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A Band by Any Other Name Would Sound as Sweet

by Will Wlizlo


Tags: bands, band names, rock, music, Chicago Tribune, SFWeekly, Wired, arts, Will Wlizlo,

band-nameEven for a music snob, it’s hard to keep up with the constant influx of new bands and their increasingly obscure names. Just sample a few current oddities: Mel Gibson & the Pants, Hunx and His Punx, The Tony Danza Tap Dance Extravaganza, Ramadanman, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Wolves in the Throne Room, Shabazz Palaces, Yuck. That’s exactly the point of Chicago Tribune’s Mark Caro, who—in an age of 14 million musical acts registered on MySpace—laments the bygone days of simple band names.

“Snowflakes fluttered down, lightning flashed and inspiration for a brilliant new band name struck,” writes Caro, describing a swiftly-dashed rock-epiphany. “Thundersnow.”

Mind you, I don’t actually have a band, but in my rock-geek fantasy life, I’m constantly in search of the perfect band name, so I vetted this one in the commonly accepted 21st century method: I Googled it.

Sure enough, not only is there a Madison, Wis., rock band called Thundersnow on MySpace but also a Rochester, N.Y., metal band named ThunderSnow.

Sigh. This seems to be the case with just about any clever band name you might come up with.

Ever helpful, the snarky folks over at SFWeekly compiled a list of words not to use when brainstorming your band’s new moniker. On the list: magic, crystal, bear, black, and teen.

Bands from a new genre called witch house—a spooky, throbby, sample-heavy variant of electronica—are sidestepping the problem completely. “A growing number of artists” writes Wired’s Angela Watercutter, “have found that by using symbols in their name they can make it to the top of playlists even if they’re not ranked at the top of Google results.” She explains:

Using crazy characters to subvert the music industry isn’t entirely novel. Prince did it when he became prince-symbol. MIA made a similar move by calling her latest album /\/\ /\ Y /\. But the new symbolists, like doppleganger-symbol and glassteeth-symbol, are not only hard for search engines to unearth but also nearly impossible to talk about offline (how do you pronounce “crosses-symbol” again?).

Perhaps, though, we’ve entered a new phase of music culture in which getting your name out there isn’t (exactly) the point. “[F]or those in the know, the names create a parallel universe,” writes Watercutter. “On Last.fm stations, MySpace pages, blogs, and Vimeo channels, tracking down one artist can lead to dozens more. It’s a highly engineered musical underground hidden in plain sight.”

Sources: Chicago Tribune, SFWeekly, Wired 

Image by kainet, licensed under Creative Commons. (For what it's worth, the pictured band is called Habeus Corpus.)