Biffy Clyro started out as alt-rock outsiders and ended up beloved festival headliners, but as bassist James Johnson explains during their new film, they “never had massive ambitions” in the beginning. “We were just this weird rock band trying to piss people off.”
It’s just one of many things we learn in Cultural Sons Of Scotland, an intimate, inspiring and often hilarious potted history of the band. Clocking in at just over an hour, the fly-on-the-wall documentary follows James, frontman Simon and drummer Ben as they release eighth album ‘A Celebration Of Endings’ at the height of the pandemic, head to their practice space in Ayrshire to record its follow-up, and then play a celebratory headline show at Glasgow Green in September 2021. The origins of each new track are briefly explored as the band lays them down on a working dairy farm a few miles from where they grew up. Their enthusiasm for making music is practically contagious, as is vocalist Simon Neil’s relentless laughter.
What elevates this from your standard PR-massaged doc though is the time spent looking at what Biffy Clyro means to Simon, James and Ben. During the opening moments, Ben explains that the name is literally an acronym for “Big Imagination For Feeling Young ‘Cos Life Yearns Real Optimism” before telling director Jack Lowe that “it’s what’s keeping us alive.” Later, he admits that the band walked away from a record deal early on in their career because they refused to change said name. “Sticking to your guns is a good thing,” he reasons.
The film then jumps between the farm sessions and their teenage years spent in picturesque south-west Scotland. They play local pubs and tour the country in a camper van. It’s obvious that Biffy’s commitment to the cause has never wavered. “More often than not, we were unpopular,” grins James, proud of their self-belief. “We had people asking for Oasis, for anything but what we were doing – but we never changed.”
And while this is very much Biffy’s story, Cultural Sons Of Scotland is a film about making something from nothing, regardless of where you come from. It’s the sort of movie that makes you wish you were in a band. Not because of the glitz and the glamour (there’s not a lot of that on a dairy farm, after all) but because it looks so joyous. “If you can spend four weeks in a van with your two best mates and have the time of your life, says Simon, “stay in that band.” You heard the man.
- Director: Jack Lowe
- Featuring: Simon Neil, Ben Johnston, James Johnston
- Release date: February 25 (Amazon Prime Video)