Today (August 14) Biffy Clyro release their incredible new album A Celebration Of Endings via Warner.
Last month, we welcomed the group to our cover for the very first time to talk about its creation, their journey so far and why – despite now reaching their eighth record – they are more determined than ever before to keep building and evolving as a band.
“I want people to feel like it’s one of our best records because that fucking matters," Simon Neil told Music Week. “It still fucking matters. We’re realistic enough to know that after you’ve made eight albums, nobody’s sitting around going, ‘Hmm, I wonder what their eighth album will be like?’ There’s an element of, ‘I’ve probably got my favourite Biffy record’. Our job is to make sure our new album is your new favourite Biffy record.”
Also adding insight to the piece was Warner Records president Phil Christie and Nostromo Management’s Paul Craig, who first started working with the group back in 2010.
Here, in an unread extract of our recent cover feature interview, the group’s manager Paul Craig takes us further inside the rise and rise of Biffy Clyro…
What was your first reaction to A Celebration Of Endings…
“I just thought this is a truly exceptional album and one of the very best Biffy records. I decided in January that I wanted to share my excitement about the overall quality and relevance of this album to a large number of people, so set up a number of in studio playbacks. It was very important to build word of mouth as I knew that people would be surprised and I was frustrated when observing everyone listening to new albums on their phones and between meetings. ACOE shows the bands ambition and desire to keep moving forward and, yet again, the talent of Simon Neil's songwriting which is always evolving. It's tough for bands to go past two or three albums and continue with the drive and verve that they have in the beginning. Biffy achieve this and keep pushing forward. To have a multi-year career, you have to be special.”
From indie underdogs to major label, festival headliners, their multi-year journey has been incredible to see…
“The journey is remarkable. Their unity and loyalty to each other as well as their strength of character, determination and talent is extremely special. They also happen to be three of the best people you will meet. The journey from being three boys from Ayrshire who signed to Beggars Banquet, made the transition to Warner, created a collection of incredible albums, toured very successfully around the world and, in the UK, have headlined virtually every major festival and recorded the first MTV Unplugged in 20 years is remarkable. I feel because they're perceived as a rock band, people don't fully appreciate the true palate of their talent, particularly of Simon’s songwriting. Who else could write Many of Horror, Wolves of Winter, Rearrange and Cop Syrup from ACOE?”
What would appreciation look like to you?
“I think Simon should have won an Ivor Novello award and they deserve to win Best British Band at the BRITS.”
There was the campaign that was planned for its original release, and the campaign that has come to be. Can you sum up the past couple of months in your experience putting this campaign together?
“Different. Unique. Unprecedented. Stressful. Testing. Emotional. All those things, and probably many more. I have managed artists for a long time but this has been totally unprecedented. I think that we have pivoted over recent months and created a very good campaign in extremely challenging circumstances. Virtually everything we had planned was taken away, but the band have been fantastic at doing their best to still be very visible, via Simon’s weekly acoustic live streams, Ben and James’ Q&A sessions, Radio 1’s Live Lounge All Stars ‘Times Like These’ single and multiple videos shot remotely in lockdown. I am always trying to keep Biffy moving forward with new experiences as we take nothing for granted. As a manager you do things to help your artists’ mental health, to broaden your brand, to show respect to your existing audience and also to build new ones. In June, Simon drove in the Formula One Virtual Canadian Grand Prix which, apart from having to arrange a full-size simulator being delivered to Ayr, was a great experience. This also helped as a distraction from the album being delayed and also for the Biffy name to reach a whole new market."
Biffy are one of relatively few alternative rock bands to have thrived on a major label of late. So many bands from the time they signed to Warner had one album and then left. What do you chalk that down to?
“We have a very, very good relationship with respect and trust on all sides. Over the years with people such as Christian Tattersfield, Alex Gilbert, Miles Leonard and now with Phil Christie who has been extremely close and supportive throughout the process of ACOE. We're lucky to have a number of key people such as Jen Ivory, Damian Christian, Victor Aroldoss, Andy Prevezer, Morad Khokar, Ben Durling who we have worked with for a long time as well as a new team of people who have been fantastic. It's a good point you make about how we’ve so far outlasted a lot of bands on a major label. Apart from my bias towards the band, maybe it’s because they only signed on the fourth album, so we always feel we have something to prove."
Gallows made an incredible album in Grey Britain but only made one album on Warners…
“Gallows were a brilliant band. I just think every artist and band are different. I can only talk about Biffy. I come back to the quality of Simon’s songwriting, how remarkable they are as a live band and how hard they work. I still get tingles down my spine when I see Biffy play, whether it be last year at Roundhouse or Isle Of Wight festival. They just get better.”
And what is it about your relationship with Biffy that works so well together?
“We get on as people, which is obviously always really important, and I do my very best to stand up for and protect them and to keep moving their career forward. We think in a similar way with regard to ambition and making whatever we do as special as possible.
What were some of the things that could have derailed that? What are the things that you guys, collectively, did right together?
“I think that when a band has a long journey the biggest risk is losing a sense of who they are and listening to the advice of everyone they meet who tries to get them to move towards the latest sound or fashion. Sometimes it can be tempting but frequently leads to mediocrity. Great bands and artists take risks, are curious and explore new avenues but should not be followers. Simon, James and Ben fully understand this. Years ago, we decided to invest heavily in our live show. When we became headliners at festivals, we were like, ‘This is a moment to show and surprise people’. With Reading & Leeds in 2013 it was the moment to grab the opportunity with every part of our bodies and put on a show that defied and exceeded people's expectations. We wanted to smash it not just out of the park, but smash it so far you could never see it. We always said being invited to the party once is great, but the real sign of success is that you’re invited back to the party.”
So what have you had said no to many throughout Biffy's career?
“I say no a lot every day. To brand, concert and promo opportunities that everyone else is saying we should do and we just don't think the optics are right. I think to build a career you have to have this very delicate balance between making sure you don't say yes to everything, but also maintain and build the identity of who your artist is, what is their spine, while at the same time trying to navigate new opportunities. When Simon allowed Many of Horror to be the X Factor [winner’s] song, that was a very brave moment too.”
And one few people would have expected them to allow…
“Yes, you're right. I think it shows Simon’s ambition and the band were able to get away with it because the song is just fantastic and they had accumulated a lot of goodwill and trust over the years”
One of the biggest challenges has also been the lack of live shows…
“It’s been very difficult to launch an album for the greatest live band in the UK when you can’t play live. That’s been a big challenge. However, we recently announced some great shows for 2021. We're very proud to be headlining Download Festival for the second time and we have a very special small UK run in April titled The Fingers Crossed Tour as well as a rescheduled European tour in October 21. Also, the band have announced a worldwide live performance from Glasgow this coming Saturday which in typical Biffy style is going to be truly amazing and extremely ambitious.”
Subscribers can read the full Biffy Clyro cover feature here.
Photo: Paul Harries