On 'Only Revolutions', Josh Homme and Beck's dad.
Biffy Clyro

It’s 3.30pm on a typically rainswept October afternoon in London. All three Biffy members - Simon, and flame haired twin brothers James (bass) and Ben Johnston (drums) - are sitting outstretched across a leather seat and sofa, sipping tea in their record label’s office while raindrops continue to patter on the windows like a pellet gun. Simon, who is dressed in a slick black leather jacket, is bubbling with energy as he regales tales about Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme, Beck’s dad and The Rolling Stones. James, meanwhile, listens in, chipping in contently while his brother, easily the quietest of the three, makes the odd point here and there as he fidgets nervously.

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Straight away, you can tell they’ve been friends for years by their playful banter and Simon’s disarming ability to take the piss out of himself every time he makes a philosophical point. Example: “There isn’t going to be a moment in anyone’s life where they’re like, ‘Oh brilliant. I’ve finally reached a point where I’m entirely content’,” he reasons as he flicks the butt of his cigarette into a nearby plant pot. “I think if you did, you’d just end up shooting yourself. And that’s the beauty of life.…aargh I sound like such a dick,” he laughs, putting his hands over his face. “My self-help CD will be available with a special limited edition version of the album.”

While new album, ‘Only Revolutions’, does have its what-does-it-all-mean moments, for the most part the record is steeped in euphoric joy and blooming love. This is primarily based on Simon’s own personal marital experiences and his obsession with a love story by American author Mark Danielewski. “I got married last year so a lot of the lyrics are about me and my wife,” he explains. “It’s kind of a relationship record in that sense and a record about life. The track ‘God And Satan’ for instance questions what’s there for us when we die. Everyone has lost someone close to them and whenever that happens you do start to question your own existence and you do start to think maybe there is no grand picture after all. But while we’re here, we might as well try and make people happy and make ourselves happy. It sounds defeatist but I’m almost happy that there is no happy ending. As far as I’m concerned your happy ending is happening right now.”

Recorded in Los Angeles’ Ocean Way studios - the same location Frank Sinatra laid down his vocal for ‘My Way’- ‘Only Revolutions’ is a natural step on from their gold-selling fourth album, marrying gut busting rock anthems (‘That Golden Rule’, ‘Boom Blast And Ruin’) with tear-tugging ballads (‘Many Of Horror’, ‘Know Your Quarry’).

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Biffy Clyro - Mountains

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Perhaps the biggest coup for Biffy though was pulling in flame-haired man mountain Josh Homme, after his recent production stint with Arctic Monkeys, for the album’s poppiest moment ‘Bubbles’. “We spent a lot of time with Queens Of The Stone Age when we toured the States and Europe with them and we got on with Josh really well,” says Simon. “We knew we’d be in LA recording so we said we’d give him a call. Sure enough he came over at midnight one night after tucking his kids into bed and played guitar on ‘Bubbles’.” “It was really cool and he really caught the gist of the song,” adds Simon. “I think he just listened to about ten seconds and he was like (adopts booming American accent), ‘I got it, I got it.’ It was total pinch yourself stuff and even now although he’s a really good friend, we’re still like, ‘It’s Josh Homme, I can’t believe we know you’.”

It’s been a long time coming for Biffy Clyro, who, after fifteen years together, have seen three excellent albums (‘Blackened Sky’, ‘The Vertigo Of Bliss’ and ‘Infinity Land’) tragically slip under the mainstream radar, been pushed to the brink of mental and physical break down in the wake of a family death and, of course, there’s that aforementioned clapped out old camper van. But, for once happiness and success finally seem to be galloping hand in hand over the horizon.

“If the first record had sold ten million copies we’d have been like, ‘Fucking bring it on’, we’d have loved it,” Simon admits in hindsight. “But I think we’ve learnt over the years that we couldn’t have probably made ‘Only Revolutions’ when we started out and we couldn’t have handled being on a major label early on because we’d have got carried away with it all. Although we had nothing at the time, our (former) record company Beggars (Banquet) were always very hands-off in the early days and they let us do what we wanted. And I think that gave us confidence. Now I think we’re savvy enough to know when we’re working with someone who’s trying to blow smoke up our arses. Even in LA people were going, ‘Oh, are you getting wrecked all the time?’ But the truth is we only did a couple of times because it was a great opportunity and we didn’t want to fuck up the record. If that had been our first or second album though we might well have done.”

And that’s what’s brilliant about Biffy Clyro. Despite all their success, deep down they’re still that same humble trio who criss-crossed the country in a clapped out old camper van. “That’s why we appreciate stuff so much now having our own tour bus,” Simon adds. “It’s not a human right to have a tour bus. It’s a lot better than doing the driving yourself, I have to admit. But that’s the problem with a lot of bands who go straight on to a tour bus these days. If they’re not living a life of luxury, they’re like, ‘Oh, we’re not in a band then are we?’ Being in a band is about playing music. Everything else is a bonus.”

‘Only Revolutions’ is released on November 9.

Words by Damian Jones

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