BIFFY CLYRO are keen to make up for lost time.
Just 14 months after the release of their No1 album A Celebration Of Endings, the Scottish rock trio are about to release brilliant new album The Myth Of The Happily Ever After.
And it is a record born out of the frustrations and annoyances of living in a pandemic. “We didn’t stop after A Celebration Of Endings,” says singer Simon Neil.
“Making that album and not being able to tour it meant the creative energy was still there and so by the tail end of last year I’d written a bunch of new songs and before we knew it we were like, ‘F***, we are working on a new record’.
“And it was an amazing feeling as we’d felt like three unemployed amateur musicians for the past year.”
Chatting to Simon, bassist James Johnston and his twin brother Ben, who plays drums, is always enjoyable as they are one of the nicest bands in music.
But there is real excitement about this ninth studio album as we chat on Zoom.
Simon says: “We weren’t intending to be on a roll, but when the world’s plans went to pot with the pandemic, it was such a relief that we could go in and make some music.
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“We put our frustrations and energy about everything that was happening into the songs, which I think was the healthiest thing for us because it gave us a bit of a normal routine.”
Covid meant it was the longest period the three childhood friends had spent apart, which was particularly hard for brothers James and Ben.
Simon says: “Ben and James didn’t see each other for the first three months of the pandemic, which is the longest time apart in their entire life.
“It was weird enough for me not to see them so I can only imagine what a head f*** it was for them.
“So to be able to get back together and have a bit of normality and feel like musicians again was inspiring. We’ve been doing this non-stop for 20 years and we lost our purpose.
“We all had an existential crisis, and questioned whether music had any value. I questioned everything and manifested it all into positive energy on this album.”
The Myth Of The Happily Ever After began life as a sister album to A Celebration Of Ending.
But after songs Separate Missions and Existed were finished, it began to take on a life of its own and a more positive outlook.
“Those songs gave it a fresh bit of magic,” smiles Simon. “It felt like new inspiration and not just a continuation of A Celebration.
“Once we spent a little more time on the songs it felt like it was its own beast. It became its own piece of work. It’s quite a dense record but there’s a lot of delight in things — it’s not an oppressive record.
“Even though we discussed it as a pandemic record, it’s just another year in our lives. It’s just us trying to make sense of all the questions that have come up over the past two years.
“We weren’t afraid to leave musical and lyrical questions on this album, because I honestly don’t think anyone will process the year 2020 for another five or ten years.”
We weren’t afraid to leave musical and lyrical questions on this album
We weren’t afraid to leave musical and lyrical questions on this album
Having recorded their last five albums in various studios in London, Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Vancouver, they stayed at home for this one.
“It’s our first project that we’ve done that’s entirely Scottish, says Simon proudly. “We recorded and wrote all the songs in the space of six months, and all within an hour of our home.
“We even shot the videos for A Hunger In Your Haunt and Unknown Male 01 close to home.”
“I’d created this hurdle in our minds that we need to record somewhere where the sun is shining and lots of people have worked previously.
“But the last year has made us shake off these self-imposed rules that suddenly don’t seem very important. It felt like a victory to make a big rock record on a remote farm in Ayrshire.”
And time off from being on the road meant the band could spend time doing up their home studio.
“I’ve been doing a lot of work on the farm in the past year,” says James. “Mainly upholstery. Ben and I upgraded it and so if the day job doesn’t work out I’ve got something to fall back on.”
Ben adds: “We didn’t need to go to the west coast of America this time as it was sunny in Scotland for three months.
“It was absolutely beautiful and we filmed a ‘making of the album’ video and every time the camera came out it was like paradise. It was just us in the studio in our own environment and it gave us a real freedom.”
Further freedom came from the fact that only the band knew they were making this new album.
“It was a secret,” says Simon. “We didn’t even tell our label Warner. We didn’t really want anyone to know, because at that point, we weren’t intending on making another one.
“We just started creating and when we were about halfway through we thought we should just keep this quiet. Fortunately, Warner are supportive and understanding. We are the type of band that needs to feel like we are moving forward. So, it was really encouraging support.”
The Myth Of The Happily Ever After is a glorious and equally ferocious record with songs that cover cancel culture, climate change and the death of friends.
People with the least to say have to say it the f***ing loudest
“The Myth is a very reflective record, with song DumDum about not wanting to listen to what a person with no value is saying any more,” says Simon.
“People with the least to say have to say it the f***ing loudest. And we’ve had enough. Can we stop having the blinkers on and actually try and open up and be better? This close-minded way of thinking doesn’t help anyone.
“It doesn’t help any beliefs evolve and it doesn’t help you learn. The drama and trauma of that has brought out in certain people the worst aspects.
“There’s a lack of nuance and understanding. How do you expect someone to grow as a person if they can’t ask awkward questions?
“How can we make each other better and open each other’s eyes to things if we don’t engage? It’s just a full-stop to cancel culture.”
James nods in agreement. “I read about a young footballer who was dropped for comments he made ten years ago. What about the public that are making comments about the footballer and are free? It’s absolutely brutal.”
‘Got to be fearless’
Other standout tracks include Errors In The History Of God — a bleak song about the climate — and closer Slurpy Slurpy Sleep Sleep.
Simon says: “Errors is asking if we are here to bring this planet to its knees? It’s one of the bleaker moments but it’s also quite uplifting.
“Then Slurpy Slurpy Sleep Sleep is about how the next generation is more aware of the pitfalls of what the future holds than we have ever been. They won’t sleepwalk into what’s about to happen.”
Another brilliant song is Existed — and it is about the singer trying to be better.
He explains: “Existed is very much about forgiveness and wanting to learn. If I get something wrong I want to forgive people and try and help people be better.
“Then Separate Missions is about re-evaluating your life while Denier is about being in a relationship and believing each other’s lies.
It’s a tribute to Scott and a writer friend of ours Dan Martin who died last year
“Witch’s Cup is about people who are fed a line and they just believe it. They drink from the witch’s cup.
“They don’t really care about anything except that one belief and if anything questions it their whole world falls apart.”
An important track is Unknown Male 01, which was the first single released and written after the band lost a couple of close friends in recent years.
Simon says: “I wanted to articulate my feelings about depression and male suicide, but I could never do it when I thought about it.
“So that song was primarily inspired by our friend Scott Hutchison from Frightened Rabbit (who took his own life in 2018).
“It is a song that wrote itself after I couldn’t escape my feelings about poor Scott’s family.
“It’s a tribute to Scott and a writer friend of ours Dan Martin (a former NME journalist) who died last year. Life just got the better of him and he was a brilliant person.
“Both Scott and Dan were a big part of our lives and we were thinking about them when we were making this album.
“It gave me the strength to think about those guys and how much joy they brought to people and what they meant to us.
“That’s why this album is important as you’ve got to be fearless and to me, purity and inspiration is about now. We’re not the type of band that writes a bunch of songs and waits three years to release it.
“To me, purity and inspiration is now. I don’t want to sit on a song that matters now and release it in three years when you are in a different headspace. You’ve got to be fearless. Being fearless is the key.”
Being brave with live music however was a different experience for Biffy, known for their energetic live shows.
It’s about taking each step slowly. I feel like our next step is to get out there
When they returned to playing live in August at Dreamland in Margate, Kent (a Wednesday night warm-up ahead of their Leeds and Reading headline slot), they admit it was a daunting experience. “It was terrifying,” says James.
“It was scary because we’d all had a crisis of confidence. Not being on stage means you lose your ego that you need to perform.
“But after the second or third song everything was back to normal and the feedback from the crowd was amazing. Seeing everyone go off was absolutely epic. It felt like where we belonged and thank God live shows are happening again.”
Next up the trio play a series of intimate gigs including London’s Kentish Town Forum and Bristol’s O2 Academy.
Ben says: “We’ve got a small tour in October and November in smaller venues. We’re looking forward to it — it’s been a while since we played those places.”
Simon adds: “It’s about taking each step slowly. I feel like our next step is to get out there, travelling around the world and communicating with people again. It’s been a long wait but making this album has helped and we can’t wait to get back into it.”
- The Myth Of The Happily Ever After is out on October 22.