AVQ&A: Imaginary Band Names
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Welcome back to AVQ&A;, where we throw out a question for discussion among the staff and readers. Consider this a prompt to compare notes on your interface with pop culture, to reveal your embarrassing tastes and experiences, and to ponder how our diverse lives all led us to convene here together. Got a question you'd like us and the readers to answer? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week's question: What would you name your imaginary band?
I asked this question because I've had a long-running joke with a friend that when we finally form a band, it'll be called Pinwheeling Varmint Heads, largely because we like the sound of the words. The original idea came from a long-ago conversation where he told me about how his father had a friend with a farm, and a prairie-dog infestation that periodically required culling. So the friend's dad and his buddies used to go out to the farm and shoot prairie dogs with a 5.56mm rifle—a ridiculously large-bore weapon for hunting small game. They'd wait for the prairie dogs to come up out of the holes, then blast them, sometimes eradicating their bodies entirely and leaving nothing but heads pinwheeling off from the blast. I'm not a hunter and I have a girly sentimentality about all things small, big-eyed, and fuzzy, so this strikes me as a terrible story, but I still like the phrase, particularly for an unreconstructed old-school punk band.
Okay, I'm going to get our Rock Band band name out there before anybody else does. It was actually inspired by a piece of mail received at the Chicago HQ that was intended for The Onion's comedy staff. It was a bunch of headlines, written in crayon if I remember correctly; many were porn-based. One was something like "Jenna Jameson injured in three-cock pileup on the Hershey highway." Needless to say, this would not pass the initial Onion test of being anywhere near funny, but it works as an awesome band name if your band has three dudes and one lady in it. Our videogame four-piece, featuring me, Koski, Kyle, and Dave Wolinsky, is called Gena And The Three-Cock Pileup. (Gena, it should be noted, is short for Genevieve, and is pronounced "Jenna.") But it isn't my favorite fake-band-I-was-fake-in name in history—that's a tie. One was inspired by the credits to the movie Broken Arrow, about a rogue stealth-bomber pilot played by John Travolta. That band was called simply Mr. Travolta's Hair, and that group even had a song ("No Turn On Red") that was re-improvised every time the name came up. The other excellent fake band name was, I believe, the brainchild of my friend James Minor, who is now in a band called Blacklist. When "queercore" was briefly popular, we wanted to join the fray with a band called Pole Position.
Although I'm partial to Gena And The Three-Cock Pileup, there was one after-hours Rock Band jam session that yielded a strong contender for an alternate name: Dr. Strap-On. Its origins have been lost to the sands of time, but it's pretty self-explanatory anyway. That said, I've been in a number of real bands so tragically named, they should've been fake. But, alas, they weren't. I make no excuses for The Poptologists (a high-school group envisioned as less a band than a nebulous network of people who aimlessly jammed on a fancified digital 8-track), Kermit The Frog & The Wife-Beaters (an acoustic duo playing laid-back versions of metal songs before the days of Tenacious D), or Exis (a band, I, admittedly, remember very little about). In the galaxy of fake band names, perhaps none can top the very-real trio Robo-Dream-Date—an obnoxious band with an intentionally horrible name and an involved, ridiculous backstory involving robots and rock music, uncomfortable sweaters, and no bass player. (Jim Derogatis called our high-concept demo "lo-fi art-rock that doesn't stink." High praise indeed.) Of course, that pales in comparison to a fictional band R-D-D made up to engage in a made-up rivalry against: The Fabulous Pimps. We even went so far as to record a real demo for the fake band (Anal Cunt was an influence), which we circulated among our fans. Then there was a bizarre basement band called The Rusted Cocks (again, Anal Cunt was an influence) and the hip-hop duo based on the lives of Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin called Abe & Ben—but the point is, probably, none of these band names should have existed in the first place.
I'd volunteer my own imaginary band, Jefferson Slaveship (yeah, boo, hiss, I know)—but it actually and kind of accidentally wound up being a "real" band that played two shows. Imagine Neurosis force-fucked through a truck-stop toilet, and that was us. The band broke up after I bought a brand-new bass the day of a show, used it that night, and snapped the thing in half onstage during our last song. New bass: $300. What I got paid that night: $7. The sour looks I got when I uttered the phrase "Jefferson Slaveship" to my friends: priceless.
Some of the more enterprising commenters here have already rooted through my trash and come up with the crumpled remains of my real-life musical history, so I'll leave it to you and the power of MySpace to cast apersions on my actual band-naming abilities—though trust me when I say nothing you'll find will ever be as lame as the punk group I briefly drummed for in high school, Attack Of The Magic Pants. Also, I'm still holding Surprise! You're An Orphan (which I stole from my buddies in Zykos and refuse to give back) in reserve, just in case I ever decide to get back into the loser-local-act thing. So that just leaves the pet band name I've suggested each and every time I've gotten a group together, which has nevertheless always been shouted down: The Judith Light. I first coined it during my very, very brief Elephant 6 phase, and (à la The B-Sharps) it became one of those names that sounds witty at first but becomes less funny each time you hear it, particularly when it's coming from me refusing to let it drop on the other side of the practice room. I'm not sure what, exactly, The Judith Light would sound like, but in tribute to its namesake, I've often described it as "music shot in soft focus." And now that I've become aware of The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, I'm really, really tempted to put it together just for the sake of a double bill.
Wow, where to begin? I've been making up band names since I got into music. I think my first was Sammy Jones & The Screaming Bohican Stomachs, sometime in elementary school. I knew no one named Sammy Jones, and I'm not sure what "Bohican" was, other than the probable mangling of "Mohican" and "Bohemian." I didn't improve with age—I was actually in a "band" called 12 Inch Breath Mint in high school. In college, I had a list of all my imaginary "side projects," which included Number Two Pencil (pop punk), OBITUFUCK (grindcore), The Drunken Fratboys (hardcore), and a bunch of others I can't remember. A couple years back I thought of a name for a hardcore band composed of gamers: First Person Shooter. I'm between bands right now, dudes—who wants to jam?
I haven't given the matter of what I'd name my fake band name much thought, but I suppose I'd give it the same name as my fake child: 2Pac Biggie Pun Eazy E-Dilla-C Winthrop Montgomery III. That way both my fake band and fake future offspring would have a name that pays reverent homage to just about every dead hip-hop great and also sounds like the snobby WASP bad guy in one of those '80s breaksploitation movies where a motley band of pop-and-lockers put on a big show to save the rec center from a tycoon intent on tearing it down so he can replace it with high-end condos.
For about a week in junior high, I was in a band that my friend called Novo Manus, which he claimed was Latin for "revolutionary band." (Turns out his Latin was a little off, as were his descriptive powers unless there's something "revolutionary" about playing an instrumental cover of Bob Seger's "Mainstreet" for 10 minutes.) After I quit Novo Manus, I joined up with another friend for a band we were going to call The Eclectic Electric Blues Syndicate, and though we never actually made any music together, we designed some cool logos for "TEEBS." Since then, my fake band names have been consigned to fiction: I once wrote a short story about hanging out at rock clubs that featured two made-up bands: A Perfect Day For Bananfish (stolen from J.D. Salinger) and The Featured Comedians. I still think The Featured Comedians would be an awesome band name. Our fans could call us "The Comedians" for short. Or "The FC."
Jessica Steinhoff (our editorial assistant in Madison) and I got a recent one from an episode of Heroes: Tae Kwon Do Sleepover. There's a scene where a kid's mom just mentions in passing that he's at some "tae kwon do sleepover," like that's just something all moms know about. What the fuck? But it sounds fun anyway.
I've had a slew of fake band names over the years (junior high, for example: Beltloops For Sweatpants), but none of them comes close to rivaling the fantasy that was Sonny Doesn't Even Need A Rod, the flamenco punk sensation (oi-lé!) my friend Susan Howson and I dreamt up in college. The name came from a story told by some guy Susan had a crush on, a long-haired skinny dude who got a fish caught in his shorts while boogie-boarding. The conveniently nearby fishermen saw him struggling to get it out and said, "Sonny doesn't even need a rod!" We went to a women's college, so instead of going to frat parties and getting drunk like normal co-eds, we threw all of our time and energy into SDENAR. We had not only a band name, but also performer names (Sex Cymbal, Pepto Dismal, and Anna Babe, among others); a functional fan site complete with band member bios, staged photos of us performing (taken with borrowed instruments while some sorry college band was taking a set break), letters from fans, and a tour diary; and business cards from our label, We're So Not Punk, But Hey, We're Single! Records. I know, I can't believe we were single either.
Next week: No AVQ&A;, because we'll all be off for Thanksgiving break. The week after that, we finally start answering some of the reader questions you've been sending in via the e-mail address in the intro. Keep 'em coming!