What’s in a (band) name?

Molly Schreiber

As the seventh of eight kids, I owe much of my personality to the influence of my brothers and sisters. 

For my lack of comedic timing, I can thank my sister, Amy. For my excessive competitiveness, I can thank my three brothers. For my borderline obsessive inclination toward all things music, I have to thank them all. 

With so many diverse tastes guiding my personal growth, I gleaned an eclectic taste for music at an early age. 

One brother in particular, however, took special care to replace my less-than-stellar pop CDs with David Byrne discs and Beatles albums. 

He was the first person I ever went to a show with, and he is the first person I call when I hear something worthwhile. 

So, when he told me about the e-mail thread he initiated with the rest of my brothers, I was immediately intrigued.  

For the past few months, my brothers have been thinking up band names. 

Yes, band names. They are not actually in a band, but they each have a knack for coming up with inventive (and sometimes inappropriate) names for their phantom foursome. 

Some frontrunners include Feely Stan, Tears for Beers, PB Jay and the Opposable Thumbs. While all relatively absurd, they are also surprisingly believable. So, it got me thinking: What’s in a name?  

Oftentimes the caliber of music distracts us from the ridiculousness of certain band names. 

Consider the band Vampire Weekend. Would they be as popular if they were called Dracula Workweek?

 When Jim James changed his stage name to Yim Yames, did it really make any difference? Does Blitzen Trapper’s refusal to give a straight answer about the origin of their name add mystique and intrigue, or does it just mean they’re not sure, either?  

While bands toil for months, and often years, to churn out a meaningful album, we never really hear about how long it takes to think up a name. 

Of course, many bands attribute their titles to stories of fate and happenstance, but what about those who don’t? 

In a way, choosing a bad name for your band is kind of like choosing a bad name for your child; it can be permanently debilitating.  

Whether we realize it or not, a lot rides on the naming process. While I’ll always have a penchant for the single syllable bands like the Kinks and Wilco, I have a newfound respect for the innovation in names like the Dirty Projectors and Fleet Foxes.

 And now, thanks to the challenge posed by my brothers and their e-mail thread, I have a new appreciation for the seemingly simple process of finding a few measly words to represent a huge, unique sound. 

So, after considering the obstacles that pepper the naming process, I’ve decided to stick to the listening and leave the naming to my brothers.