They often go unnoticed, subtly influencing the opinions of those around us. For the most part we don’t get to choose them, instead we can either embrace them, ignore them or go to gruelling lengths to rid ourselves of them. No, I’m not talking about Hobgoblins, I’m of course referring to names.
So, what’s in a name? Does it shape you? Do you shape it? Is it really any more than a specific pattern of sounds used by people to get your attention or discuss you when you’re not around? Probably not.
However, in the rare case that you are a performing artist (or perhaps not so rare case if you live in Melbourne’s northern suburbs) you are afforded the luxury and often burden of creating a name that will represent who you are and how you want to be perceived. In the hope of gaining a better understanding of what band names are all about I asked 17 Melbourne artists to share a few insightful words about their name. The responses I received ranged from origin stories and symbolism, to mere time constraints, convenience and the outright strange.
Have a peruse below at some of the responses your favourite/future favourite Melbourne based bands had to offer. So without further ado, What’s in a name?
Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird
When Kevin Spacey is shot in the final sequence of American Beauty (no spoiler alerts here, if you haven’t seen it – you’re a muppet) he is met by a flash of all the truly important moments from his life.. his grandma’s hands, Boy Scout camp, and the last thing he remembers is the first time he saw his cousin Tony’s brand new Firebird. The Firebird being a Pontiac sports car. I just loved the idea of these really everyday, textural things being the things that really stuck with you in life. It informed so much of my songwriting. When my guitar player Kieran told me he loved the name, I knew we should be playing music together.
Full Flower Moon Band
I was looking for a band name. I was thinking about aspects of our identity that are already ‘named’, like birth months, star signs, family names etc. I thought about the moon, and the name of its different phases. I googled ‘moon names’. I was dating a boy of Cherokee descent at the time. Native Americans have a name for the full moon of every month. I couldn’t find any other civilisation who have done this. I fell in love with the descriptive titles like ‘Full Green Grass Moon’ and ‘Full Strawberry Moon’. I looked up the moon for my birthday. ‘Beaver Moon’. That was funny, but I wanted something more romantic. Then I realised that, Australia has opposite seasons to America! I was, in fact, born under the ‘Full Flower Moon’. I was sitting in bed watching Fight Club for the first time when this happened. True story.
Initially, I liked the word Breve because to me it was meaningless. Like human existence. I’ve since learned that it’s far from meaningless; it’s a word in several languages, most of which translate to something like ‘big eyeball’, a punctuation mark, the last name of an explorer from Greenland who spent 63 years in a collapsed cave in the 1800’s before being discovered and eaten by cannibals, a musical notation, small furry marsupials which were found in Kalgoorlie but recently extinct (due to selfies and cats) and an island off New Caledonia. I’m still a Nihilist.
Tanzer is my mother’s family name. My immediate family history is characterized by brilliant, loving men touched by tragedy, and the heroic, selfless and powerful women who saved them, steered the ship and taught us kids how to conquer. Many of my male relatives are no longer with us, making this band of female warriors even more pronounced, poignant, and unbreakable than ever. I’m so proud to be one of them, and when I embarked on a solo music project, no other name could give me more strength. Tanzer also translates to ‘dancer’ in German, which will cause much confusion when I perform in German-speaking cities – I’m a terrible dancer.
The story behind our name started from one of our band mates (who’s name cannot be mentioned) who use to have a problem with his bowel. He spent many years soiling his dacks every time he felt nervous or under pressure. His secret to getting all his white jocks clean was to use a mixture of different white bleaches. Not only would he use the bleach but he would also like to dabble in fabric softener to get that nice smooth comfy feel out of old underwear. So when throwing names around for the band it just came naturally and we felt this was a great name to represent us.
Mangelwurzel is a German word for a crappy root vegetable you only eat during famine. The name was brought to our attention by Tom Robbins the author of Jitterbug Perfume; An old Ukrainian proverb warns, “A tale that begins with a beet will end with the devil.”
Rat & Co
When Kaia and myself were about 15, we decided that we wanted to become world famous DJs, but before we could start taking the world by storm we had to come up with a name. We had two choices, Junk choir DJ’s or Rat & Co. we went with Junk choir DJ’s which we played under for the first few years of our budding DJ careers. Years passed and while Kaia was overseas in America touring with Youth Lagoon & Young Magic I was sitting in my bedroom in Carlton, trying to wrangle enough songs together to put out my own solo electronic EP. I needed a name and the first person that I was going to send the music to was Kaia so I called the project on iTunes, you guessed it, Rat & Co…. the name stuck ever since then.
Ocdantar is as simple as Rat & Co backwards and spelt wrong (thankyou dyslexia). The name represents a very strong and different approach to writing music for Ocdantar’s solo producer vibe compared the more thought-out and planned band format of Rat & Co.
The Tiny Giants
We had a super dorky name when we were kids and after our first couple of gigs around our local jaunts we wanted to change it up. There’s no real super crazy story to it but we were watching TV with Fenn Wilson (our drummers brother and ace songwriter) and he mentioned the name in passing. Apparently he got it from an episode of my name is earl, I’ve never watched the show so I wouldn’t know. It sounded pretty silly to me at the time but names don’t really phase us, if someone’s making cool music then a name’s kind of pointless. I don’t think any band name sounds cool to start with, bands grow into it really.
The name started out as a placeholder name until we settled on the real one. Needless to say it ended up sticking. In much the same way that Canary as a personal nickname had stuck when I was in primary school.
I think it came from my last name being Kenneally (sounds a bit like canary) and I had a reputation for singing. But that was the origin. An old nickname. And so it just ended up sticking as the band name.
Beyond those fairly superficial connections, it has no real deeper meaning.
Shag Planet is a mystical place, located in a far away galaxy. We were compelled to travel to planet Earth to observe the curious habits of the creatures that inhabit it, and were so taken by their ways that we felt we must document what we saw. Our music is an understanding of our experiences here, on planet Earth, and is brought to life in our live performances by us and our robotic dancers Shazam and Spotify. We have been inspired by other earthly bands such as the B-52s and their album Wild Planet, and by all things sexy this planet has to offer.
I spent years playing under band titles and have, perhaps inevitably, arrived in 2016 releasing new music under my own name. Initially I didn’t want to be a frontman, but after I made a band audition a multitude of ill-fitting vocalists, they convinced me to sing. The next band, Alex Watts & the Foreign Tongue, had my name in the title so that I wouldn’t have to keep starting over from a public perspective if it ended, and then the lineup changed so often I just ditched the band name completely. It’s unambiguous now, this music is what I represent.
Our band name came about after we’d been practicing for a good few months and had our first gig lined up at the Espy basement. We were standing around in the car park discussing topic ideas we liked because we needed a name before the gig. We all like space so we looked at the moon and suggested Luna something –one of the most overused names these days I can probably think of at least 3 bands in Melbourne alone with Luna something in the name. Someone in the band –I think Sean our drummer– said it also needed to be kinda dark or mysterious to suit our music, so we added Ghost on the end. We were pretty desperate and nobody could think of any better ideas so we agreed it would do for now and we’ll just change it after the gig. Over 3 years later we’re still stuck with a name we all hate and still haven’t thought of a better one. Any suggestions?
Our band name has a bit of a story. We were looking for a band name for about half a year. Whilst listening to a song by the Frey we came across a lyric “Amistad”. We looked up its meaning and the word Amistat means friendship in Catalan. We decided to use Amistat as our band name as friendship is the number one in our lives.
Initially, we came up with the name based on the way the words sounded together, the visuals they generally conjured up, and in an abstract way, the audital connotations that came with the words. We thought along the lines of ‘lush’, ‘peaceful’, ‘ambient’… something which fitted our sound and the direction in which we wanted to take our music. In fact, it’s probably fair to say we overthought it really! But the great part was that once it’d been suggested we slowly realised it it referenced all of these special places and occurrences for the band. For example, a while back we opted for a writing getaway and stayed in the town of Forrest (yes – with two Rs!). Our frontman, Jon, is actually a Perth boy and used to love The John Forrest National Park (yes – with an H and two Rs!). You can see that all of these factors just came together, really, and we didn’t have much power against it.
Our band was just starting up three years ago (we were 17) when we played our first show at a youth, government funded Battle of the Bands. Jess had started to think about band names and was studying French at the time, she liked the sound, look and meaning of the French word Arbres (translates to trees in English). We were pressured to quickly think of any name to submit our entry into the Battle so Jess suggested the name and we all liked it. We got rid of the ‘r’ in between the ‘b’ and ‘e’ to make it easier to say and because it visually looked neater- we’ve stuck with it ever since. We get a lot of curiosity and interest in the name, mainly questions of pronunciation (Ar-BIES or Ar-BES???). People rarely make the connection with the French word and others have thought it’s a shout-out to the Czech writer Jakub Arbes. It took a long time for us to feel completely comfortable in the name but now it just feels second-nature, it’s us.
My Elephant Ride
I came up with the name firstly because elephants are really special animals, I saw a doco which showed them migrating from east Africa to west Africa, 1000’s of miles walking in a line. Our group is so dedicated to music and each other that we’ve realised we will be releasing music together for a very long time. Our debut album is coming out soon and we are already writing the next one!