When I was asked to write a piece for the ‘band that changed my life’ column, I felt torn between Biffy Clyro and the Manic Street Preachers as in my eyes they hold joint gold.
Yet while Manics’ albums Generations Terrorists, Gold Against the Soul, and The Holy Bible were the holy grail of my teen angst, they root me to a time when I was desperately unhappy and could not express myself with words so needed their lyrics instead.
With Biffy, their records take me on more of a journey that reflects how I have evolved as a person, with their body of work pinpointing different times of my life.
Let’s rewind a few years, my first term at Glasgow University when bottles of White Lightening and 50p pints (50p!!) at the student union were my best friends.
I was a drunken mess, in hopeless need of a lifeline, though while I didn’t learn to look after my mental health for many years, music was my saviour.
Before my 30s, I really struggled to verbalise any kind of emotion, using unhealthy coping mechanisms like self-harm and alcohol to cope. Looking back, music was a healthy coping strategy that allowed me to feel free and also helped release the demons inside.
It was a shared love of Incubus with a girl in my halls that led to her recording her copy of Biffy’s first EP thekidswhopoptodaywillrocktomorow on CD for me as she thought I’d like it, looong before Spotify existed.
I can’t remember a lot from those days, but I do remember an instant connect with the songs and the way track 57 somehow broke and mended my heart in equal measure.
After playing the songs on loop at piercing decibels during that wreck-head year, and annoying everyone who lived on my corridor (sorry!), I saw Biffy for the first time in 2001.
Travelling to Edinburgh to see them at The Venue, now closed permanently, little did I know seeing them play to 10 people that years later I’d add several 000s onto that when the unknown trio would hit mainstream success and blow the roof off of Wembley Arena.
Seeing them live cemented what I already felt, that this band were something special and I wanted in.
When debut album Blackened Sky dropped the following year, it fast became one of my favourite albums of all time, full of haunting songs that genuinely sound like no other band and became the soundtrack of my 20s (alongside Special D and Tiësto that the DJ would play every weekend when I worked my shifts at the Yates’ on Sauchiehall Street).
I would be lying if I said I could recall the exact moment of hearing follow-up albums The Vertigo of Bliss, Infinity Land, and Puzzle, but I devoured them just as I did the first.
Their eerie, beautiful and melancholy sound is hard to articulate, although it wraps its way around your heart with a familiarity that is both comforting and heart-breaking.
Around 2009, while working as a showbiz reporter at The Sun, I met Simon, Ben and James when they came into the newsroom’s studio for a live session.
They were promoting their fifth studio album Only Revolutions, and at a time when their rising star could have easily had a knock-on effect of inflated ego, they were humble, which only cemented my appreciation of them knowing they’re polite and unpretentious.
A year later, and that’s when Biffy truly became the band that changed my life.
On August 27, 2010, the sun shining and not a cloud in the sky, I wandered over to the Main Stage at Reading Festival ready to see them play to their adoring crowd.
Crashing onto the stage with That Golden Rule, I began scribbling in my notepad to jot down bullet points so my review for work would be easier to piece together afterwards.
Soon, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to see a torso in a blue sweater, having to tilt my head up as this person was so much taller than me.
The guy asked me, ‘Who are you writing for?’ and I just remember thinking, ‘YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!’ I explained I was a reporter and then offered him a sip of my straight vodka (as I had not had time to buy a Diet Coke from the bar to mix with the booze I had sneaked in from the camping area), then we watched the rest of the set together.
Ten years later, ‘that guy’ is now my husband.
We still joke about the straight vodka, and how he hates it with a passion, having only drunk it to impress me 🙂
Our shared love of Biffy not only brought us together that day, but also enabled us to experience some incredible moments with the band.
In particular, at The Royal Albert Hall as part of the Teenage Cancer Trust gigs in 2011, the grandest venue to match their epic sound, seeing Toys, Toys, Toys (first time they had played it since ‘08) and Hope for an Angel (first time they had played it since ‘05).
Similarly, when we lived in Los Angeles for a few years, the Scottish trio were still largely unknown Stateside so while they were selling out huge venues in the UK they were playing tiny ones across the pond when they toured in 2012.
Their gig in LA’s Silver Lake at The Satellite was reminiscent of The Venue a decade before; up close and personal in a tiny room so close we could feel their sweat drops – during that Opposites tour, on the London leg, they played to 20,000 at The O2 Arena.
It was a perfect moment, from a muddy field in Reading to the bright lights of Hollywood.
I also went full circle back to Glasgow in 2014, taking my other half to my old haunts (and a tour of my student union where the bouncer recognised me as ‘the one I always had to throw out’) when Biffy played their three-night extravaganza at the Barrowlands – taking fans down memory lane with their full back catalogue at the city’s most beloved venue.
Biffy have always remained ‘our’ band, and while we didn’t quite manage to get them as our wedding band (I did ask their management team!), they were still part of the day.
I can still feel the knot of nerves and flurry of butterflies, standing with my dad, and hearing the opening of Let’s Get Smiling that was our cue to walk down the steps into the ceremony.
As the rings were exchanged, Biffy were also ‘there’ as our matching wedding bands are engraved with the Let’s Get Smiling soundwave on the silver.
If I had never heard the Biffy CD from that girl in halls, or gone to see them live at The Venue, or become a journalist, or gone to Reading 2010, would I be saying ‘I do’?
Had that path of fate not happened or Biffy not existed, I like to think I would have met my husband in a different twist of fate, but you never can know for certain.
So, thanks to them, we live together under this ‘blackened sky’.
We plan to see them in 2021 on The Fingers Crossed tour in Copenhagen, whether it will go ahead due to Covid-19 remains to be seen, but for now, we have memories old and new – even chatting with them on Zoom during lockdown when they invited a small group of fans to watch an acoustic set to celebrate new record A Celebration of Endings.