What’s in a name? If you’re in a band, it’s the most important marketing tool next to your music that you’ve got. KERA’s Stephen Becker spoke with North Texas musicians headed to Austin to play at South by Southwest about the tricky process of naming yourself:
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In 1979, Carl Finch was considering names for a polka band. And even he knew his favorite style of music wasn’t exactly considered hip.
Carl Finch: “So we wanted to think of the most un-cool term for a group at the time. And ‘combo’ was the word that parents would use to describe a group or a band. But we also felt like we couldn’t just make it totally goofy. We couldn’t call it the sauerkraut combo.”
No, he knew playing polkas would also require some guts. And he wanted that reflected in the name, too.
Thirty years later, Denton’s Brave Combo is still playing those polkas. It’s all the proof musicians need that naming your band is important business.
Anyone who’s tried to name something, whether a child or a pet or a boat, know inspiration can come from a variety of places. Sometimes, the words just come from nowhere, like a gift from God.
On a trip to California, Chris Johnson was writing down directions to pick up a van. One of the steps was “turn on to Telegraph Canyon Road.”
He knew instantly that Telegraph Canyon was perfect for his new Fort Worth band.
Chris Johnson: “That name sums it up. Communication in space. That’s what good music is.”
Jason Reichl says it’s important that a band’s name evokes its music. In essence, that’s your brand. The name Giggle Party, he says, pegs his band perfectly.
Jason Reichl: “For us, we hope when someone hears that name, they can think this is probably going to be fun and kind of like a happy birthday adult kinda sing along.”
But not everyone thinks so literally. After all, the world of music is littered with nonsensical names. Really, what do Coldplay or U2 or Aerosmith even mean?
Still, having an abstract name can allow a developing band to become whatever it will.
Denton guitarist Nathan Allen says that he and his bandmates texted around made-up words until something just felt right. They eventually settled on Seryn.
After that, he knew the next step was passing what he calls “the Google test.” As in, when people search for us online, what are they going to find?
Allen says Seryn’s online competition turned out to be pretty slim.
ALLEN: “There’s a cat in New York that’s got a lot of videos on YouTube of her doing things like playing the violin or drinking milk or watching TV. And then, there’s a baby named Seryn, and there’s like 300 videos of the first three years of her life.”
Giggle Party was less fortunate. After settling on the name, Reichl later learned that a nasty computer virus and adult business also had the same name.
But he takes it all in stride.
REICHL: “We’d like to think that now we’re the official soundtrack of people with the virus or attending sex parties. We try to promote that as much as possible.”
If you can’t find a name that either says something about your band or just feels right, you can always take the third route and just go with a name people will remember.
Toby Pipes was watching TV one night searching for inspiration. Of all places, he found it on a show talking about essential items for women. No. 1 on the list: the Little Black Dress.
Ubiquity has its advantages.
PIPES: “It’s around so much that when it comes up, people think about your band once or twice a day. … When you hear someone say it, someone might think, ‘I haven’t thought of that band in a while, I wonder what they’re doing?’”
Plus, at this point in music history, a lot of names have been claimed.
PIPES: “Everyone can’t be the Smiths anymore, or you can’t be Duran Duran. Or the Cure, or the Police. All the good ones are taken.”
That is until the perfect name comes along. And that’s when we all wonder, “how come nobody’s thought of this one before?”
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