Any rock combo can claim huge groups of fans or friend counts on MySpace pages.
“But I wonder how many have an actual catch phrase?” muses Scotsman Simon Neil, scratching his beard.
Friday, opening for Say Anything) has followers — who’ve christened themselves Team Biffy — who hail the band with a signature “Mon the Biffy!” salute.
“It’s basically a soccer chant in the U.K., like‘Mon the Kelly!’ or whatever, and people just started shouting it at our gigs,” says the frontman, who typically ends his sets drenched in sweat and shirtless.
“And it just took on a life of its own. It was something that one guy started in our hometown; he came to our first shows and just started shouting it, until it caught on.”
There aren’t any rules for wielding the words? Neil, 28, laughs: “No. You can just fling it out at any point. Now it happens when we’re just walking down the street at home, people stop and yell ‘Mon the Biffy!’ at us.”
“Puzzle,” the band’s fourth, breakthrough album, ranked at No. 1 on Kerrang Magazine’s best of 2007 list, and that was cool. But coolness was a rare commodity, growing up in the tiny Scottish hamlet of Ayr. When Neil formed his outfit with the Johnston brothers — bassist James and drummer Ben — the teen guitarist chose the nonsensical name Biffy Clyro, thinking himself quite clever.
“And we’ve been paying for that one ever since,” he deadpans.
“But we’ve always been quite awkward, and we thought ‘Let’s have a name that could be either a folk singer, a pop singer, a jazz band — it could be anything.’ So it was just to confuse people, really, since we were such wee, awkward bastards.”
Neil has matured into quite an arcane composer. “Puzzle” (Roadrunner) opens with the intricate percussion/string assault of “Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies” and doesn’t slow until the closing acoustic “Machines.” In between, the artist does his lyrical best to make sense of his mother’s recent passing.
“You think there’s a happily ever after, but life’s not like that,” he says. “And death makes you more aware of what matters to you, what you really care about. It’s just sad that it often takes atragedy for people to get that realization.”
But he has Team Biffy for backup. “And it’s just amazing that people are connecting with our music so much that they want to be a part of Biffy Clyro,” he says. But it’s with one caveat. “We don’t have big egos or anything, so when people finally meet us, we probably just seem kind of ordinary. So we’re very much just normal guys, hoping the music we make is extraordinary.”
IF YOU GO
Biffy Clyro opening for Say Anything
Where: The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Contact: (415) 421-8497, (415) 346-6000 or www.ticketmaster.com
Note: Manchester Orchestra and Weatherbox are also on the bill.