Some band names bear a striking resemblance to one another. Black Dice and Black Eyes, Calexico and Califone, Sum 41 and Stroke 9—the list goes on. It’s not so often, however, that two acts with really similar monikers play the same venue within a matter of weeks. On Sunday, (Jan. 17), fledgling Chapel Hill psychedelic-rock act Minor Stars take the stage at the Cake Shop to perform songs in advance of a debut album, The Death Of The Sun In The Silver Sea. Less than two weeks later—on Saturday Jan. 30—Boston psych stalwarts Major Stars are at Cake Shop to perform an album release show for a new album, Return To Form.
Overjoyed by such serendipity, The A.V. Club wanted to ask each band about the other—and did so with varying degrees of success. Reached by phone, Wayne Rogers of Major Stars expressed minor amusement and bewilderment at Minor Stars, but the thrill over our investigative premise was short-lived and follow-up calls proved fruitless. Meanwhile, Minor Stars seemed at least a little more game. Lead singer Eric Wallen of Minor Stars graciously indulged The A.V. Club, and discussed how he came upon his band name and what he thinks of his quasi-doppelganger.
The A.V. Club: What was the band-naming process like for Minor Stars?
Eric Wallen: Every band is going to tell you that naming a band sucks. It’s just a really hard thing to do. I formed a band with a bunch of friends, and over many months we wrote down probably 150 names or phrases that caught our attention and put them on a spreadsheet. And the only one we could really agree on was Death Of The Sun. So that’s what we went by for a while. The other members ended up moving on, and when it came time to finish an album and regroup with other members, it was clear to me I wanted to change the name. We got a lot of feedback that Death Of The Sun sounded like a metal band. It kind of threw people off. I always thought of it as an epic, celestial thing—a brightly burning sun in the sky—but others didn’t. So I reverted to what was always my favorite: Minor Stars. It was the only name I had no reservations about. I was trying to capture a psychedelic-rock sound, but also have it be catchy.
AVC: Did you know there was a band called Major Stars?
EW: No. Last year was the first year I’d heard the band, on our local station in Chapel Hill. I was like, “What?! There’s a band called Major Stars?” Had Minor Stars not been the first name out of all the hundreds that I really loved—and that somehow emotionally fit with the music—I might not have kept it. But I said, “It’s really close, but I like the name, I’m going to keep it.” I just hope there aren’t any problems.
[At this point, The A.V. Club played Wallen a song by Major Stars called “Black Road."]
AVC: What did you think?
EW: We have a song called “Black Lake,” so I was a little shocked at first. It looked like I was ripping them off left and right. I really dig the sound. They say they’re psychedelic rock, and that’s pretty much like us. I’m a big fan of the guitar work. It seems like in a lot of these songs, the two lead guitars go crazy. And in one of them, that dueling lead thing sounded like the end of “Free Bird,” which I thought was kind of cool. You have that dissonant riff in the beginning, leading right into the vocals and the guitar. [Makes riff noises.] The voice is good, the songs are good.