Biff-spiration: Biffy Clyro's influences

On the eve of a huge UK stadium tour, Biffy Clyro's Ben Johnston shares some of their surprising influences (hiya Beyoncé) on their most experimental, eclectic album to date – Ellipsis

Feature by Rachel Bowles | 02 Nov 2016

Biffy Clyro are known to record in triptychs, with seventh LP Ellipsis being a bold new statement commencing a third album cycle. With Ellipsis being such a radical departure from their previous work, what inspired the boys to incorporate such a maximalism of musical styles? Ben Johnston tells The Skinny what they’ve been listening to, and watching, over the past three years.


Jordan Asher, aka BOOTS, has built a huge name for himself Stateside producing for FKA Twigs, Run the Jewels and Autolux. Biffy were listening to his experimental hip-hop and electronic R'n'B layered soundscapes during Ellipsis' genesis: "He's a young guy who's produced Beyoncé, and worked with our [Ellipsis] producer Rich Costey. AQUARIA is an outstanding record."

Beyoncé – Lemonade (2016)

The aforementioned BOOTS worked on Beyoncé's call to arms Lemonade. Says Johnston, "Beyoncé is just very cutting edge and pretty out there. A lot of hip-hop pop people are taking more risks than rock bands, that's what we felt going into this album. Rock used to be the stuff you couldn't play to your parents but now it's really the hip-hop stuff you wouldn't want your parents to hear.

“I feel that it's weird that a day comes when the new Beyoncé record is the most cutting edge thing you've heard. I never thought that would happen. It was a shocker when that came out, it was really pretty wild, really brave and it's quite an angry record too."

Enter Shikari – The Mindsweep (2015)

But there still are angry young men who measure up in the alt-rock world for Biffy, namely post-hardcore quartet Enter Shikari: "You used to look to punk bands for politics, although I'm sure there will still be bands kicking about – you see a lot of angry people but there doesn't seem to be a rock band that has taken the limelight and embodies that.

"The only rock band that comes to mind is Enter Shikari. They're a band shouting about politics and they're pretty angry boys, we like that about them."

Kanye West – Yeezus (2013)

Simon Neil, Biffy’s vocalist and guitarist, in particular is a huge fan of Kanye's approach to musical production, and that influenced their work in the studio. "Leading up to Ellipsis we were listening to quite a bit of hip-hop, Simon loves Kanye West but he doesn't love him as a person because he's obviously an arsehole.

"He may not be the best rhymer in the world, but his music definitely does break down some barriers, I think he changed the face of hip-hop in a way. He broke a lot of rules."

Brand New – 3 Demos, Reworked (2016)

Biffy can't wait to tour Ellipsis with New York’s post-hardcore band Brand New, who the trio feel they should be supporting instead: "They actually approached us, it was unbelievable and really an honour, because we would never have thought to even ask them.

"In our heads, it was almost like the other way around. All our American contemporaries look up to Brand New. It's crazy, but that's definitely how we still see it, they're a wee bit older than us, and they've been doing this for longer than us. For us to even get to see them play right now, it's incredible, let alone night after night. It'll be massive and I'm really hoping they actually start writing some new music as well – that'd be great. Some new stuff for them and we can't wait to hear them play some of our favourite songs ever, it's going to be fabulous."

Stanley Kubrick – The Shining (1980)

Kubrick's classic horror was a big influence on music video for single Howl, as perhaps was Ru Paul's Drag Race: "We wanted a kind of Stanley Kubrick vibe, and The Shining was mentioned when we were trying to get ideas. We just wanted the whole thing to be really off-kilter. It was meant to be a confusing yet fun video. Hopefully it comes across that way.

"It was certainly a lot of fun to make. We turned up and the first thing to be shot, I think, was James and I as the evil twins. That was madness because we got in, and wardrobe just dressed us up in these costumes, and I thought ‘Holy shit! We actually look dead similar,’ because we don't generally in everyday life. It was frightening for me; it really was, because we never have. Even as babies, we didn't look anything like each other. We had to learn these little moves in two minutes then shoot. It was just all go, all day, then Simon dressing up as the geisha girl. We still love watching that video. It still makes us laugh a lot."

Bon Iver – 22, A Million

And finally for post-album release chilling, it's the experimental and glitchy new LP from Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver: "At the moment we're really digging him. His new album's fantastic."

Ellipsis is out now via 14th Floor Records. Biffy Clyro and Brand New play SSE Hydro, Glasgow (29 Nov), Manchester Arena (3 Dec) and First Direct Arena, Leeds (4 Dec)