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When it comes to band monikers, there’s a fine line be­tween cool and fool. Just ask the guys in The Hype. Kevin Court­ney traces the his­tory of the band name

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Cover Story -

WOULD you buy an album Out Out? The what? by a band called Johnny & Look­ing at the sorry state of band names the Self Abusers? Would th­ese days – and lis­ten­ing to some of their you queue up to see The even sor­rier songs – you’d be for­given for Hype at Slane Cas­tle? How think­ing mu­si­cians sit around all day rear­would you greet the news that The New rang­ing un­con­nected words into unlovely Yard­birds were get­ting back to­gether (miper­mu­ta­tions when they re­ally should be nus their drum­mer, who died in 1980)? writ­ing de­cent tunes. And, hear­ing good How do you view the Sey­mour v Oa­sis bands with bad names such as The View spat? Would you re­mem­ber see­ing The Hiand The Twang, you can only con­clude Num­bers, the ’N Be­tweens, the Mul­lanes they were so fever­ishly busy mak­ing great and The Cran­berry Saw-Us on Top of the Pops?

The above ques­tions are purely aca­demic, be­cause Sim­ple Minds, U2, Led Zep­pelin, Blur, The Who, Slade, Crowded House and The Cran­ber­ries were shrewd enough to dis­card their orig­i­nal names and go for some­thing with more com­mer­cial clout, that would trip off the tongue, look good on an LP cover and serve as an iden­ti­fi­able brand. Like that 1970s bub­blegum band, Mud, they wanted a name that would stick.

Not all bands are so savvy. The rock world is stuffed with badly named bands who are doomed to cult­dom by their un­wieldy moniker, or bands whose names are so pedes­trian, they get lost in the mu­si­cal mosh­pit.

Some bands are so damn good, though, not even a crap name can scut­tle their chances. Jour­nal­ists re­cently re­ceived a promo CD of a hotly an­tic­i­pated new album by a band called Sticky Ro­mance. The name was ac­tu­ally an ana­gram, dreamed up to dis­guise the band’s true iden­tity, just in case the CD fell into the wrong hands.

If you thought Sticky Ro­mance was a rub­bish name, un­ravel the let­ters and you might find the real name isn’t much bet­ter. Still, the album has shot straight to No 1 – good news for those four Sh­effield lads, and good news for the grow­ing num­ber of acts seem­ingly locked in a bat­tle to see who can come up with the sil­li­est band name around. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah? Can­sei de Ser Sexy? The Shout Out Out mu­sic, they didn’t have time to think of a name, and in­stead just tagged any old moniker on as an af­ter­thought.

As MyS­pace be­cames over­crowded, it’s get­ting harder to hit on a great band name that hasn’t al­ready been taken. The Killers must have pinched them­selves when no one stepped for­ward with a lawyer in tow, al­though the orig­i­nal Au­dioslave, a no­mark UK band, must have scratched their heads in be­muse­ment when Chris Cornell and the re­main­ing mem­bers of Rage Against the Ma­chine of­fered them a big wad of cash for the name. They did the sen­si­ble thing: took the money and ran with a dif­fer­ent moniker.

If you’ve just formed a band, writ­ten a bunch of sure­fire hits, de­vel­oped your fash­ion­able drug habit but still haven’t found a name, there’s help in store on the In­ter­net. Just visit www.band­namemaker. com and pull a name straight out of cy­berspace. Click the gen­er­a­tor but­ton to ex­plore a vast data­base of words and come up with the per­fect name for your band.

I hit the but­ton and was of­fered Sniff Ex­plode, Psy­chotic Priest, Thirsty Chim­ney, Anorexic Labia, Milk­ing Pro­ba­tion and Pop­si­cle of the Nut­meg. You can also put in your own word, which the gen­er­a­tor will in­cor­po­rate into the name. I typed in my own sur­name and came up with Skanky Court­ney & the Parts. Look out for us at ma­jor fes­ti­vals this sum­mer.

Fads and fash­ions in band-nam­ing are con­stantly chang­ing, but there are a num­ber of key­words which tend to re­cur, such as Blue, Gun, Kill, Eye, Drug, God, Dead, Stone, Je­sus and, oddly enough, Fish. Bands want to con­vey a god­like qual­ity, an epic vi­sion, a sense of im­por­tance and a hint of de­bauch­ery and dev­ilry be­neath the hand­some, sex­u­ally po­tent sur­face. Some­how, Gerry & the Pace­mak­ers just doesn’t con­vey that com­bi­na­tion.

There’s a world of dif­fer­ence be­tween a de­lib­er­ately silly band name and a de­lib­er­ately oblique one. Cult bands such as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, God Speed You, Black Em­peror and the like didn’t just pull their names out of a ran­dom band gen­er­a­tor. When a band picks a strange, in­scrutable name, they’re send­ing a mes­sage out to po­ten­tial fans: “We’re not just any old or­di­nary band. We’re clever, ed­u­cated and avant garde, and our mu­sic won’t ap­peal to the Great Un­washed. You can trust us not to sell out, have a big cheesy hit record or duet with Madonna at Live Earth.” Ei­ther that, or they wanted to re­duce the odds on their name be­ing al­ready taken.

Still, un­less you want to lan­guish for­ever in cult­dom, it’s im­por­tant to think about what you want your band name to con­vey, and what kind of au­di­ence you want to ap­peal to.

“It’s a bit like choos­ing a name for your baby. You’ve got to get it right, be­cause you may be stuck with it for­ever,” says brand­ing ex­pert Kr­ishna De. “Is it go­ing to res­onate with peo­ple, and is it go­ing to

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