Noise boys Biffy Clyro at the UEA
What’s in a name? Well, in Biffy Clyro’s case, some top-rate hard rock with a sensitive side. Lynette Alcock talks to the band’s James Johnston.
Biffy Clyro. It doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, conjure images of, well, anything really, or make you want to run to the shops to buy the latest masterpiece by the Scottish three-piece behind it.
But Biffy Clyro aren't in the industry of being accessible – squeezing into a record company's mould with shiny white shirts and retro haircuts – they are in the industry of making music and that's exactly what they do.
“We're a hard rock group with a sensitive side,” says bass player James Johnston in a singsong Scottish accent. “I think at first the name confused people a bit, but lately we have got a lot of support from the music press, even the NME have written about us in a nice way, which we never thought would happen.”
As the twin brothers and friend who comprise Biffy prepare to release their third album, Infinity Land, they are gathering momentum. Through regular tours and the constant trickle of new material, slowly, but surely, they are converting the masses with their strange brand of melodic rock.
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As a new convert I tell James that I think the record is good. “Great,” he laughs. “Now go and tell all your friends.”
It is the way Biffy have climbed the ladder, unpackaged, slightly bitter to the palate, but with infectious melodies that catch you whether you are interested or not. And a strong word-of-mouth following that is.
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“We might not be selling as many records as other bands,” says James. “But I think we are more likely to carry on.
“New people are discovering us all the time so we can only become more successful,” he says.
Admittedly unearthing the latest Biffy Clyro CD isn't as easy as finding, say, Franz Ferdinand, Razorlight or any of the other newcomers gracing the shelves of the local record shop.
Biffy are certainly not being marketed with the same ferocity as their peers, but neither would they want to be.
For these guys it's all about the music and if that keeps them low-key for a hardcore group of fans who love what they do, then they're happy with that. So long as they stay proud of themselves.
“Our ambition is to be our own favourite band,” says James. “To make music we are proud of. We're not bothered about notching up the compulsory top 20 hits.
“We're not shunning the limelight – we would love to sell a million records, but we are not willing to do anything to achieve that because some things are more important.
“There are many bands that are flavour of the month and there are days when that's cool and then there are other days when I get really angry about it and think 'what's going on here'? But at the end of the day I just focus on what we're doing.”
But just who or what is Biffy Clyro?
“It's just a name,” says James. “It can mean something for you if you want but it doesn't really mean anything. We just wanted to get away from the cliché names like the Hives, the Strokes, the White Stripes. We wanted something a bit more interesting. It's a shame because I think it stood against us at the start.”
The name is a stumbling block, but once overcome it is clear that the band have certainly got some interesting ideas. They are by no means easy listening, but for the patient ear Infinity Land is definitely rewarding – full of driving basslines, angsty rock and harmonies much like Snow Patrol, Idlewild and the Foo Fighters spliced together.
“The latest album is the most straightforward,” says James. “It is a bit crazy on the first listen, but after a while it all becomes clear. I think people are finally starting to understand us now.
“A lot of the changes and turns in the songs are quite deliberate; we like to do things that make people listen,” he says.
So once again, with album number three on the way, the band are back out on the road.
“We have been touring pretty intensively, but to be honest, it feels natural. We have picked up quite a following from all across the UK and even in the States. We are going back there in March,” he says.
“Now all we need is to get a deal in America and we'd be laughing,” says James.
t Biffy Clyro play the UEA LCR on Saturday February 19. Support comes from Hell Is For Heroes and Ghostride (ex-Will Haven) Tickets at £10 in advance are available in Norwich from UEA Union, Waterfront, Soundclash, HMV and the UEA box office on 01603 508050 and www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk