What’s In A Name? Everything.
When Juliet said this back in the 50s or 60s (of the 1500s that is), I imagine there was little variation in terms of the bands playing the Verona live circuit, and besides; she was talking more about her boyfriend’s creed then the collective name of himself and his other music playing mates (has anyone ever named their band the Capulets? Because frankly I think that would be wonderful. And then they could have an enormous feud with ‘The Montagues’ whilst English Literature students around the world rejoice), so she may be excused for ignoring the wider implications of this statement. But when it comes to the 21st century, musical roses’ scents are very much affected by their names.
Yes, Bombay Bicycle/Two Door Cinema Club/ofwgkta are examples of a trend of daft names that tell you absolutely nothing about a band’s music (the former band have actively admitted to hating their own name) but the unnecessarily complex nature of each of these names is something that attracts teenagers; it’s the antithesis to the overexposed “here’s my name, and that’s my face on the album cover, and that’s my arse/breasts/abbs/etc in the music video”-vibe that modern chart music gives off. I guarantee you that if Dan Black (look up symphonies on youtube) had named his project “magician’s quarters” or some other pointless shit, he would have headlined Brixton academy at some point in the recent past.
A fair argument could be made that the name of a band is entirely unimportant, because it is the music that gives said group an identity; the name ‘Pulp’ hardly evokes British wit and hard truths packaged with a perfect mixture of class and sleaze, but the monosyllabic name has acted as a blank canvas to Jarvis Cocker’s idiosyncratic brit pop. The same can be said of ‘blur’ and ‘muse,’ but the list of bands whose name has been shaded in by their music is dwarfed by those who fulfil the opposite.
Take Wild Beasts, for an example. Their music is rhythmically gentle and intricate, especially when coupled with the bands’ rich vocals. However, the aspect of their songs that make them so exciting is the juxtaposition that the aggressive, sexually toned lyrics strike; and it is thanks to the name ‘Wild Beasts’ that these are so obvious. The name’s animalistic and hormonal connotations mean that when you turn on a song like “she purred whilst I grred” it is only natural to expect sexual aggression. When this isn’t obviously prevalent on the surface, you have to delve further into their music to find shades of it, therefore heightening the listening experience. Other chilled out bands such as Warpaint and The Knife have benefitted from having the undertones of violence in their music being brought to the surface by their names; a simple contrast between moniker and style goes a long way.
On the flip side, there’s a reason that of all the class of 2004-2007’s graduates of guitar rock (bar the Arctic Monkeys, whose name falls into the aforementioned pointless category) only Kasabian are still packing out arenas and getting good album reviews. When you’re named after a member of a famous psychopathic 60s cult who murdered a Hollywood starlet, the slight weirdness of your music that makes it special is accentuated, allowing you to blast out gargantuan riffs and sing lines such as “I’m a king and she’s my queen BITCH” safe in the knowledge that you’re immune to student scepticism.
Band’s names are important, so next time you drunkenly decide to name your group Gay For Johnny Depp or Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head (google them), or feel determined that the name given to you by your parents at birth is just fine, then by all means go ahead. Just realise you’re not doing yourself any favours.