While those internal concerns have been quelled, there are still painful external reminders that the life of a touring musician is beset by challenges, many of them tragic. Back in March, Ben summed up what made Taylor Hawkins special as part of K!’s commemorative Cover Story, declaring “the world is truly a darker place without him”. Three months on, and with tribute concerts to the late Foo Fighters drummer announced in Los Angeles and London, Biffy suggest these seismic losses never fail to stop them in their tracks.
“It’s impossible not to reflect in a massive way,” says Simon, whose friend, Frightened Rabbit singer-songwriter Scott Hutchinson, took his own life in 2018. “There are different circumstances and scenarios around the deaths of Scott and Taylor, but these people are everything you could ever aspire to be, so to suddenly find out they’re unhappy or have bad luck is so difficult. Foo Fighters have always been an inspiration to us, so to lose Taylor – one of the best drummers and such an easy-going guy – makes you think, ‘Wait a fucking minute’ and reflect on everything. What we do [as musicians] is so omnipotent of everything else in our life, with every moment catered towards this thing, with everything else coming second. It’s not a normal rhythm; it’s not a normal life. Giving everyone your best is fucking tiring. You can’t be your best self all the time.”
While Simon’s last point is clearly referring to him as an individual, presumably the title of being Britain’s biggest and best, a mantle regularly thrust upon Biffy, is one he feels an acute pressure to keep up. Turns out much of that expectation is self-administered.
“I used to ignore it but now there’s a bit of me that thinks, ‘We are fucking brilliant,’” grins Simon, declaring it ‘with his chest’ as the kids say. “I think that’s where maturing has come in. We’re still tongue in cheek and don’t like to have big egos, but at the same time I don’t think anyone can step on a stage with us and play as well as us. That’s going to sound arrogant but I’ve always believed that. We didn’t tour the UK non-stop for five years, with no-one giving a fuck, for our own benefit. We are the dog’s bollocks. When we were at school everyone was in a band, just as everyone now has a podcast, and I’d listen to everyone going on about their music, making trip-hop and ska, and I’d think, ‘Yeah, but we fucking mean it. I care deeply about this and will still be doing this in 20 years.’”
“Our default was always to think of ourselves as a wee band,” adds James. “But ever since we were a wee band we’ve wanted to become a big one. It’s actually cost me a lot of money in therapy to get to the point where I’m ready to say we are big.”