Biffy Clyro's Ultimate Playlist
Scot rock gods reveal their favourite songs and the stories behind them
The mighty Biff are back and ready to rock.
Three years on from their sprawling double album masterpiece Opposites, they're now readying the release of their seventh album Ellipsis, due this Friday, which promises to continue their upward trajectory and lay claim to be their best album to date.
We spoke to the boys ahead of release day to discover their Ultimate Playlist and the stories behind the selections. Read on for some one-hit wonders, classic grunge, nineties dance and much more...
Ellipsis is released Friday 8 July
Favourite sad song
Simon: "Probably Black by Pearl Jam. A beautifully emotive song - when we were teenagers we would sit in the boys' garage after playing music together, a bit drunk at 16, crying into each others' arms - and it's still an absolute classic, still love it, still brings a tear to my eye."
Favourite movie soundtrack song
James: "Could I choose a TV series? Les Revenants, the first series with the Mogwai music that fits perfectly with the visuals, that really helps to create the impact that the stories have. I think Mogwai probably had to lock their guitars away to make this soundtrack, cos it's not as heavy as they usually are, but the percussion they use, the rhythms they use; it creates a kind of familiar uneasy feeling when you're watching the entire series and it's just something you keep coming back to. Every time I hear that soundtrack it puts me right back in the same frame of mind as watching the show which is deeply uncomfortable!"
Favourite song from your childhood
Simon: "I remember hearing The One and Only by Chesney Hawkes a million times on Atlantic 252 if anyone remembers that radio station! It was every hour, on the hour, I remember driving to, like, Center Parcs and I was the only one that actually loved it every time I was like, "Yeah!" and my parents were like, "Nooo!"
"So it could be Chesney Hawkes or for me maybe Belinda Carlisle - Heaven is a Place On Earth. I had such a crush on Belinda. I discovered that song on the first album I bought which was Now That's What I Call Music 11 and I just loved Belinda - she was the first woman I drew nude."
James: "That's right, that's true! He told us that the other day!"
Simon: "Young, but becoming a man!"
Favourite song that no one else has heard of
Simon: "I guess one I remember - we bought every kind of possible rarity, or demo cassette that was ever brought out by Nirvana and I remember Kurt Cobain singing a song called Sappy, which we must have listened to a thousand times in the mid to late nineties. It was a song we covered, we would record ourselves playing, we would try and impersonate him exactly, the way his voice broke and everything.
"We could probably get a better unknown one - I mean, Kurt Cobain did alright!
"Let's go Katy Song from Red House Painters, which is on the Rollercoaster record. I've got the lyrics tattooed from that song actually. Red House Painters are an incredibly underrated band - people that know of them love them so much, but they're not widely regarded and they're probably one of our biggest influences.
James: "Crushing lyrics..."
Simon: "I think Mark Kozelek's one of the best songwriters, lyrically I've taken a lot from him.
Ben: "He might write about this..."
Simon: In one of his songs for Sun Kil Moon actually he said, "The guy from Biffy Clyro thinks I'm one of the greatest songwriters in the wooorld!" So this is now gonna get really meta, he's now gonna sing about this and, so, yeah, get scribbling Mark, get scribbling!"
Ben: Like an out-of-body experience!"
Favourite club anthem
James: "Thing is about going to clubs is you can never remember being there!"
Simon: "I used to love Ride On Time by Black Box, I think it's in an advert at the moment and it shows you how ridiculous a song that is, but it is a pumper.
Ben: "The vocal is such an aggressive vocal. RIDE ON TIME. RIDE RIDE RIDE, I mean fucking hell man!"
Simon: It's got a punk rock energy to it that one!
Favourite song to hear at a wedding
Simon: "I like Robert Palmer - Addicted To Love. I think that's just... it's got such a swagger and swing and it makes me think of weddings."
James: "It's making us all smile just thinking about it - it's what you want. I guess at a wedding you're always slightly fearful that your wife's gonna ask you to dance so there's always at the back of your mind that, y'know... that one you can maybe just enjoy from the comfort of your seat, which I think is probably the best."
Simon: "The worst one is when they try and get you up for Brown Eyed Girl and you're like fucking hell man, come on!"
Favourite one-hit wonder
Simon: "I'll choose something that actually influenced our new record, it's a band called Midnight Oil and I guess they're kind of a one-hit wonder 'cause Beds Are Burning is their biggest global smash - I think in Australia all their music's highly regarded - so sorry Midnight Oil if this sounds mean or rude! - but...
James: "It is topical because they're reforming, I understand, for some shows..."
Simon: "So go and see Beds Are Burning! That song, every night for about three weeks, driving home from the studio I would just put Beds Are Burning on, just on loop and I think it's a fantastic song. They're a really underrated band but that's definitely their one global smash. It's one global smash more than we have! It's like you say: 'Ha - one-hit wonders!'...[under breath] 'Lucky fuckers!'.
Favourite lyric from a song
Simon: "I could go with a lyric from Katy Song... but I might choose Blind Melon, my other tattoo, Change, and the lyric is: 'Keep on dreaming boy, 'cause when you stop dreaming it's time to die'. It was an album that we listened to a lot around about the same era as crying on each others' shoulders listening to Pearl Jam! That line, it really stuck with me, made me realise the importance of lyrics, I think. I never held lyrics in high regard until that and I just felt that those lyrics applied to us in our lives - to everyone actually - never let your dreams pass you by, always keep chasing your dreams. Motivational!"
Favourite current song
James: "It's got to be King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard with People Vultures."
Ben: "Is that in the top 40?!"
James: "Not yet, but it's heading there fast! It's current though, it's definitely current, even though they've had like a dozen albums out, they've got a new album out now. Amazing Australian psychedelic kind of krautrock and the video for it will just blow your mind. I don't want to describe it too much, but it involves all the band together operating as a people vulture."
Simon: "It's the first band we've watched in a while and gone, 'They look like they'd be a good band to be in'. You know, we're never jealous of other bands but you look at them and go: 'I wanna be the fourth guitarist in King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard."
James: "There's just a freedom that seems to be there in the video and a sense of fun - brilliant."
Favourite song from your own music
Simon: "I'll choose a song from our new album. I'll choose a song called Re-Arrange which is a song that... even our band two years ago would never have written a song like this, or certainly recorded it. It's got a kind of R&B swing to it and it has trap beats - I feel like we're still moving into new ground and I think Re-Arrange is a perfect example of us kind of still trying to fuck with the sounds. Fuck with the format!"