The first single from Biffy Clyro's Ellipsis album, this was premiered as Zane Lowe's World Record on Beats 1 radio on March 21, 2016. Frontman Simon Neil said the song "is about us being wolves on a patch and if you come onto that patch, we'll tear you limb-from-limb."
Neil told NME that the song was inspired by a David Attenborough documentary, "about these wolves who live on a patch of land, and whoever comes onto it, they're basically fair game."
He added: It's an attack song: it's me saying, 'Don't f--k with what we do' and sticking the fingers up to the people who said our band wouldn't last very long. I'm quite a negative person generally, although it's not normally a motivator for me, but there's definitely a few songs on this record directed towards people who've let us down, ripped us off, or f---ed us over."
The song starts with some chatter and the band laughing at something, before somebody shouts out "record this." Neil explained: "Because we sort of wanted to devolve with this album, we started recording everything. We were recording crickets outside our window every night. We recorded couples having arguments in the street, which is especially hilarious in LA."
"It was an influence that came from listening to hip-hop," he added, "the textures, the atmospherics, the weird sounds."
Biffy Clyro hired Rich Costey (Muse, Death Cab For Cutie) to produce Ellipsis and he immediately challenged the band. Simon Neil recalled: "We recorded the last three albums in a very traditional way, but Rich's thing is to challenge you, and that's 99% of the reason why we wanted to work with him.
On the first day of recording Ben (Johnston, drums) sat down to play 'Wolves of Winter' when Rich came in and took his bass drum, hi-hat and snare away, then went, 'Right, now play the song!' With other tracks, I'd lay down the final vocal before we'd even finished recording it. It was disconcerting, and we were freaked out at first: we sounded like some weird, cultish, hippy band who were sleeping next door to Mastodon! It made us unsure of ourselves, but that's important - I want to feel nervous, I want to feel excited, I want to be unsure if what we're doing is absolutely brilliant or complete s--t."
Bassist James Johnston said during a Guardian webcast that this is his favorite song to play live. He explained: "It's at the start of the set, and you're still in the position of not knowing how it's going to go - anything could happen and it usually does."
The Ellipsis album cover features the band naked, though their bits are carefully tucked away. Simon Neil told the BBC that the picture came about during a test shot at a photo shoot and he suggested it as "a bit of laugh."
"(Bassist) James was the first one to put his hand up and strip down and get the picture taken but there was something weird and intimate that it wasn't funny," he recalled. "There was just a power to it. Peoples reaction has surprise me. I expected a lot of mickey-taking but there's a sincerity to the picture that I think makes it something more than three Scotsmen with their bits out."
This is one of two or three songs on Ellipsis
to use imagery of wolves. "I think Simon (Neil) has always been fascinated by different animals," said James Johnston to ABC Radio
. "On a couple of records ago, it was all about horses, this time it's all about wolves."