What's in a band name? Here are the stories behind the monikers
So how do bands end up with their names? Is there a band-naming website? Well, yes, actually, but none of these acts needed it. Gavin Cumine gets etymological
Friday 11 April 2008
When Lou Reed moved into his new apartment in New York in the early Sixties he came across a book called The Velvet Underground, by Michael Leigh, which detailed various underground sexual practices of the early Sixties.
In 1977 post-industrial Manchester Ian Curtis was reading The House of Dolls by by Yehiel De-Nur. In the novel De-Nur describes joy divisions, which were, allegedly, groups of Jewish women in concentration camps during the Second World War kept for the sexual pleasure of Nazi soldiers.
In the early nineties the band The Rain were looking for a new lead singer and a change of name. They decided to take on local loudmouth Liam Gallagher as singer. Hanging on the wall of Liam's bedroom, which he shared with brother Noel, was an Inspiral Carpets tour poster. Noel at the time was a roadie for the band. On the poster was one of the venue's was the Oasis Leisure Centre in Swindon.
The beginning of any band's biography is their name. It is the starting point of a band that will accompany its sound for the rest of their career, through success and failure. Some band-names come around by coincidence, careful thought or just simply for the fact that it is a great combination of words that slip off the tongue easily. Here are some of the best stories behind the names.
There must be something in the water at the moment in Brooklyn as with every passing week a new band emerges with huge talent. Leaders of the pack are the Afrobeat quartet Vampire Weekend. After meeting at Columbia University, the band built a reputation playing at frat parties on campus. They took their name from a film the band made together. It tells the story of a boy named Walcott who is charged by an elder to dispatch a vampiric horde in Cape Cod and then escape. The song "Walcott" from their debut album details the plot of the film.
Does It Offend You, Yeah?
While at first it appears a bold statement of chav aggression the band's name is in fact a reference to TV's very own David Brent. While uploading their music onto MySpace, bandmates Joe and Dan realised they needed a name for their profile. They both decided that they would use the first thing they saw on TV. When they switched on Ricky Gervais spoke the words, "does it offend you, yeah? My drinking?". Joe and Dan settled on this with the happy coincidence being the fact that Ricky Gervais, like the band was from Reading.
The painfully à la mode Toronto duo Alice Glass and Ethan Kath take their name from the refuge of She Ra, the heroic female seen in the TV series She Ra: Princess of Power, a spin-off from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. She Ra and her refuge Crystal Castle were both produced in toy version by toy manufacturers Mattel. The band took inspiration from the song used in the commercial which included the lines: "The fate of the world is safe in Crystal Castles", and "Crystal Castles, the source of all power".
This dance-funk seven-piece are a public relations nightmare. While people's attention may be alerted by this band's odd name, when they can't find any search results on Google that presents a major problem. The band's name is inspired by the subtitles of 1980 film The Gods Must Be Crazy. Set in Botswana and South Africa it tells the story of Xi, a bushman. The band took inspiration from the mouth-clicking sounds of the bushmen which were represented as "!". The band explain that !!! can be pronounced by repeating any monosyllabic sounds three times, like "pow pow pow", "bam bam bam" or "uh uh uh". The most common of these is "chk chk chk".
These New Puritans
Southend-on-Sea angular art types and Dior Homme catwalk soundtrackers These New Puritans take their name from a combination of the song "New Puritan" by The Fall and a reference to the New Puritans literary movement of the early 2000s. The movement was said to have been inspired by the Dogme 95 film movement, and saw writers including Alex Garland and Toby Litt contribute short stories with the deliberate intention of shunning literary devices used by more established authors.
Cansei de Ser Sexy
To us simpleton Brits they are CSS and to their native Brazil they are "Tired of Being Sexy". When the band formed they enjoyed to party together, throwing a party every 15 days at a nightclub in Sao Paulo where Adriano Cintra worked. This was around the time Beyoncé released her song "Crazy In Love", a band favourite. When Cintra announced they had a gig they all realised they needed a name. The band heard that Beyoncé had said that she was tired of being sexy, which they all thought was an odd thing to say. So "tired of being sexy" became Cansei de Ser Sexy. The band put it on a flier to promote the show and the name stuck.
Hercules and Love Affair
Described as a "a pansexual mix for our troubled times" this exotic Brooklyn collective include a transsexual vocalist and a Hawaiian lesbian jewellery designer. The leader of the gang, Andrew Butler, began his musical career at 15, DJing in a Denver bar run by a hostess called Chocolate Thunder Pussy. Obsessed with Greek mythology, Butler's favourite story was the greek myth of Hercules, the strongest man on Earth. Butler was interested in the story about Hercules's love affair with another man, despite his many affairs with women. Thus the Hercules and Love Affair was born.
A large amount of people who now work 9-5 in offices across the land probably spent much of their childhood in front of a TV, mesmerised by a computer game called Street Fighter. Such childhood exploits are exhibited in the name of the futuristic grime band, who take their name from a special move performed by a character in the game called Ryu. His move is a giant ball of flaming energy, and when translated from Japanese means a "surge fist".
In Virginia Woolf's short story "The Mark on the Wall", a stream of consciousness exploration on the history behind an unexplained mark on a wall in a house, is the passage: "I wish I could hit upon a pleasant track of thought, a track indirectly reflecting credit upon myself, for those are the pleasantest thoughts, and very frequent even in the minds of modest, mouse-coloured people". Lead singer Jason Brock was reading the book at the time of his band's formation and was struck by the language and Woolf's combination of words, taking a combination of words for the name of his new band.
Falling somewhere between the genius of Borat and the drunken bar-room rabble of The Pogues, self-proclaimed gypsy-punks Gogol Bordello appeared as if out of nowhere from the Lower East Side of New York. Led by enigmatic Eugene Hutz the band was originally named "Hutz and the Béla Bartóks", using the name of the Hungarian composer and pianist. They eventually changed their name with Hutz taking ideological influence from Ukranian born Nikolai Gogol, due to the writer's success at smuggling Ukrainian culture into mainstream Europe, something Hutz wanted to achieve in the United States. In simple translation "bordello" refers to a brothel or, rather optimistically, a "gentlemans club".
My Morning Jacket
Formed in 1998 in Louisville, Kentucky, My Morning Jacket are purveyors of psychedelic hippie rock and the story behind their name has a element of the surreal and romantic that rivals any other you will hear. Years ago, while lead singer Jim James was visiting his old friends, his favourite student-hangout bar suddenly burnt down. When he arrived at the scene he wandered amongst the charred remains and came upon a discarded jacket. Inside the jacket were the stitched initials "MMJ", which James took to mean "My Morning Jacket", and liked.
The Mars Volta
Obsessed by science fiction, early Doctor Who episodes and general galactic exploration, the spacerock-latino-psychedelic prog rockers The Mars Volta were always likely to have a planet in their name. However the "Volta" of the name has an explanation that few would expect. Band leaders Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala are both massive cinema fans, especially of the experimental Italian director Federico Fellini's work. Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala decided to adopt the word "volta", which Fellini had used in one of his books to describe the changing of scene or a turnaround in time within a cinematic context.
Iceland's favourite sons have always entrenched themselves within their own world, writing songs in their made-up language called Hopelandic, which is a constructed language of nonsense syllables resembling the phonology of the Icelandic language. They have even brought out an album without any title, any song titles or any time divisions between the song tracks. While he was forming the band, guitarist and vocalist Jonsi Birgisson's mother gave birth to a daughter. She was named Sigurros, which when translated directly means "Victory Rose", and is a fairly common first name in Iceland. Jonsi took inspiration and decided upon the name.
Originally called Saracuse, when the Leicester band were spotted by a scout they decided upon a name change. At the time former band member, guitarist Chris Karloff, was reading a book about the Charles Manson cult. Linda Kasabian was a lover of Manson and the getaway driver at the famous Tate-LaBianca murders. She became the star witness in Vincent Bugliosi's prosecution case against Manson and his cult members, one of the highest-profile murder cases in American legal history. The band adopted the name instantly.
Manic Street Preachers
Formed in 1986 at Oakdale Comprehensive School, Blackwood, the band consisted of schoolfriends James Dean Bradfield, Sean Moore, Nicholas Allen Jones (better known as Nicky Wire) and rhythm guitarist Miles Woodward (or Flicker, and who would later be replaced by Ritchey Edwards). Originally named Betty Blue, after Jean-Jacques Beineix's film, the origins of the band's name is one of great mystery. The most-told story is that when busking on the streets of Cardiff one Saturday afternoon in the 1980's, Bradfield was called a "manic street preacher" by a passing tramp, or by one of the many street evangelical Christian preachers on Cardiff's Queen Street.
New Young Pony Club
The indie electronica act formed when mutual friends introduced singer Tahita Bulmer to guitarist Andy Spence. They set about writing and recruiting other band members and eventually signed to Modular records. As a child Bulmer had always wanted to be part of a club or a team, but was never very good at sports. She came up with the idea of a Pony Club, which she thought was quirky and sexy. However their was already a band called Pony Club in Ireland, so Bulmer decided to make the name newer and younger.
In 1894 the realist masterpiece Effi Briest was published. It is widely acknowledged as one of the most famous German novels of all time. Theodor Fontane's novel takes the story of protagonist Effi, the victim of circumstance and weaves a tale of the subordinate role of women in late 19th-century Germany as its subject. More than 100 years later an all-female septet from New York adopted the title of the novel, with the book becoming something of an oracle for band members, apparently asking the book various questions opening it on random pages for the answers. Additionally, the band have said that they are attempting to rewrite the character of Briest into the far future.
Dev Haynes has a history with curious band names. Growing up in Houston in Texas, Haynes eventually moved to London where he met Rory Attwell and Sam Mehran and formed the short-lived fuzz-rockers Test Icicles. The band's name was always a source of controversy, with the band formed as a sister band to Attwell and Mehran's band the bizarrely named Balls. Balls and Test Icicles disbanded, Dev Haynes matured and now makes music under the moniker of Lightspeed Champion, which comes from a series of comic strips Haynes did as a teenager in his school maths books.
When you announce that you are going to see a band called Black Kids, it will probably get a few raised eyebrows. The Florida five-piece, led by the brilliantly named Reggie Youngblood, formed in 2006 and when they decided upon a name they had a few reservations. However the term began to appear in the everyday lives of the band members such as Youngblood's favourite Hefner song, "The Baggage Reclaim Song". It was also a reference to the difficulties people have talking about race. Bassist Owen Holmes recently spoke of when he worked at a local supermarket where he found an email sent to the mayor of Jacksonville's office complaining about kids playing basketball and being loud. Holmes noted that the kids were referred to as "kids who play basketball", when what was clearly meant was "young black males".
When Nick Hodgson, Simon Rix, Ricky Wilson and Andrew White all met they decided to form a band, which they named Runston Parva, a name derived from the miss-spelling of the Yorkshire village Ruston Parva. The band failed and when Hodgson's friends Simon Rix and Nick "Peanut" Baines, arrived back from university, Hodgson reformed the band and shortened the band name to Parva. The band were signed, but the record label went bust. The band regrouped, and decided upon a change of direction, with new songs and new name. All the band members were Leeds United fans and at the time the captain of the team was the South African Lucas Radebe. A team Radebe previously played for was South African side Kaizer Chiefs. The band changed the "z" to an "s" and made the name their own.
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