Simon Neil of Biffy Clyro talks touring, mosh pits, and general geekery on rock.
As 2017 keeps pushing on, it feels weird to say that it’s already March. But hey, it just means my birthday is coming sooner and sooner. But no one cares.
What’s more exciting is that Scottish rock maniacs of the band Biffy Clyro are just gearing up for the North-American leg of their Ellipsis album tour and frontman Simon Neil couldn’t be more excited. Biffy Clyro is huge in their native UK, headlining festivals with rock giants like Radiohead, while in the US, they’re playing more intimate venues like Boston’s Paradise Rock Club. While a transition like that seems very hectic, Simon says it gives them a chance to play shows a little differently than when they play huge stages. Small stages are always more intimate, and with big name American acts like Green Day and Miley Cyrus choosing to also play smaller venues, it shows that smaller venues are still the preferred venues by many artists. Simon maintained that the most important thing to him at concerts is the connection the band forms with the audience, and with this opportunity to have the audience so much closer, it will be better experience for everyone involved.
While the stage shift is significant, so is the general attitude of the crowds. With Simon and myself both hailing from the cold heights of Northern Europe, he’s from Scotland, I’m from Sweden, we’ve both experienced the different attitudes of crowds in different parts of the world. After we stopped geeking out over our shared love of punk legends Refused, we discussed the interesting shift in vibes between American and European audiences. They both know how to be energetic, but it seems like American audiences are much more predictable than Europeans. There’s a general vibe of their American fans, that don’t always go full fledged crazy in the mosh pit, but maintain a significant level of energy throughout the night. Europe on the other hand is nothing short of carnage. I’m not sure either of us knew wether to be proud or slightly annoyed by this realization.
When it comes to the beautiful aggression of moshing at concerts, Simon made it very clear that neither he, nor his bandmates tolerate it when people end up fighting at their shows. But there’s a difference between moshing lovingly with your fellow fans at a concert, and actually breaking out into a fight. Simon admitted that on multiple occasions, he’s had to stop mid-song in order to get people to stop fighting. This isn’t exclusive to any particular band, but when a band takes action against something they don’t like, it’s something worth pointing out. I’ve been to too many concerts where I witnessed too much aggression and not enough enjoyment, and the band never reacted. Simon promised me a hug to make up for the errors of other bands. Yes I will hold him to this.
As our conversation came to a close and Simon probably got tired of talking to me, I was able to still ask him the one question I’ve always wanted to ask a musician: “Do you ever get tired of playing the same songs over and over again?” And the short answer was, “No.” The difference between a good and bad live performance lies in the band’s desire to play a song, and Simon simply put it that if he or his bandmates ever got tired of playing a song, they’d just remove it from the setlist for a little bit and try another one. But this doesn’t happen overall. He said that “Every time we play a show, and a song starts, and the audience has that immediate reaction to it. That..that is what makes every show worth it. It makes each night new, and it makes each song new.”
We as audience members define the show, not the artist. I will be attending Biffy Clyro’s Boston show at the Paradise Rock Club on April 11. I welcome you all to mosh with me, and make it the highlight stop on Biffy Clyro’s tour.
Simon, I will not forget your promise of a hug. Even though it’s just a hug.