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July 22, 2024

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So What's In a Name?
By: Sonya

So What's In a Name?

Recently, at a show at EJ's, some friends and I were reading some of the band flyers and posters scattered about and came upon a flyer for a band called "REO Speedealer". We all agreed it was a wonderful band name and quite funny.

I got to thinking about different band names, and what compells bands to pick the names they use. While some may seem fairly obvious (Smoochknob & Love Load for instance), others conjure up certain images or feelings that may or may not have anything to do with the actual music they perform.

I decided to ask some local Portland bands where they come up with their band names, or if there are any interesting stories behind the names they choose. The responses were as varied as the bands themselves.

Some take the topic rather seriously, such as Jeff Dood of the THE ROTATING LESLIES, who says: "I have a lot of strong feelings about the importance of a band's name, and yet I think I'm kind of a rare breed because most of the bands I have been in before forming The Rotating Leslies seemed to care less about the name thing. I can't tell you how many projects I've been in where the naming of the band was always a last minute thing, always very arbitrary, and yet always seemed to end up with everyone hating the name. The basic attitude was always "who cares what we name ourselves, lets just hurry up and come up with something." And of course, when it came time to start tossing out band name ideas, no one really had any. To me a band's name should say something about them and ideally say something about their particular sound without being too literal. Anyway, the story behind the naming of my band is kind of funny. Both myself and my guitar playing brother Brian have the last name "Dood" which is actually pronounced "dude". For some bonehead reason I thought it would be really cool if we called ourselves "The Doods." We actually played our first 3 shows as The Doods only to discover that it was being mispelled in a lot of interesting ways in practically every listing we saw. The third show we played was at Satyricon. As we drove up to unload our equipment we noticed they had put us up on their marquee as "The Droops". At this point we decided it was time to figure out a new band name. I had "The Rotating Leslies" sort of on the back burner just in case. So what's it mean? Back in the 60's (and somewhat today) there was a popular guitar/organ amplifier used made by the Leslie company. It had a speaker that rotated inside of it and gave the sound a sort of shimery vibrato feel. The amplifier was called a Rotating Leslie. I liked the name because I thought it sort of fit with our sound, but I also liked the other images it conjured up for people with good imaginations! We often get asked what our name means. I usually tell people it has two meanings, but I only tell them the amplifier meaning. We've even had a few older musician types come up to us and sort of test us to see if we really know what a "rotating leslie" really is. They probably thought we just happened to run across it in some magazine or something and thought it would be cool to use as a band name, but didn't have a clue what it really meant."

Others have a different outlook, such as Robin Banks (vocalist for Big Daddy Meat Straw) who says, "Big Daddy Meat Straw is the deity worshipped by the true followers of the church of the most holy meatstraw".

Another Portland band, Exit Wound, began as Nemesis, later changing their name to Bloodline before finally deciding on Exit Wound. A drummer for the band, Jeff, tells me he also believes a band name should reflect the sound or style of a band. He felt the name Exit Wound had a harder edge to it, more in line with the deathmetal sound he is influenced by.

David, See Jane Run vocalist/guitarist, tells me that he and his then roomate, Brad (bass) put a lot of thought into a name for their band, but had about 2 pages of ideas for different band names and were stuck on trying to decide on a name. While flipping through channels with the TV remote, David was holding down the changer and for some reason the TV stopped on the words "See Jane Run". David says they thought "hey, there is a name just stupid enough for people to remember" and they decided to name their band "See Jane Run".

The band Silkenseed contributes: "Always finding it difficult to come up with a band name, the seedsters went to borders music and books one day to find inspiration. The six musicians wandered around the store with notebooks, writing down anything, ANYTHING, that might sound good or lead to a good band name. Gathering its pool of a hundred or so phrases and names, the band merrily returned to its rehearsal space to brainstorm on their new identity. After hours of deliberations and conflagrations, sticking this word with that, replacing words and otherwise determined to find their name that evening, they stumbled upon the combination of "silken" with other words. "seed" seemed to flow quite nicely after "silken" and the band dubbed itself Silkenseed. Later it was rumored to also be a (fairly exotic) form of germinating marijuana seeds, where instead of sticking them in cotton for their infancy they are wrapped in silk and germinated in that medium. This future provider of lots of good times is referred to as a silkenseed. Any way you look at it Silkenseed is synonymous with pot and good times."

Sattie Clark of 17 Reasons Why says: "17 Reasons Why means something, we're sure, but we don't know what. We got the name from a big old sign on top of a building in the Mission District of San Francisco (there's a picture of it on the cover of our CD). I lived down there for a while and I was completely fascinated with the sign. I asked people about it all the time. Nobody knows what it means or why it's there. It's really old and falling apart. Since I took the photo on the cover of our album, the "Why" has fallen off completely, so the sign now reads "17 Reasons". I heard that a few years ago there was a punk band in the Mission called "17 Reasons". They must have been fascinated with the sign too. My friend, Newton, says he once saw a black and white indie film with a female character that talked about wanting to start a band called 17 Reasons Why. If anybody knows the name of that film, I'd love to see it!"

Jason(Che'), the guitarist for Voodoo Tuna contributes: "The way we came up with the name is rather simple. Our singer has the good fortune of working at the state mental hospital in Salem and the name VoodooTuna was actually an entree on the cafeteria menu there. It was some kind of wacky tuna fish meal. We have a little joke between the four of us about the name."We've never eaten it, and we've never seen it, we just became it!"

Portland has a wonderful collection of very talented bands, and I am always fascinated by the process that goes into the naming of these particular bands. I was thrilled to get the positive responses I received, and at the eagerness of the bands to share their stories.

So what's in a name? Perhaps much more than a creative imagination can conjure up!

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