Biffy Clyro keeps it all in the family
Stephen Taylor / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
|Biffy Clyro at the Hostess office in Tokyo in March 2010|
"I think a lot of people put an onus on twins having this telepathy thing, this bond. But to be honest, I think any human beings who spend that amount of time together end up creating some kind of bond like that," Ben said when he and his bass-playing brother talked to The Daily Yomiuri in Tokyo earlier this month. James was quick to stress that all three members of Biffy feel like family.
"Because Ben and I are so close, it wouldn't work unless we shared the same thing with [singer/guitarist] Simon [Neil]. I think we're lucky the three of us really feel like a gang together, and I think that connection is there, both musically and personally, and I think that has been one of the determining factors of the band really, and the reason probably we're still doing it," he said.
One reason for the group's solid bond is the length of their friendship, which goes back to the early years of primary school. When Simon decided to form a band in high school with James and Ben, they settled on the name Biffy Clyro, the origins of which have remained clouded in mystery--until now...maybe.
"I think Simon came up with it in German class when we were at school. He was sitting thinking about an imaginary Cliff Richard Biro pen, which was a Cliffy Biro," Ben explained.
"And it became Biffy Clyro. That's the honest answer," added his brother.
The name is often called "Dylan Thomas-esque," according to the pair, who say that one of their previous explanations for the name's derivation actually played on that misconception.
"There actually is a place in Wales--and this is a complete coincidence--called Clyro. We had no idea, of course, and people have sent us e-mails with pictures of this sign [announcing] the town of Clyro.
"We've made up stories that Biffy Clyro was actually a Welsh astronaut that was meant to be the first man on the moon, but failed the physical," James said with a laugh.
One thing James and Ben agree on is their shared love of the guitar bands that came out of the Pacific Northwest of the United States during the grunge era of the late 1980s to mid-'90s.
"Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam--the raw Seattle stuff was the basis of our first songwriting escapades, I guess. And then from there we got into more progressive stuff and more underground stuff. Then [we ended] up listening to anything we can get our hands on really," Ben said, a point upon which James expanded.
"It was bands like Mineral and Sunny Day Real Estate, kind of more complex types of music.
"I think we're continuing to evolve. One of my favorite bands now is Wilco, which is really relaxed and laid back," he said.
These days, the pair have no doubts about their favorite band.
"Like many other people of our age, Nirvana were the reason people picked up guitars, they were such seemingly ordinary guys, but making extraordinary music. You know, that's what made us want to do it, but eventually you can't sound like Nirvana, that's not fair, and I think we are our favorite band now," Ben said.
"I think we're proud of everything we've done. We could go out tomorrow and play [debut album] Blackened Sky from start to finish and be very proud of it, you know. Maybe people see that as us being cocky, but Biffy Clyro are certainly my favorite band," James added.
The band's fifth album, Only Revolutions, was released domestically in December and most of the tracks were included in an intimate show in Tokyo earlier this month. Two years ago, Biffy Clyro played at Summer Sonic and anyone who was at this month's show will be hoping the group return for this year's festival in August. If so, one item of clothing they won't need to worry about packing are stage shirts.
"It's so much fun to play with your shirt off. It's not meant to be any kind of, 'Check us out, we've got our tops off'...It certainly isn't a gimmick in any way; it's literally we play better with our shirts off.
"I was wearing shorts last night--I never do that--and it felt so good. I might even be naked the next time we play," Ben said to the sound of a big laugh from James.
Only Revolutions is out now on 14th Floor/Hostess.
(Mar. 19, 2010)