A month ago, rockers Biffy Clyro performed in front of near-100,000-deep crowds. The band was headlining the annual duel Reading and Leeds Festivals, alongside names like Nine Inch Nails, Eminem and Green Day. Today, they arrive stateside for a show in Charlotte, North Carolina, the start of a North American tour that will take them through mid-October.
It’s been a couple years since Biffy Clyro have ventured across the pond for a headlining tour, and admittedly, the crowds here are smaller. The band’s aware of this and, frankly, could care less.
“We’d rather be ten people’s favorite band, than a million people’s tenth favorite band,” says the trio’s frontman Simon Neil.
The band’s had a good year. In addition to the big shows, they were named the best British band at the 2013 NME Awards and released Opposites, their sixth LP, which peaked at the No. 1 spot on the U.K. Albums chart. But even with a solid foundation and a rapidly increasing fanbase, Neil speaks with humility and gratitude about their modest, yet devote American crowds.
“We just want to play amazing gigs for you guys,” says Neil. “I just can’t wait to come over and play. It’s been too long.”
It’s kind of amazing that Biffy Clyro isn’t more popular in the States. They’ve been around since the mid-’90s; they’re renowned for their intense (and often shirtless) stage presence; and they’re often likened to major U.K. crossover acts like Franz Ferdinand, Muse and Bloc Party.
When asked if he listens to what’s popular right now, Neil says no. To him, everything on the radio is very “one-note” and sounds like it's being produced on with the same Apple laptop.
“I really like to stay naive about music,” he says. “Sometimes ignorance is best when you’re creating.”
Including Opposites, in the last three albums Neil has explored darker, more personal subjects like the death of his mother and the ups and downs of married life with his wife of five years, Francesca. He describes the process of songwriting very fluidly where the feelings just sort of “pour out.” It’s only after the material has been released that he sometimes realizes what he was really trying to say.
But Biffy Clyro have always been about that kind of honesty. There’s no sense in faking it, because, as Neil puts it, “music needs to matter.” And, come darkness or even success, that trend of unaffected musicality isn’t about to change anytime soon.
“Hopefully I can write an upbeat reggae album sometime soon,” he says, laughing. “You know, about sitting on the beach. That’s the dream job.”