BIFFY CLYRO (27/11/12)
The day following the show at Divan Du Monde for the Bring The Noise Festival 2012, we met the scottish trio at a cosy parisian hotel. The occasion to learn more about the new album “Opposites” due out January 28th 2013. Interview with the twins brothers James and Ben Johnston, respectively Biffy’s bass player and drummer.
Hi guys, how are you? Glad to be back in Paris?
James Johnston (bass) : We love to be in Paris. It’s been quite a long time since we’re here actually. It was the first city outside the UK where we have some friends and some fans. It has always been a special place for us. It’s nice to be back.
How was the gig last night at Festival Bring The Noise?
Ben Johnston (drums) : It was amazing. We’ve been playing a lot of bigger venues, bigger shows recently. It’s really cool to come back and play smaller ones again. Also playing some of the new songs of the new album, It is nice to test them in smaller environment as well. And there’s no other places than Paris to debut some of these new songs. It was amazing and fun.
Your new album is coming out next year, why did it take so long before the release?
J : We’ve been touring, touring and touring for “Only Revolutions”. I don’t think when we started touring we realized we’d be on the road for two whole years. We all have fun, we just kept touring and then of course we needed to get back together and to get the new album ready. I guess we recorded for six months. It’s not like we’re loungering on the beach during all these time. We have been continuing working hard. Sometimes it just takes time you know to get the songs right, to record as well as you can. So we thank everybody for the patience. Hopefully, we’ll reward you with a lot of shows.
B : You’ve waited that long so that’s why you’ll get a double album!
J : Yeah! (laugh)
How was the recording process?
B : It was good. It was really good that time. It’s the third album we’ve done with Garth Richardson. So I guess we know each other better, we both pushed each other boundaries to see how far we can go. And this was the first double album Garth done as well so it was a test as much for him as it was for us. But as soon as we put stuff to tape, the recording all went wery well. We did not get much time off. Because kind of stupidly we thought, a double album will be not quite long as recording two albums, but it takes exactly that moment of time. But it was a wonderful place to record, we were close to Santa Monica’s beach so if we ever had any time off, which was not very much, we would always enjoy sunshine which is not something we get at home ever.
J : Ben was surfing the beach.
B : Yeah, I was surfing the beach, James was cycling miles and miles every morning, we started to eat well, very very improve our way of life.
J : It was quite an intense process to make an album, especially a double album, I think we learnt a lot since “Puzzle”. We went to Vancouver, Canada. It’s was a rainy season much like this, it was just a very tense period. I think we realize we keep up for five months. Like Ben says, we try to confuse our free time the best we could just to clear our minds and think of something else. No better place than Santa Monica to do that.
What do inspire you for writing this album?
J : Really personal experiences and personal life of the couple of years, the tough times and the good times, that can refers to the double album. “The Sand And The Core Of Our Bones” is about past and things that brought you to that point, the difficult things in your life, the things you can’t change, the things which are difficult. And “The Land At The End Of Our Toes” is about what comes next and how your hopes and your fears in the future, how you can make things better and bring things together in order to move forward. That refers to what’s going on in your life and yours personal experiences.
B : The best music is always honest. And when you want to write honest music, then you gonna have to write about personal experiences. That’s where Simon always draws influences, just from things current in his life, things that affect him emotionally to honestly, and hopefully that’s why people can connect to what we’re singing about.
You explore several styles in this new album. Why?
B : Why not?
As an example, “Spanish Radio” is a mariachi song.
B : I think it’s Biffyachi. The song is a five four time signature which is already quite strange. I don’t think that mariachi bands will ever play in that time signature. So first it’s a Biffy song but when we play it together, in our heads we can hear castanets, and trumpets, this song demanding a sort of spanish few but even if we play the song, it works very well. It’s a Biffy song, but there’s kind of a Spanish fever to it. It was as the song demanding that we put the trumpets and the strings on it. I suppose we’re going to write a song that has spanish sound so it was not really a choice it has to have in that way.
J : We’re always interested by trying different things, on “Only Revolutions” and “Puzzle” that was kind of starting to use strings clears and choirs and stuffs like that. I think we just become confortable or better. The double record give us the opportunity to try some of these things you always dreamt of such as tap dance or backpipes. We don’t do for the seek of it. We also did record with a gospel choir for a song but sounding great but not sounding like our band, so we took the decision to leave that off. Not everything we try works very well but thank God, more of it mostly works.
We had the chance to hear a preview of “Opposites” and we were very surprise to hear “Skylight” and “Pocket” which are old songs, is there other song in this album that you wrote before?
B : It’s the only two. “Pocket” is a song we had since before “Puzzle”, for a long while but it never seems really to fit into “Puzzle” or “Only Revolutions”. It seems to fit perfectly on this album. Because of the tracklisting, it’s just the perfect song in the perfect breath of fresh air. “Skylight” is a song that we try to work on many different ways. And Simon recorded at home the song on keyboard, and it sounds so great, we try to play with the band, it never sounds great on that keyboard and we just stop to that method. Everything on that song is really electronic apart from guitar work so it was interesting to have that.
Does Richard “Gambler” Ingram take part in the making of the album?
B : He doesn’t play anything on the album, no. We had a keyman from Los Angeles called Jamie Muhoberac, he’s doing keys since we’re recording “Mountains” before “Only Revolutions”. And he’s just amazing, the most talented keyplayer ever. We have quite a lot of keys on this new album, and it just feel right to get Gambler to increase that sound live, the piano parts. Same for Mike Vennart on the guitar. We have the melodies on strings but it sounds different live, maybe a bit more aggressive, we enjoy the difference between the record and the live experience.
During BBC Radio show you showed us your very good taste in music, what is the last album you bought?
J : Oh thank you very much! Actually, Soundgarden which I was able to listen to maybe half of the record. I’m a bit nervous to listen to one of my favorite bands drowing up and i’m very nervous they may ruin some of my memories of time go past. I guess there’s a new band called Metz from Toronto, a really exciting hardcore, I really listen to a lot while at home, on my bicycle, to wake me up. There’re great records next year I’m looking forward to such as Pure Love or Frightened Rabbit. Great bands.
B : Ben Folds Five got back together so I bought the new album. That band means a lot to me, I’m really happy they got back together and I’m gonna see them on Friday which is awesome. And there’s a scottish band called Lau which played on Jools Holand the other night, on British television and they blew me away so I instantly bought their album. They are more than traditional folk bands, with something different than traditional folk. It’s really cool.
Will they play on tour with you?
B : We’d love to! We’ll see which is available.
J : I don’t know if Soundgarden will be.
Will there be another European tour next year? Will you come back in France?
J : Yes! We’re still finalizing things at the moment but we will definitely be back in Europe. February perhaps, maybe April for France. It was nice to come and do these shows and say hello to some old friends and to try the new songs. But we looking forward to come back and playing longer, playing some more songs of the new record. Next year can’t come quick enough but it’s an exciting time for the band, it feels that we got a secret we want to tell, and we just can’t wait for you to hear the record and to come back.
Will you have an orchestra with you on your arena tour?
J : No, I don’t think so. I think at some point we may try that but i think we don’t want to be overshadowed by strings players. Maybe in a year, we may try that for a special show or something like that.
We have some questions from Team Biffy France members for you.
We got Aline who asks: If you have to cover a song, which one will you choose?
B : Any song of the world if we have to cover a song.
J : We covered quite a few songs in the past, for radio shows. We like to choose a song which is quite different from who we are as a band and try to make into own. Recently we’ve done Starship with ‘We Built This City“. If you hear the original song, we really made it our own. even if it’s difficult to figure out how.
B : For that session we have tried another couple of songs. We haven’t been able to do it, i guess at some point we’d love to cover “Bad Religion” from Frank Ocean, which is again nothing like Biffy Clyro, but we love Frank Ocean album and if we have the chance, we’ll cover that song at some point definitely!
Mathilde asks you : What is your relationship with France, in particular with your French fans?
B : It’s very strong.
J : It goes back a long way. It’s like a first love at first sight, I don’t think it’s gonna change. It’s a special place for us and we do feel that a lot of people here in France support the band. It’s nice to come here and share our music with so many people and we’re sure it’ll continue for a long time so thank you France, merci!
B : France is a country when we don’t spend a lot of time, enough time, where we can think that fans can forget us very quickly but in fact, here French fans are stucked by us and they really push hard to try to make Biffy Clyro bigger in France, they always call radio stations and ask for our music to be played. We really appreciate that so much because you guys are doing all the work for us and even more than the record company. We’re very grateful to the fans in France.
You got the talent to product an universal language. How do you perceive the impact of your music on people who listen to it?
J : It’s something we’re thinking about when people come to see us after the show and talk about a song that is very special to them, I think on the whole, you don’t think about it too much, because it can become a bit too emotional, it can put too much pressure on your shoulders. You got to write music reflecting the point of how you feel, maybe not what people gonna to think about it. It’s quite emotional talking about that because music is really can be a very powerful thing. But it’s great that music can be bigger than language or borders or sorts of things: people can have the same ideas, same feeling; it’s nice that you can communicate with people like that.
To conclude with the interview, as the name of our website is “RockYourLife!”, what rocks your life guys?
B : Anything
J : It’s the time we spend on stage every night. I mean travelling, being in a different city every day can be very exciting, but sometimes it can be a lot more boring. but spending this hour and a half on stage is a bit like a dreamland and not thinking about what you will have for dinner, we just think about music. You can be lost on that moment so that’s what life is all about, it’s about hour and a half everyday or so.
B : We also have other loves as well, we love foods, films, sports, stuff like that but nothing is exciting as playing live, that’s the most incredible feeling and ruch you will never have, so what rocks our lives is rocking your lives!
Ben and James : Thank you very much, nice to meet you!
with the help of Sylvie H.
Website : biffyclyro.com