by Beau Hebert
Dear The Beauster,
I’m in a band that’s starting to get some attention, but we still don’t have a name. Every time we try to agree on something it’s as if every band name that might work for us has already been claimed. I’d describe our music as Indie Rock with edgy guitar and strong harmonies. Can you help us out here?
Georgetown Rocker Lacking a Proper Moniker
Dear G-T-R Lacking a P M,
Having been in a few bands myself, I understand your dilemma – there’s so much in a name! Beyond transmitting information about you to others, names themselves come to hold power over the very people and things for which they are named. If I had been named “Vladimir,” instead of “The Beauster,” I’d probably be the despotic ruler of a small island-nation rather than the writer of this advice column. Legend has it that the band “The Goo Goo Dolls” wanted to be called “Sex Maggots.” Unfortunately, they recorded their major hit, Iris, as the Goo Goo Dolls and were stuck with it forever. We can assume that the baby-gibberish quality of their name influenced every bit of music they ever went on to produce. Proceed with caution.
The importance of your band’s name cannot be overstated as it will shape an audience’s expectations of your music and message. The name of heavy metal band “Pig Destroyer,” conveys a radically different emotion and set of associations than that of “DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.” The name of female punk band “The Slits,” has an undeniable je ne sais quoi but it is the extreme opposite je ne sais quoi of “Hootie and The Blowfish.” “Bananarama” makes me crave ice cream and glitter, while “Meat Puppets” makes me itchy. “Spandau Ballet” makes me want to shed tears into an urn of merlot, while “Screeching Weasel” makes me want to chug Robitussin on a water slide. “Nickelback” leaves me confused and slightly angry.
In consideration of the incredibly broad spectrum of band name possibilities, selecting one that speaks to your audience without being limiting or defining – yet propels you to rock – is a daunting task. Certain helpful tricks do exist. For an Indie rock band, most combinations of citrus fruit and Hindu Deity work well enough, i.e. Vishnu Tangelo or Kumquat Shiva. Since you describe your band as “edgy,” try combining orthodonture equipment with the word brigade: “Buccal Tube Brigade,” “Weingart Plier Brigade,” or “Ligating Module Brigade.” Too clinical? Throw together celestial objects with words that express emptiness: Hollow Sky, Vacant Sun, Orion Desolation. If the name you generate is already being used by a rock outfit from Manchester, England, simply attach “The New” to the front of your name, i.e. “The New Kumquat Shiva,” or “The New Hollow Sky.”
Above all else, avoid the Indie Rock trap of incorporating an animal into your band name in some weak, totemistic nod to the world of nature. We’re talking Fleet Foxes, Arctic Monkeys, Modest Mouse, Grizzly Bear, Band of Horses, The Bats, The Wombats, White Rabbits, The Sea Urchins, New Buffalo, etc. We all know you’re just a bunch of dudes in skinny jeans as far removed from nature as your music is from a set of balls. Now get out there and cautiously set the Rock world on fire at a tautly-controlled, low-flame setting with your elaborate bank of effects pedals, infectious harmonies & trite sentiment.
Prescription from the back bar pharmacy at Jude’s Old Town: Rock Star Cocktail – Cinnamon Schnapps, sloe gin, triple-sec, jagermeister & rum. Take as a shot then chase with biting the head off a bat.
Overheard at the bar: “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if the wood was really light, like balsa?”
Beau Hebert is the owner of Jude’s Old Town in Rainier Beach and Lottie’s Lounge in Columbia City.
Featured image by Alex Garland