“Finally, after 20 years, we’ve made a record in Ayrshire,” says Simon Neil proudly at the beginning of Biffy Clyro’s new documentary. “It’s our first top-to-bottom Scottish record.”
Such a surprising milestone for the band – completed by bassist James Johnston and drummer Ben Johnston – is unveiled spectacularly in Biffy’s brilliant new film, Cultural Sons Of Scotland, due out on Amazon Music Unlimited and Prime Video on February 25. With the help of director Jack Lowe, it’s a gloriously fun and fascinating deep dive into one of the UK’s most beloved (and often most private) groups, detailing the making of last year’s The Myth Of The Happily Ever After album at a working farm in their home county.
Having already made eight incredible records at various studios around the world – from London to Los Angeles – the pandemic forced Biffy to keep things local for album number nine.
“We’re not far from home, so there’s no performative aspect,” Simon tells Kerrang! of the impact the location had on how they collectively made it through. “To see us stripped bare, as three buddies, is very surreal. To see a visual documentation of the past couple of years is important for us, and especially moving forwards and being able to look back on that and go, ‘What a fucking spectacularly unique, upsetting and enlightening time we all had.’”
Here, Biffy open up about their first-ever proper documentary, their endless appreciation for each other, and why you should never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something…
You say in the film that you tend to record far from home – typically in LA – to put yourselves in the mindset that anything is possible. Did this whole experience give you a feeling that maybe you’ve not really had before, that anything is actually possible from home?
Ben Johnston (drums): “Yeah, it kinda did! But we don’t want to over-egg that too much because then we’ll never get to go away again (laughs). But it was really easy and doable to do it all at home, and we were blessed with the weather as well, so it was a really fun experience. But we definitely want to go away again to record if we can!”
Simon Neil (vocals / guitar): “There is something that you do feel when you’re stepping into a different city in a different part of the world – it has that performative thing, and you take your ego with you a bit more because you’re like, ‘This is where such-and-such recorded.’ [Going away] does alter your perspective and your outlook, but I don’t think it’s necessarily better than what we’ve just done – and that’s what’s been an interesting discovery. Our defences were down in a different way making the album in Scotland. The way we were able to explore the songs without any outside awareness – no-one even knew we were making the record – was really liberating. I think we probably will embrace that part in the future – we might not make the whole record in one place.”
James Johnston (bass): “Bass in the Bahamas (laughs). I think with the next record there will also be a different build-up to it, because this was much more off our own backs. I think it’d be different if we were having meetings in advance, and discussions, and it was more of a committee. Then suddenly you’re involved in what feels like a bigger project, and that gets in your head.”