It is getting harder and harder, as each day passes, to come up with an original name for your product, your restaurant, or your company... in these days of information overload, no combination of English words is safe from being trademarked or turned into a domain name. Many companies are forced to create meaningful, focus group tested new words... Accenture, Levitra, Viagra... restaurants are forced to scour the language for frugal non sequitur, taking on names like Gab, Two, and Ovum. And rock bands are the saddest subject... they are the most desperate to catch notice and stand out of the crowd.
This is one of my favorite times of year in Austin, when South by Southwest Music Festival brings us an international showcase of the best and worst band names in the world. I often wonder how rock bands, often incredibly dysfunctional families, settle on a name. Imagine if your family had to come up with a marketable name for itself... The Smiths is already taken, so what do you do? Well, you workshop it a bit... a brainstorming session where you write mission words on whiteboards. Maybe try to get some alliteration in there. Tired & The Tasmanian Devils. Bankroll & The DNA Receptacles. Early Birds & The Whippersnappers. See, at least you have something to draw from... bands have all the dysfunction and none of the glue, none of the history. They have to conjure their names from the ether.
Last year's Soup Peddler SXSW Band Name winner is still quite close to my heart, and difficult to beat... Crapulence. It says so much. Its literal denotation is "the state of being hung over". We can easily deduce the provenance of the name. But there is more... it is a concatenation of the words "Crap" and "Excellence", a wily reference to the notion that in the ironical world of rock and/or roll, failure is indeed the new success. This is a band name that you can easily visualize in Spinal Tap font, headlining a Monsters of Rock stadium tour. And yet, it is laced with humility. It is perfect.
This year's two thousand entrants into the Soup Peddler Band Name Contest gave me great joy. Most of the names caused me to picture the parents of the band members speaking with their co-workers. "So what is little Jimmy up to?" "Well, his band is doing well, they're going down to Austin to make it big." "What's his band's name?" "The Heathens." "Oh, that's... very nice. I remember him in the church choir, he was always such a charming young man."
So on to this year's contestants... it took me a good while to wade through the death theme... we have Dead Bodies, Dead Child, Deadly Syndrome, Dead Man, Dead Meadow, The Deaths, Death Ships, last year's Die! Die! Die!, Die Mannequin, and the slightly kinder, gentler The Comas. There's the R-rated section consisting of Holy S*#t, Holy F#&k, F#&ked Up, and two of the heavyweight contenders for this year's prize, Steaming Wolf P&*is and Psychedelic Horses^&t. We had a strong showing in the entertaining Intimidator Category, with entries from This Will Destroy You, I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch In The House, and How I Became The Bomb. A curious and disturbing pattern of obviously computer macro generated band names like Architecture in Helsinki, Art in Manila, Tennis and the Mennonites, and Muck and the Mires. The award for Best Comeback Band Name goes to Chairs of Perception, formerly The Urinals. Good call on that one.
The most positive development this year was the proliferation of cute, lighthearted band names. I was delighted by such entries as Mr. Pookie & Mr. Lucci, Mew, Best Fwends, Frightened Rabbit, Hot Puppies, Roxy Cottontail, Oh No! Oh My!, Two Cow Garage, and Mistress Stephanie And Her Melodic Cats. The Miscellany Category found some charmers like Tacks The Boy Disaster, the utterly odd Vashti Bunyan, The Faintest Ideas, Fake Problems, My!Gay!Husband!, Simian Mobile Disco, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, and the Victorian English Gentlemen's Club.
Let me wrap this up... the Grand Prize this year goes to an Austin band that has been in the competition for several years. Their name is so utterly packed with hopelessness that it makes you want to cry and rend your clothing. You want to save the band from their own black despondency, to cuddle them into a sense of optimism. This is their year... they've met with quite some critical acclaim of late and now this great kudo... the Soup Peddler's Grand Prize Band Name goes to...
I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness