James Johnston and Ben Johnston, have been performing now for two decades and released seven albums. 

I caught up with bassist James Johnston on the phone ahead of their NZ show. 

Biffy Clyro has been around for over 20 years. Does it seem like it’s been that long?  

No I don’t think it does. Some things I look at like a poster, and I think it was like 18 months ago it two years ago. That keeps happening with albums that come out. It’s a constant reminder that life is happening quickly, and sometimes you’ve maybe got to take a moment to pause and appreciate all aspects of life, and of course the life that the band has had. It’s been more than a dream really. When we were kids all we wanted to do was make some noise, piss off our parents and maybe make an album one day. That only feels like yesterday... I suppose that’s a good thing. I think if it felt like 40 years we’d be in trouble! 

Who the early influences for Biffy Clyro?  

There were loads of bands we listened to, loads of bands that we loved that were all from a similar scene. But really it was Nirvana. They were the band that made us think we could pick up instruments and play them together and something might happen. I was a big fan of Pearl Jam, but they came across much more virtuoso musicians and were a little bit more serious in a way. I know that’s a very small detail, but when you're 14 or 15 you’re kind of looking for something to connect to and I suppose that’s why Nirvana changed so many peoples lives of that generation.  

How was the Scottish music scene when you guys were starting out?  

We didn’t really know, haha! I live in Glasgow now which isn’t exactly Los Angeles, but back then we only lived 40 minutes down the road and it felt like an age away. When we got a little bit older our parents would drive us to a show, but as far as a music scene when we were starting out, we weren’t aware of any. There were a few bands playing around the pubs, but we didn’t really know them either. We were kind of loners in a way, as a band. So we kind of did our own thing as a band, and that really continued once we started to go up to Glasgow and play a few shows.  

You’ve toured with many famous bands and artists. Who has been your favourite?  

Foo Fighters are really fun! They’re really welcoming. And of course watching them play every night is an absolute joy. It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve seen them, there’s always a little sense of joy that Dave Grohl and Pat Smear were in fucking Nirvana. But they’re just regular guys and treat us like equals. And I think that’s something to learn a lot from. Really humble guys and great fun.  

You’re heading to New Zealand very shortly for a show in Auckland!  

Yeah, it’ll be our second time there. We had a couple of other shows booked in New Zealand in the past. I think one year I had to get an operation on my hand, and the show got cancelled. And I think there was a weather issue one other time. So it’s a place that we should have been more. We feel a bit like we’ve let you down. So hopefully this will just be one of many.  

Last time we got to spend a few days in Auckland, so we hired a car and drove down Motorway number 1, and drove a little bit around the country, So we’re hoping to make a kind of similar connection this time.  

For someone who has never seen Biffy Clyro perform live before, what can we expect from your show? 

There is always a lot of energy and a lot of passion. It feels a bit like an out of body experience for us and we want it to feel like a communal experience for the audience. We invite people to sing along and be part of it. I think people maybe go to shows to forget their problems for a night... come and hear someone else sing and just have a bit of an outpouring of emotion in some way. So I think it’s a really exciting rock show.  

Do you have a favourite song to play live?  

At the moment? I think ‘Rules Of Winter’, which is the first song on our show at the moment. The song is about... as a band, or a Wolfpack if you like, you’ve got to protect your patch. Really that’s what the song’s about and I think it’s a great wee piece to open the show. It gets the energy flowing and gets the crowd feeling like we’re all a Wolfpack together and are looking out for each other. 

Do you have plans for a new album after this tour?  

We probably won’t record anything until after summer; although we have been making some demos. We’re working on an album proper if you like, and some music to accompany a movie. I think they’ll be quite closely linked. I think the dialogue of the movie and the ideas of the movie is really going to respond to the music, and vice versa. So I think that’s going to be an interesting challenge. So there are a lot of things in the pipeline and we’re just trying to remain calm, haha! Cause you can easily freak out in this situation.  

BIFFY CLYRO WITH SUPPORT FROM SKINNY HOBOS

SPARK ARENA, AUCKLAND        TUESDAY APRIL 24 (ALL AGES)

For complete tour and ticketing information, visit: 
biffyclyro.com & livenation.co.nz