Vagina Panther, Bearstronaut, Milk Dick: Why CMJ Bands Chose Their Names
By Elliott Sharp
Image courtesy of Vagina Panther
New York's CMJ festival started yesterday and goes through Saturday. Our sister music blog at the Village Voice has complete coverage, including these funny flow-charts about which panels you should see.
Most folks come for the bands, of course, and about all said bands have in common is that they all have names. Animal-inspired monikers are very popular this year at CMJ. The most respected animal continues to be the bear: Bear Crossing, Bear Hands, Bear Trap, and Bearstronaut are all playing.
Also popular this year is the word "blonde," as in House Of Blondes, Blonde Summer, Blondfire and BLONDS. Also trending is the word "gold," as in Gold Fields, Golden Bloom, Goldenboy, and Goldroom. And, for what are most likely Derrida-related reasons, "ghosts" are really in, too: see Ghost Beach, Ghost Pal, Ghost Wave, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, The Ghost Inside, and Ghostface Killah.
Naming a band is oftentimes more difficult than writing the first song, touring, and learning to play an instrument. It involves sitting around, often stoned and drunk or exhausted, and having a conversation like this:
Drummer: "How about ____?"
Bassist: "Oh, dudes, what about ____?"
Singer: "GOT IT: _____!"
Guitarist: "____ would be awesome!"
Guitarist's Boyfriend: "What [the guitarist] just said!"
The conversation continues like this for several days, maybe weeks (months?), until the band finally arrives at a name. Sometimes the chosen name is terrible, sometimes it is very good, and sometimes it is something in between terrible and very good. Sometimes a band's name seems like total gibberish, but even those bands with gibberish names eventually construct a story about how the name they chose means something to them, and, in some way exemplifies the band. Motivated by this logic, I asked a bunch of bands playing CMJ, namely the ones with particularly ridiculous names, why they named themselves what they named themselves.
A Fragile Tomorrow
"The story of our band name is interesting, really. We started the band nine years ago, and before we really started heavily touring seven or so years ago, we just kind of jammed in our basement (three of us are brothers). I had written this terrible song called 'A Fragile Tomorrow' that we knew we didn't want to work on since it was so bad. At that point, our band name was unfortunately and embarrassingly Acoustic Midnight, but we desperately wanted to change it, so while we didn't like the song I had written, we liked the title of it. Thus, A Fragile Tomorrow became our band name and it has never and probably will never change!" A Fragile tomorrow play 10/17 at Rockwood Music Hall.
Air Traffic Controller
"I was an air traffic controller in the Navy when I started writing songs. It was a very significant period in my life -- working hard at doing a job, while becoming something else. I was recording lonely songs, sending CDs home to family and friends, and the music started spreading. Although ATC wasn't formed until I got home, I always felt the band was born at this pivotal time when I was an air traffic controller." Air Traffic Controller play 10/17 at Canal Room, 10/19 at The Impossible Project NYC, and 10/20 at Bowery Electric.
"The name came out of an email exchange between band members Cosmo D and Hirshi, free-associating on a variety of words and phrases. We liked that the name we chose suggests one person even though we are actually a trio. Also, it's a nod to how NYC, our geographic home base, is itself an archipelago." Archi Pelago played yesterday. Sorry!