Entertainment & Arts

Biffy Clyro: nude cover signals 'rebirth'

Biffy Clyro Image copyright Caleb Coppola

Appearing nude on an album cover is nothing new for music artists - Bat for Lashes, Prince, John Lennon and even former Disney star Selena Gomez have all shed their inhibitions and their clobber to appear naked. Now Biffy Clyro have been added to that illustrious list with their latest album Ellipsis.

"I came up with the idea almost as a joke, us being human ellipses, it was like we were reborn and starting again and shedding old skin," explains singer Simon Neil.

The three band members are pictured on their sides in foetal position, forming the ellipsis of the title.

"We were doing a test shot and (bassist) James was the first one to put his hand up and strip down and get the picture taken - and there was something weird and intimate, it wasn't funny.

"You know, when we were taking the picture, we thought it would be a laugh to see what was poking out but it felt extremely serious."

Image copyright Biffy Clyro

"People's reaction has surprised me. I expected a lot of mickey-taking but there's a sincerity to the picture that I think makes it something more than three Scotsmen with their bits out."

The album, the Scottish band's seventh, sees them taking a step away from the hard-edged rock which has defined their sound and turned them into one of the UK's biggest stadium rock bands, who are headlining this summer's Reading and Leeds festivals.

While songs like Wolves of Winter and Flammable sees the band at their rocky finest, tracks like Re-Arrange see them explore their more sensitive side, while Small Wishes takes the band on a country-rock jaunt.

"It sounds like a cliché, and I hate saying it, but I truly believe it's our best record.

"I don't want to sound bashful or modest but it's our most playful and fun - the most hopeful sounding album we've made, and it's exciting for me on our seventh album, as a band, that were trying new things and moving into new areas.

"I would much rather attempt something and fail dramatically, rather than just do what I know we're quite good at and go through the motions.

"This isn't just a job - to sell enough records, to pay the bills - we want to make something special and magical and I would not want to think, ten years from now, that we compromised on it because we played it safe."

To write the album, Neil decamped to the US for several months, telling the NME in April, that he was in a "terrible headspace", following the death of his grandmother and the legendary cover art designer Storm Thorgerson, who worked with the band on several of their albums.

"To be honest it was over there that I managed to shake the pressure of having to write an 'amazing' Biffy Clyro record," he explains.

"When I was in Scotland before that, every song I was writing I wanted to be the best thing I'd ever done.

"So I went away with my missus for a few months; I just wanted to write music with a few friends. I didn't want to worry about whether they were for Biffy Clyro, I just wanted to enjoy music."

During that time, between Biffy albums, Neil even managed to record an electronic track under the name ZZC for the Radio 1 re-scoring of the film Drive.

"I needed to put my guitar down for a wee while and just not worry about making everything great. Not everything that you make can be great. Sometimes you get one good song for every five rubbish songs, but I wasn't allowing myself that headspace."

Image copyright Ben Birchall

The mysteriously-titled Herex throws up an interesting result when it is typed into a search engine - apparently it is the name of a Gremlin-like character from a role-playing game called Spiral Knights, something which comes as a surprise to the singer.

"I wanted a title that sounded like those death metal bands from Sweden or Norway. It was just kind of combining the words 'Her' and 'Ex', like 'her ex-boyfriend', but now I think that makes it slightly cooler, thinking of a Gremlin from a role-playing game.

"I'm gonna sound like a right weirdo."

Neil is hopeful that long-time fans of the band will be on board with the diversity of the new album but admits, "I don't take it for granted, the reason I'm excited about this record is that I believe in the songs.

"But when I was younger, if something didn't have distorted guitars on it, I wouldn't give it much time - so I don't want to tempt fate."

But with huge live festival shows coming up over the rest of the summer, including a gig in Glasgow's Bellahouston Park (something of a homecoming gig for the Kilmarnock-formed band), Neil assures fans that even the more sensitive material will "grow more teeth".

"I think all our songs slip seamlessly into a live show purely because the nature of the way we play pulls them all together. So as much as on the the record some songs might not sound like the same band, when we play them live, they much sound as though they're from the same origin."

Ellipsis is available now.