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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Band Name Do's And Don'ts (you didn't know there were rules?)

Band Name Do's and Don't's


The DNA Vibrator

DNA has been waiting a while for this topic. In past posts, DNA has explained how its first band, the Nightsoil Coolies was named. It has also described the circumstances around naming the band CRANK. In its blog, it discussed how Monster Truck and DNA Vibrators were named. Below are some of the rules, and their exceptions, that you might want to keep in mind when you name your band.

When you tell someone your name, their first question, usually unspoken, is, "Why the fuck would you choose a retarded name like that?" The name you choose for the band, the process you go through to attempt to describe your collective identity, is, some say, of paramount importance. Others say it means shit. DNA is of the opinion that a name is important. It's what you hang your reputation on, its the ease that your sick little brand of music slides off the tongue and into the ear of unsuspecting listeners, it's the name that's thought-provoking, but not pretentious, simple yet profound, fun and socially conscious, at once, YOU, but nothing like who you really are. It's either the name you can imagine a radio DJ saying in between bands like the Screaming Trees and Moorcheeba, or it's the name which gets your demo dumped in the trash bin faster than three day old guacomole. "What's the name of that group? 'Branded?' Cool." Or, "What's the name of that group? 'The Leotard Penguins?' Who'd they lose a bet with?"

(Okay. This always happens. When you attempt to give an example of how not cool something can be, it always works against you. For example, DNA would much rather see the 'Leotard Penguins' than 'Branded.' 'Branded' sounds cliche already--fightin' the corporate man, but commercialized no matter what. Now, the 'Leotard Penguins,' they are cool, cuz, you see, normal penguins wear tuxedos.) By the way, both of those names are now officially licensed as DNA Vibrator creations. Please contact Brainmilk Publishing for the rights to those hot pieces of property.

DNA has always viewed naming a band as one of the more important things the three, or four, or however many of you there are, will do as a group. Group identity ties into the whole tribal thing that being in a band represents. The best part of the Coolies, Monster Truck, CRANK, and the DNA Vibrators is that each group represented a unique experience that only we band members shared. No matter how lame we might have been, no one else did what we did. Band of brothers, man, band of brothers.

Without further ado, here are some band name DO'S and DON'T'S

DNA knows that every example it gives is already used. And some of you will like them. That's okay. It's okay to like retarded stuff. DNA likes retarded stuff too.

1. DON'T name your band something with "the" in the title: The Bolshoi, for example. "The" indicates uniqueness. Especially in music, there is nothing new under the sun. In The Bolshoi's case, they were named after the actual bolshoi, so their name really wasn't factual. Fucking liars.

2. DON'T alliterate: Screaming Mimi's, Screeching Weasels, for examples. alliteration is a trap---to give a sing-song-y feel to something nonsensical. The alliteration is a thin veil of what on the surface sounds interesting, but is actually verbal buffoonery.

3. DON'T cash in on somebody else's cultural cache: The Timothy Learys, for example. The Timothy Learys are not the musical embodiment of Timothy Leary.

4. DON'T use words or phrases coined or made famous by someone else: Nerf Herder, for example. ripped from Star Wars. If they are going to rip from Star Wars, then why didn't they just call themselves Darth Vader, for fuck's sake? DNA would have respected that, at least. Again, don't get DNA wrong. DNA liked Nerf Herder. By the way, how did George Lucas get away with that? Nerf is a trademarked term, which he used as an epithet from Leia to Han in the second movie. Nerf should be making dough from that. This name also suffers from alliteration.

5. DON'T double a word for effect: Talk Talk, Mister Mister, DURAN DURAN. What the fuck ever. Again, you may like those bands, but the names suck. However, it is important to remember that for every rule, there are always exceptions. In fact, it is exceptions that really fuck up using that convention for anyone else. For example, The The: Breaks three rules: No "the," no alliteration, and no doubling up words. However, The The was cool. Too cool.

6. DON'T, absolutely do not, use "z's" "x's" or "y's" in place of the actual letters that spell a word. Unless your band name is XXYZZXX, or ZZAZZAXX, or something like that.

7. DO reject out of hand those names that always come up, but thankfully are always shot down by someone in the band whose IQ is greater than 60: No band names like "Free Beer," or "Naked Girls." You see, wouldn't it be funny if, huh huh, we were called "Free Beer," and like, the bar owner had to put our name up on their sign, and huh huh, everybody would come because they were advertising Free Beer. Yes, uninitiated, this kind of name comes up at least once in every serious conversation about band names. Musicians are simple people, in the main.

8. DON'T use acronyms, or letters strung together to spell a word, like in code: U2, INXS, UTFO!!! DNA is only slightly ashamed to admit it likes all three. But that's enough. What you string together will not be as cool. So stop yourself now.

9. DON'T create machismo or shock value names: "Harder Than You," "Septic Death," or "Cannibal Corpse," for example. Please. Again, DNA finds some of their music interesting, but DNA has never understood this trend for band names. "Our music is EXTREME!!" Okay. We got it. Guess what? It follows the same basic structure and pattern as all Western music. You use the commonly accepted instruments to convey the same banal message, "nobody understands me," or "fear me, because I am an individual too strong to be tamed by society." There was one band DNA really liked, called "Devastation." Their album was called "A Creation of Ripping Death." DNA always thought, "Really? Cool songs, but DNA senses no ripping death here." Once DNA heard the band name Devastation, it always thought Devastation Wagon would have been so much better. So now, you see the avenue down which DNA treads with band names.

10. DO upset the applecart. Not necessarily with the intent to offend, but bands with names like Turbonegro have got that figured out.

11. Don't name yourselves after the city you are from, or the city you identify with, or for that matter, the state or country of which you are a citizen. Boston, Kansas, Chicago, gulp, even Manhattan Transfer. Great bands. You really think you got the musical chops to hang with those guys and make the music which personifies YOUR city for everyone like they did? Didn't think so, either.

12. DO find something relevant which means something to you and your band.

13. Do anticipate what people will think when they hear your name, and capitalize on that perception. If you are really good, you will create a name which resonates with a large group of people. One thing to remember, if you are good, and you "miss" with your name, even a suck ass name will not sink your group. Nirvana, great name, captured the zeitgeist of a generation. Pearl Jam, name sucks donkey balls, was perceived as too pretentious and derivative for their own good. However, this name did not kill them. They backed off from the press, gained a little dignity and respect, and commenced to make some pretty good songs on their own terms.

14. DO try out several until you find the one that fits. When DNA was tyring to figure out how to name its eponymous band, DNA tried several things out first. DNA said to AfroDJYak, "I've been trying to think of a name. It needs to be weird, something that throws you off kilter, and something that means something different the more you think about it." Because the first song that became a DNA song was God Made Us Funky, and it originally had a very mechanical, industrial feel, DNA leaned towards names that incorporated mechanical and biological functions, or some twisted, mutated function. So the first names were ones that had been circulating in DNA's head for some time. "What do you think of Brainmilk?"

AfroDJYak was pretty noncommittal. "Uh," but "uh" said volumes. DNA continued. "You know, like if they squeezed some brains, and you caught the juice in a cup, that would be Brainmilk." AfroDJYak suggested, "How about Circle of Willis?" "Interesting�" DNA said, "brain related (look it up), but I just don�t know." "How about the Hard-ons?" "Already a band." "The Eyelobes?" "Weird!"

DNA had another one waiting. "How about DNA Vibrators?" AfroDJYak asked, "What is that supposed to mean?" "Well," DNA said, "I have been thinking, you know how a vibrator, well vibrates? And is a substitute for a dick? We need something like that for the gene pool. Something that would fuck us right in the genes, and revitalize us in every way. But, we can't depend on ourselves to do it. Devo was right. (this was the second song DNA wrote) The fittest shall survive, yet the unfit may live."

And so the name was born. Since then, scientists have actually coined several terms which use the words dna and vibrator together. There is a dna vibrator table, there is a vibrator mutation in a certain gene. Which brings us to an important DO for band names:

15. Do coin a name which will be adopted by others in the same community which inspired you to begin with.

16. Don't name yourself an unpronounceable symbol,Prince. In the same vein, (17) don't name yourself something that is a bunch of recognizable letters, but arranged in an unpronounceable way, Mr. Mxyzptlk. In both cases, DNA truly understands and appreciates why the name is what it is. But in another case of "ruined it for everybody else" hang it up, Artist Formerly Known As The Screaming Cheetah Wheelies. (Please note, DNA loved the SCW, and looks forward to hearing the new band, Stack.)

There are some artists who can use their name as the band's name (since we were talking about Prince a second ago, and it seems that Prince's name is all over his bands, one should note that using your name as a band name is not exactly what DNA is talking about. Prince is always Prince, or Prince and the {fill in the blank}; his groups were never called "the Prince Band"). An example of this kind of band name is the Derek Trucks Band. In Derek's case, though, this isn't pretentious. If you are going to see Derek, it really doesn't matter who the fuck else is in the band. The same could be said for Bruce Springsteen, but Bruce always had that garden state sensibility which said to make sure and mention the working class, the E Street Band. However, when Bruce toured without the E-Street Band, it wasn't Bruce Springsteen and the Wild Monkey Fuckers, or whoever he toured with. Nobody cared. It also wasn't the "Bruce Springsteen Band." There are some artists with enough clout to call the band the "Their Name Band." Is that you? Doubtful. Case in point: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, or the Joan Jett Band? Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, or the Tom Petty Band? Even the most famous people sound too pretentious to stomach when the band is their fucking name. With all due respect to the Kimi Hayes Band, what do all the other people in the band do? Kimi's laundry? Do they have no creative spark at all? Sure, they are cool with the name. It pays the bills. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, you are not.

In this same category, but actually even worse, is the band which once was a unified whole that becomes pulled apart by media or other forces. So, unofficially, Smashing Pumpkins became Billy Corgan and Smashing Pumpkins. At the end (before the reunions) it became Sting and the Police. Gwen Stefani and No Doubt. Resist this temptation to be hailed as the star, even if you are a genius. What it ends up sounding like is "Pretentious and the heads-up-the-asses losers who, like a bunch of rubbers, were there when you needed protection, but are useless now that you want to ride bareback." Don't fuck over the people who helped make you a star, Gwen.

18. DON'T use a predicate verb phrase or some other phrase that denotes action as your band name. This seems to be a trend with aggro/metal bands. Names in this category include Breaking Benjamin, Torture The Living, Violate the Innocent, Invitation To A Funeral and shit like that. Of course, Captured By Robots is the band which spoiled this naming trick for the rest of us. If you were an Anthrax tribute band, being called "Caught in a Mosh" would be okay.

FINALLY, here are a couple of more of the most important band name DONT'S:

19. DON'T use a sex toy in the name of your band. The Strap-Ons may be good, but DNA just doesn�t want to listen to them.

20. DON'T use scientific terms in your band name: Polymorphism, for example, will never be cool. However, if they changed their name to Polly Morphism, now that would be the shit.

21. DON'T combine sex toys and scientific terminology together in your band�s name.

Finally, 22: NEVER be hypocritical. Don't tell people one thing and do something else in your band's name. Nobody will respect you for that. They will see right through you. The exception to these last few rules? Why, THE DNA VIBRATORS OF COURSE!!!!

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