Behind all the layers and the depth of sound, the heart of this album is three people playing together live. Is that the spirit you were wanting to get back to?
Simon: “It’s exactly that: the joy of just making noise, and not worrying about what a song is trying to do or achieve. It’s simply, ‘How good did that make us feel?’ And that is definitely what we felt with this. I love screaming at the top of my lungs more than anything. We still practice the same way that we always have, and I think that’s what helps us retain the idea that this is a great laugh and great fun. The longer you go on as a band, so much gets involved – there’s other people’s opinions, other people’s dynamics… We just don’t need to be afraid when you’re playing guitar. There was so many amazing rock records last year – Mannequin Pussy, Brutus, Black Midi, Venom Prison, who you guys have had on the Kerrang! cover… You know, there’s so much stunning guitar music being made, I’m quite glad that all the [stuff that’s] streaming is all pure piss. More people voted for Boris Johnson in this country and they’re the ones streaming the shite (laughs). To me, it makes rock music more exciting than ever. There’s so many amazing bands that don’t have one eye on the mainstream, and I think that’s bringing the best out of all of them.”
Do you feel you perhaps lost sight of that at any point on Ellipsis?
Simon: “I wanted Ellipsis to be the perfect pop-rock record. Looking back now, I wanted it to be the gentlest thing we’d done. It was the start of the next chapter, and I hadn’t quite discovered where these songs needed to sit. There are a couple of songs on that album I’d record differently, but I do accept it for the piece that it was and it was very much a deliberate choice to make such a sweet record. But, again, it reminded us that this band needs the filth and we need the anger to offset that sweetness. I wouldn’t want to make an album that was purely just me screaming, and for the same reason that Ellipsis was a smooth record, but we maybe missed a bit of the abrasion of our band. I’m glad we did it – I think I wrote some of my best songs on that record – but as a reaction to those songs, this album came about. I felt the same with Blackened Sky and I felt the same with Puzzle as well; I felt those albums could have been more abrasive, and when I listen back I’m a bit like, ‘Fuck! It could have been dirtier.’ But that’s what keeps us coming back – if you feel you’ve made a perfect record, then a year down the line we’d probably go, ‘Cooool, best call it a day, then?!’”
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In contrast to Ellipsis, too, some of the jumps between songs on this album are crazy…
Simon: “We want the record to be one continuous journey, and leave people thinking, ‘What the fuck is coming next?!’ We like to have a laugh and do things that are a bit ridiculous. That’s what people on the outside of this world don’t understand – some of rock and metal is meant to be ridiculous! That’s the fucking point. We wanted moments on this record that were of pure sincerity but then ripping you out of those moments with something ridiculous, without either detracting from the other. It also really starts to reveal itself with each listen, which is something all my favourite records do. I still feel now like I’m discovering new things in the songs, and I wrote the fucking things!”
James: “I don’t mind saying there’s been times when I’ve thought I had a song figured out, and then a few weeks later thought, ‘Was I stupid?!’ I think that’s just great writing, and that shows longevity.”
Simon: “If I tell them too specifically what something’s about, then it removes the romance from those songs, and I want the boys to have that with these songs.”
Without ruining it for your bandmates, then, lyrically where are you coming from?
Simon: “For me it’s about change; I feel like the way the last few years have gone, a lot of good people have been keeping quiet, hoping the right things are going to happen, but at this stage… I feel a century only really begins in its second or third decade; that’s when you discover how things are going to pan out. This is the birth of our new era, now. I feel like the nadir of Brexit and Boris and Donald Trump, this is the lowest point and we’re going to now bounce back up. I truly believe in the next generation – that they have a sense of right and wrong in a good way. Instant History is an important part of this – the lyrics are about, ‘Fuck this, let’s make a change for ourselves, let’s not wait for other folk to do it.’ I feel like my generation has not helped the younger generation; we’ve taken a lot of things for granted. For me and most of my friends, our ambition was to sit and do nothing for our entire fucking lives (laughs). Ultimately this album is about learning from things in my past relationships, and it’s about progress, change, and looking forward. I have no interest in being retro or looking over our shoulder. As the great Robbie Williams once said: ‘Look back, don’t stare…’ (Laughs) There’s your fucking quote!”
Biffy Clyro's new album, A Celebration Of Endings, will be released later this year.