Biffy Clyro’s “Medicine” didn’t make the hour-long MTV Live cut of the British group’s MTV Unplugged Live At The Roundhouse London telecast on May 26. But the song — originally on 2016’s Ellipsis and premiering exclusively below — is on the full-length release coming out May 25, and is one of the group’s favorites to play in the unplugged setting.
“‘Medicine’s’ natural habitat is acoustic,” frontman Simon Neil tells Billboard. “It felt good to play it with a four-part harmony thing at the end. It’s one of those songs that’s really quite intense without having any dynamic to it. So it was a no-brainer to put that in the Unplugged set.”
Biffy Clyro’s MTV Unplugged was filmed last Nov. 8 as the first performance of the U.K. relaunch for the popular series. The upcoming release features 15 songs from the group’s career, plus a cover of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” that Neil loves so much he had the lyrics tattooed to his chest and was the song for his first wedding dance with his wife. “It’s one of the songs I’ve loved for as long as I remember being conscious as a human,” he says. “I can never remember it not being in my life.” Doing an MTV Unplugged performance, meanwhile, was another milestone for the troupe.
“I’m a child of the ’90s,” Neil notes, “so for me Nirvana’s Unplugged, and Pearl Jam’s and Neil Young’s and all those Unplugged records came out at a really important time for me in my development in music and as a guitarist. They made me realize ever song I wrote didn’t have to sound like a metal song. You realized the beauty behind Nirvana’s songs when they played like that.” Neil acknowledges that he and his cohorts were “a bit intimidated” by the prospect, and particularly by figuring out how to select the most engaging set.
“The toughest part was trying to get the songs down to an acceptable set length,” Neil says. “We probably had about 30 songs we could’ve played; It was about getting the balance of songs that reflected us now but also a reasonable reflection of our journeys as a band. There were a lot of tough decisions, but the actual act of playing it was a joy. We were very nervous because of what Unplugged meant to us, but when we got on stage it was just a wonderful feeling. Our full-on rock shows are so intense and physical. To play a performance like this, which is like the exact opposite of what we normally do, was quite enlightening.”
Biffy Clyro enjoyed it so much that they’re doing an unplugged tour of Europe that begins Sept. 14 and runs into early October. Its latest studio project, meanwhile, is an ambitious companion/soundtrack album to the upcoming Jamie Adams film Balance, Not Symmetry, which begins filming in July. Biffy Clyro is in the midst of recording the album, with hopes to release this fall. The group is also in the midst of “writing a bunch of songs for the next album,” the formal follow-up to Ellipsis, with plans to hit the studio for that before the end of the year. “There’s lots to do,” Neil says, “just not the time to do it all at once.”