CHICAGO ― Snowflakes fluttered down, lightning flashed and inspiration for a brilliant new band name struck: Thundersnow.
Mind you, I don’t actually have a band, but in my rock-geek fantasy life, I’m constantly in search of the perfect band name, so I vetted this one in the commonly accepted 21st century method: I Googled it.
Sure enough, not only is there a Madison, Wis., rock band called Thundersnow on MySpace but also a Rochester, N.Y., metal band named ThunderSnow.
Sigh. This seems to be the case with just about any clever band name you might come up with.
Say, completely hypothetically, of course, that you’re enthralled by Charlie Sheen. Sorry, but MySpace already features an Austin, Texas, guitar-rock band called Tiger Blood, and an experimental outfit from Vancouver, British Columbia, Winning, and there’s an LA psychedelic band, the Warlocks ― plus the Warlocks, a Norwegian rap group, in addition to Warlock, an ’80s German metal band.
While thinking about the space shuttle launch, I decided I should call my theoretical band the Astronaughties. I subsequently found the Web page for the four-piece Scottish band Astro Naughty.
The other day I passed some gnarly roadkill and wondered whether there was a band called Flattened Rabbit. Guess what? Flat Rabbit was a ’90s Denver thrash metal band that apparently has split up, and West Virginia singer-songwriter Todd Coyle calls his company Flat Rabbit Music.
OK, but what about Crushed Bunny?
Well, there’s a Phoenix rock band called Crushed, plus other acts named Bunny Band, Gin Bunny, Nobunny, Skibunny, Boo Boo Bunny, Nathen Maxwell and the Original Bunny Gang and the Steve Bunny Band ― but apparently no Crushed Bunny.
And so we see the thought process that would lead someone to a band name as stupid as Crushed Bunny.
No wonder the Billboard Rock Songs chart is populated by such acts as Cage the Elephant, Shinedown, Foster the People, Avenged Sevenfold, Young the Giant, Stone Sour and Alter Bridge. Unfathomable band names are nothing new (Procol Harum, anyone?), but in the olden days they felt more like a matter of choice than necessity ― there were still plenty of things living (Animals, Beatles, Byrds, Crickets, Eagles, Flamingoes, Monkees ...), nonliving (Doors, Kinks, Platters, Rolling Stones, Seeds, Temptations, Four Seasons, Four Tops ...) and in between (Zombies) from which to choose.
A friend recently popped by my cubicle, and I bet her that any three nouns she gave me would turn out to be band names. She said “hippos,” “snow globe” and “zucchini,” and guess what? The Hippos, Snowglobe and Zucchini are all on MySpace.
The other key factor: The world used to be smaller. Way back when, you could have a Chicago band with a name like the Catapults ― again, speaking hypothetically ― never knowing that there might have been other Catapults playing in other cities here and abroad. (For what it’s worth, MySpace now features pages for Catapult, American Catapult, the Catapult Club, Catapult the Smoke and Elizabeth and the Catapult.) In the late ’60s, separate bands called Kaleidoscope were based on the West Coast and in England with no Internet to bridge the distance and befuddle listeners.
“The essence of trademark law is confusion in the eyes of the public,” Chicago entertainment lawyer E. Leonard Rubin says. “If you don’t have confusion, there’s no problem.”
But now, about 14 million musical acts are registered on MySpace (according to a representative), everyone is everywhere and all it takes is a mouse click to learn that the idea you thought was original is just more recycling.
“Google is a dream crusher,” says Jim Powers, who runs the Chicago-based Minty Fresh label (and also is a friend). He says one band on his label, Champaign, Illinois’ the Blackouts, wound up becoming the Living Blue “because there was already another Blackouts out there that had a record out.”
Minty Fresh’s roster also includes Ape on the Roof, Suburban Kids with Biblical Names, Sugarplastic, We Are Standard and White Shoes & the Couples Company.
“You almost need to get a random word generator, which you can do on the Internet, or get out a legal pad and start throwing out words and start coupling them together,” Powers said. “That seems like the best way to roll now.”
By Mark Caro
(McClatchy-Tribune Information Services)