Biffy Clyro is the biggest band you’ve never heard of—if you live in the US, that is. In the UK and continental Europe, the Glaswegian power trio top charts and fill arenas. They win “Best New Band” awards from NME, “Best Music Video” and “Best Live Band” honors, too. But these accomplishments are just the start for brothers James and Ben Johnston and (bass/vocals and drums/vocals, respectively) and frontman/guitarist Simon Neil.
The origin of their curious name is the source of speculation and humor, with legions of fans known to chant the equally enigmatic, “Mon the Biff!” at their shows. Sounding like a cross between Foo Fighters and the Police, Biffy temper their big guitars with the kind of self-aware, sing-along songwriting unique to many rock bands from across the pond.
Their brand-new album, Opposites, debuted at #1 on the UK charts, which is a first for the band. They will close out their current UK tour with a show at the massive O2 Arena in London, and kick off another round of arena shows opening for MUSE in North America next month—including a highly anticipated appearance at Coachella.
In addition to our Q&A with bassist James, we have two, count ‘em TWO, exclusive videos for all the Biffy fans out there, as the band takes us through the backstory of two tracks from Opposites, “Sounds Like Balloons” and “Skylight.” Keep scrolling to get it all.
Biffy Clyro will be playing arenas in the UK and continental Europe, and will be hitting major venues and festivals opening for Muse in the US. The obvious question I feel like I have to ask you first is, then, do you feel Biffy Clyro is poised for success in the US?
We’re certainly posed to give it a go, but it’ll be up to the public to decide if they like what we’re doing. Growing up we mostly listened to American bands, so to achieve success there would be something that would make us very proud.
Your new album, Opposites, is three years removed from your previous album, Only Revolutions. How has the band changed in that time, and how has the last three years informed the creation of this epic double album?
Hopefully the band keeps moving forward, and gets better at every aspect of what we do… we’ve been through lots of ups and downs, as most bands will go through at some point… And all of those challenges have totally informed the making of this record. Simon always writes from a personal point of view, so the things that go on in our lives are intrinsically linked to our music.
Why was it important to you guys to release Opposites on vinyl?
We grew up buying records and CDs, and we still believe in the physical format. We’d never want to deny anyone the opportunity to experience our records in the same way that we were able to experience our favourite records. We feel that the artwork is still a huge part of a record, and there’s no better way to display that than on vinyl!
Do you personally collect vinyl? Do you have any favorite record stores?
Yes, I do! Record stores are becoming fewer and further between, so finding a good one is an increasing challenge. We love it when we come to the US and get the chance to go to Amoeba Records… it’s the kind of place where you can lose track of time, and come out with all kinds of incredible vinyl.
Who or what inspired you to play bass?
We listened to a lot of the same music growing up and have always had similar musical tastes… bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam informed a lot of our earlier thoughts on music. Personally I love the style of Jeff Ament from Pearl Jam. He always plays for the song and doesn’t let the bass get in the way of the vocals!
Biffy Clyro have won two NME awards—including Best British Band again this year—and you’ve been nominated for or won a slew of other honors. The general consensus seems to be that your success is well-deserved. Do you feel the same?
It’s hard for us to say but we’ve certainly worked hard for everything we’ve achieved. We’ve enjoyed every step we’ve taken as a band, and whilst awards are not what we would judge our success by, they’re a nice indication that things are going well for us!
In your opinion, how does the musical landscape compare in the UK to the US?
I think in the UK, because it’s a much smaller country, bands can achieve success in a quicker manner than the US. But if nothing else, the scale of the country kinda dictates that you’d have to spend a lot more time to spread your music in the US. In the UK you can virtually drive top to bottom in a day!
Ultimately, I think good music is good music regardless of which country you come from.
Has your life as a musician turned out differently than what you’d imagined?
Yes it has! Even in our wildest dreams of playing music, I don’t think we could have imagined being able to make it our entire lives for the last 15 years… and hopefully the next!
What are you looking forward to most in the coming year?
Without wishing to curry favour, Coachella will be a massive moment for us. It’s a place we’ve heard so much about, even more the other side of the world, and to share the day and stage with so many great bands, will be an honour.