Looking at the Splendour in the Grass line-up this year, I realised that my favourite bands were the ones with the longest names. And that that’s usually the case. Bigsound 2016 provided me with an excellent opportunity to test my theory : over 150 bands, the peak of Australia’s indie – pop – rock – metal buzz. So after a conversation with Sky De Jersey, I sorted all the bands by length and complexity of their name, and set out for a week in Fortitude Valley, Bris Vague Arse, to find out how often the music and the stage show and the vibe fit the name.
Complex names correlate strongly with lots of band members (although the converse is not true). Semantic complexity of name does not correlate with sophistication of lyric. There is a tendency for bands with interesting names to look and act interesting, but it’s not a guarantee. Lots of bands with boring names were not boring, but lots of them were. There was quite a low correlation between bands named after their singer/songwriter and the honesty or vulnerability of the songs and performance.
The full list is at the bottom of this post, but first I give you my reviews of the bands with the craziest names, and a few special mentions from the “boring” sections ( thanks to Naomi Crain for helping me think about it).
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever (5 boys) : this was interesting. The longest band name in the festival (but still shorter than some of my favourite bands). They were a really great Aussie pub rock band, who couldn’t decide what sort of guitar they each play a different sort. Rod Begbie could have been in this band, it was a bit like that aperture band, and the songs were had all his style of references. It was Paul Kelly and the Hoodoo Gurus and Mondo Rock,and we loved it. But I suspect that when they were choosing band names they got down to the last two, couldn’t decide, and just stuck them together. Either “rolling blackouts” or “coastal fever” would have been very appropriate names for this band, but all four words made me expect something more unusual, darker, weirder, less predictable.
West Thebarton Brothel Party (7 boys) : acca dacca with 5 guitars. Loud shouty pub rock, one drummer, one singer, four electric guitars, and an electric bass who sometimes played guitar. Unserious and fun, and the boys from hideous sun demon were there. The name suited the band perfectly, and while I’ve never visited West Thebarton I imagine the madam there would be very happy to have them around.
In Each Hand A Cutlass (4 or 5 boys and a girl) : really great music, in a style which was perfected in the late seventies by the last wave of great rock bands. They looked slick, their musicianship was great, but they did not live up to their bombastic name. I never thought anybody was going to leave the stage to vanquish an enemy, and none of the instruments were wielded like weapons.
These New South Whales : i didn’t see them. And I didn’t go to their pisstake panel session. I regret both of those omissions. They’re a hilarious Spinal Tap / Flight of the Conchords type band who sound great and star in their own video series. The name is good. Very good.
Hideous Sun Demon (3 boys) : way too heavy for me. Interesting, for metal, but still metal. The name is interesting in an Indy-pop context, but all heavy bands have much better names than bearded hipster minimalist names so it’s not a fair comparison.
Verge Collection : didn’t see em
Raised by Eagles : very nice complex folk. I would have been much less likely to see them if the band was just called “Luke Richardson”, and I think they are providing a great example to all the “I just sing under my own name” kids of how much a simple, unique, interesting name can make a set of honest thoughtfully written beautifully played songs more memorable.
Tinpan Orange (2 boys and a girl) : haven’t seen them play for years, despite stopping for a chat at every second festival I’m at.
Unity Floors : didn’t see em
Coda Conduct : didn’t see em (but it’s a great name)
Sampa the Great : this was a good name. Her name is Sampa. She is great. She knows she’s great. Her band was huge, soul, R&B, all the business. Great show, great name.
Kira Puru : kira was as fascinating as she’s always been. Her name always has to be in the title, there is no mistaking her. Her current band was fantastic, like they always are. But like Sampa, she needs more words, a bigger name… And i really miss the bruisy-ness of The Bruise.
William Crighton :like Kira, he needs more to his name. He’s a big man with a strong voice and a manly name, so that’s all good. But his band have a strong identity too, and he’s not just a boy singing about his own experience. He sometimes plays as a band under a name (which I’ve forgotten), but I think William Crighton and the barbed wire or the empty dam red river would be even better.
LUCIANBLOMKAMP : an acoustic /electronic live solo show. Keyboards, drums, violin, samples, beats, and vocals. They were his own songs, it was a very personal project, but it was a much more striking thing than just Lucian. Sticking both his names together and putting them in caps was a good decision.
Simona Castricum: i thought this was a boring name, because I just thought it was a girls name. But I walked past the press club, heard some quality electronica, and looked inside to find a transgender person ripping live beats, synth drums, and netball skirt dance moves. Once I decoded “Castricum” it made total sense.
And here’s the complete list of Bigsound Bands 2016, sorted by name length then into categories of semantic complexity (with edits thanks to Emily Collins and Luke Jaaniste).
— very interesting —
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever ^
West Thebarton Brothel Party ^
In Each Hand A Cutlass ^
These New South Whales
Hideous Sun Demon ^
Raised by Eagles ^
— interesting —
Tiny Little Houses
I Heart Hiroshima
The Outdoor Type
The Gooch Palms
Heads of Charm
Rat & Co
Oh Pep! ^
— slightly interesting —
Tracy McNeil & The GoodLife
The Belligerents ^
Teeth & Tongue ^
Ecca Vandal **
Vera Blue **
Good Boy ^
— boring but with spelling mistakes or punctuation —
— boring (just a noun (even if it is a compound noun)) —
Sampa The Great ^
— boring (just someone’s name) —
Luke Daniel Peacock
William Crighton ^
Leah Senior ^
Gideon Bensen ^
Mel Parsons ^
Alice Night *
Alex Lahey ^
Kira Puru ^
Catherine Satour ^
— meaningless to me —
* unless there is nobody called alice in the band and it’s a reference to nighttime in alice springs
** unless that’s actually just their name
^ means I know I saw the band