A Band By Any Other Name...

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Yesterday, we told you about this Friday's Palace album release show. Palace is the name of a St. Louis four-piece specializing in athletic harmony. Palace is also the first half of the monikers Will Oldham was using in the '90s (Palace Music, Palace Brothers and Palace Songs). Some of you found this confusing, and after a bit of back and forth, Mike made this point: "There was also a STL band called Vivian Girls. I'm going to form a band called 'The Beatles' and see if anyone calls me on it."

This is actually an issue we've addressed recently -- Daniel Hill wrote about the Breaks, a St. Louis hardcore band (now defunct) that shares its name with a St. Louis rock band and at least four others. There are approximately one hundred bazillion bands that have ever existed, and many of them share names. And when you narrow the field to bands named simple common words like Palace, we would venture that there are almost no one-of-a-kind monikers out there.

The question about whether a name should be retired once it reaches a certain level of notoriety (and while Will Oldham's various Palace entities certainly aren't household names, he ain't exactly obscure) is at least a more interesting debate. Still, in this era of infinitely recycled creative ideas, we tend to think, as a general statement, that it doesn't matter whether it started as yours, as long as you make it yours.

What do you think? Can bands share a name and still find their own little corners, or is it just confusing?

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12 comments
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Eric
Eric

Bands can and must be able to recycle or share names, but under what circumstances is debatable.

After much thought, I recently changed the name of my own recording/music solo project. The name I've assumed is shared with a metal band from Portland, ME. I feel comfortable doing this for several reasons:

1. Pre-internet, there's no way I would have heard of this other band2. Despite having had a release in recent past, I see no evidence that they are still an active band3. With the exception of a small number of people in New England, I don't think it's possible that anyone would mistake me for this band based on a show announcement or web search

If you are considering a one-word moniker, chances are very high that SOME band by the same name has already existed. Does this mean that bands should rule out using single-word names? This doesn't seem reasonable. As Kiernan said: make it yours.

I have also noticed a recent trend in the adoption of extremely unique names that make use of unrelated terms or invented words. I've speculated that this is driven by the need to be immediately visible on the web. For instance, searches for "Pariah Carey" and "Pina Chulada" immediately bring up the artists I want to find; while St. Louis' own "US English" is nearly un-googleable. I don't want bands to feel like they have to pick an absolutely unique name just for the sake of standing out, the music is supposed to do that for them.

Julio
Julio

Who cares! It's not like Oldham's "monikers" were simply "Palace." Maybe we should ask The Black Keys about this. Or Black Flag. Or The Black Lips. Or The Black Stripes.

blahquaker
blahquaker

you can call your band anything you want (as long as it hasn't been trademarked). but simple logic says that if you want people to actually find and listen to your music, you should come up with something unique. think like a marketer - will your band be easy to find via google? is the domain name (or twitter account) available? are there other bands on last.fm, bandcamp, soundcloud already using that name?

you can use someone else's name and make it work. there are multiple bands called Ceremony. but every time I see a reference to Ceremony, I have no idea which band it is.

Autonomy
Autonomy

You are just dumb if you take another band's name.  It's a reflection of what is wrong with so much music:  Derivative, formulaic,  predictable, and about form more than substance.

Travis Bursik
Travis Bursik

I agree it can be confusing. I rankled a bit when I learned there was a local band called Palace, as Oldham was really important to me in high school. That being said, a quick check on allmusic shows a half dozen bands called Palace before he ever put anything to tape.

Matt
Matt

Well, if a band knows full and well that there's another band out there with the name they'd like, they probably will opt for a different one. I doubt Palace knew of Will Oldham's projects, and "Vivian Girls" was a reference to Henry Darger, so I'm sure there's a plethora of bands out there with similar names. Nobody does it intentionally.

Matt
Matt

Pre-world wide web, taking other band's names inadvertently was somewhat inevitable. However, with the Googlin' machine at your disposal, there is absolutely no excuse for any band to take an existing (or previously existing) band's name. Yes, coming up with band names is a pain in the ass, but if someone already got to it, and they've released albums and had press and people know about them, just don't use it. Somebody already got there. Move on and do your own thing. 

knower
knower

Yes, at times his band was called Palace.

Mike
Mike

I'm sorry, but it's not as if Will Oldham/Palace was some local band that maybe had a MySpace page.  It was a common name.  I know I was confused when I saw that "Palace" was opening for Reading Rainbow, for instance.  (Although that was nowhere near as bad as the time I walked out of "The Clean" in NYC, after finding out the hard way it wasn't the New Zealand band.

Julio
Julio

Ok, sorry. The blog doesn't state that.

Mike
Mike

ALthough point taken about Vivian Girls.  There was an Australian band called that who put out records in the '90s.  I think Laura MacFarlane (ninetynine) was actually the drummer.  Or played shows with them, at least.

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