Names of bands

Names of bands

Hello there

Out of sheer curiosity … what would you say the name a band choose to call themselves reveal about their particular approach to ‘Irishness’, i.e. music of course, but also roots, culture, history, heritage …

I’m looking forward to reading your views on the matter …

Take care

JP

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I think names have not much to do about it at all at all. Would a rose by any other name…. would smell as sweet?

I don’t look into names that much but I look at all the things mentioned above through a band’s approach to their music, if that answers your question. Tune choice is my biggest factor and then phrasing. After that I don’t really care where they are from or what they call themselves. "Irishness" is a weird word but I think I understand what you are getting at. You didn’t really express how you feel about it?

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Hi JP,
This is a very interesting topic.
One of my English classes this semester is Irish drama, and while we mainly focus on plays and the history behind them, my teacher has mentioned that both The Wolfe Tones and Black 47 are named after events in Irish history, so that’s always interesting.
I know I’m going to be generalizing here, but when I see a more modern-sounding name, such as "Los Boyos", "Magnet" and "The Good Tunes Band", I can pretty much guess they’re probably not from Ireland. Also any album with "Celtic" in the title is most likely not from Ireland. (There was a thread about 10 months ago about how you can tell if a band is from the Us because of their name).

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Thanks for your reply … not being Irish myself, but with a keen interest in Ireland where I spent three years altogether, I feel that there’s some connotation in names such as ‘The Chieftains’, ‘Na Fili’ or ‘The Dubliners’, to name but a few … not entirely regardless of the music they chose to play, and the way they chose to play it. References to Irish history and culture in the first case, use of the Irish language in the next, "owning up" to belonging to the country’s capital in the last. To what extent is that a giveaway of what’s on offer musically ?

Looking forward to reading more of your views …

Take care

JP

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Thanks Wimbrel, I’m afraid I hadn’t read your reply when I typed my own … as for the Wolfetones, not only is their name highly significant, but the title they chose to give to their first LP back in the early 70s says it all : ‘Rifles for the IRA’ ! That was the beginning of what was to be called ‘the troubles’, it was more of a manifesto really !!!

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90% of trad bands have names that consist of one Gaelic or Irish word. Danu. Lunasa. Coig. Talisk. Manran. Altan. Dervish. Daimh. Dallahan. Imar. You get the picture.

I’m still waiting for a trad band to come along with the sort of surreal, bizarre, and funny band name you see in other musical genres, like the String Cheese Incident, or Leftover Salmon, or Crispy Ambulance, or the Test Icicles, or Lets Eat Grandma. If I ever form a band, I promise, I will call it something weird.

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DSS, Dervish chose their name because it is specifically not Irish!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dervish

As for surreal, there’s Socks in the Frying Pan.

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Many bands have also named themselves after well known tunes, e.g. Toss the Feathers, The Boys of The Lough, Rakish Paddy, and many more. Usually these names don’t convey very much about the style of music except that it’s Irish.

Some are named after ancient Gods, Godesses, and heroes etc. While many of these bands just play your typical traditional Irish music and song, some may be a little more "new age/worldly", "celtic twilight" etc for want of better terms.

However, you can’t really judge what a band’s musical output is likely to be just by the name. For instance, I was originally put off listening to Lúnasa due to the name until I realised that they just played good Irish tunes and were very much in the "Bothy Band" mould. Not "airy fairy" at all.

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Shows how much time I spend looking these things up. Whoops!

And thanks for alerting me to Socks in the Frying Pan. I hadn’t heard of them. But I’ve just bought their album because it’s great music and they deserve kudos for a funny, surreal name.

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I was listening to the MotherFoclóir podcast the other day and one episode they mentioned that the word "deargár" is Irish for "carnival of bloodshed".

As soon as I get my "celtic metal" band started…

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On surreal or funny names don’t forget Breaking Trad, the Border Collies, We Banjo 3 (who are a quartet) and the Céilí Bandits, all from Ireland. Then there are Scottish bands like Ceilidh Minogue and Deaf Shepherd.

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Whimbrel said: "… my teacher has mentioned that both The Wolfe Tones and Black 47 are named after events in Irish history"

Not to be overly pedantic, but The Wolfe Tones took their name from an historic person, Theobald Wolfe Tone, the founder of the United Irishmen (widely considered to be the fathers of Irish republicanism).

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There’s also The Jimmy Shandrix Experience.

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Another one I liked was Hugh McDiarmid’s Haircut - don’t know if they are still performing ….

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Here in Boston we have about a half dozen "rebel" bands that use the word "Erin" in their name. Typically they do loud PA gigs with many electric instruments and sometimes drums. They are very busy and get lots of premo gigs where the audience is usually over 40 or 50. Erin Og, Erin’s Melody, Erin’s Guild etc. So typically when they use the word Erin it’s a Rebel band.

TW

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Hi TerryW, what are they rebelling against?

(The answer is not "what have you got?" Jimmy D.)

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A risk of getting a bit political here I think?

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90% of present-day "rebel bands" only rebel against playing in tune.

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I suppose "The Craic Heads" wouldn’t be tasteful?

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Andrew, Swine Fever had a really good flute player I remember. They played really heavy Roscommon traditional music. We had a band some years ago that was called Feck.

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Irish Death Metal = Craic of Doom

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Was it not Patsy Hanly who played flute in Swine Fever?

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Cheers Steamwilkes - must watch that!

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I think the OP is on to something, because a band’s name is often something that a number of people have to come to a consensus about, involving intra-band politicking etc. Perhaps occasionally a band’s name has been imposed by a powerful agent or producer, but I would think in most cases it does reflect the feelings of the entire group, or at least the members of the group who carried the day (if the name chosen wasn’t unanimously liked).

Yes quite a few US Irish "folk" bands have cheesy names. I see it in the Pipe Band world as well: Scottish bands tend to simply be their location, for example the Isle Of Skye Pipe Band. Here in the US Southwest we have the Desert Skye Pipe Band, a silly pun I suppose, but having little to do with Skye. We have loads of Irish-themed "sweater bands" with Irish-language names especially in the New York and Boston areas.

I think that in general band-names don’t float in isolation but are a part of wider naming trends in mainstream culture.

People mentioned the large number of single-word band names and this has been a trend for some time now for film names as well.

Film names (and book names and album names and band names) go in cycles: longer names containing "and the" or "of the" were the rage in the late 1960s/early 1970s.

KC and the Sunshine Band
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Teaser and the Firecat
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Freebie and the Bean

1975 alone featured four top-grossing films containing "of the"

Return of the Pink Panther
Three Days of the Condor
The Other Side of the Mountain
The Adventures of the Wilderness Family

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Yes, triplet upstairs, you must watch it!

New session rules -

One accordion,
one guitar,
one bodhran and
one spoon.

😀

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^^
Mr Hanley has a masterful command of the Dad Joke.

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If you aren’t in Ireland or Irish, band names are tougher. "Three Mile Stone" seem to be going off the standing stones common in places like Glencolmcille. Us Americans are going to be cheesy, sentimental or obvious no matter how you slice the haggis(Enter the Haggis). I like names that have names of tunes in them "Planxty" or "Blarney Pilgrims", "Boys of the Lough", "Cherish the Ladies", "Green Fields of America". Place names are great too like "Giants Causeway","Ushers Island" or "Patrick Street". I threw a name for a duo called "Greasewood Blarney". Greasewood is a desert plant that stays green year round out here in Central Oregon. It has some sharp thorns in it, which could have the joke on you if you try and kiss it. Tough being clever, witty and tasteful.

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Our old band playing out of the Bell in Bath was ‘The Kissing Frogs’. It’s a long and boring story.

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I always wanted to name a bandv Seamus Ennis (because tongue in cheek it sounds kind of like "Shameless Anus") as a tribute to the Pogues (they wanted to call themselves "Pogue Mó Thoìn or Kiss my Arse but had to change it). Could never get the rest of the band to go along with it. Names run the gamut it seems from the Irish Rovers to Clannad and everything in between. I always thought the Scots group Silly Wizard was a really neat original name.

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Years ago, me and two mates, which added up to be a good representation of the old joke about a Scotsman, an Irishman, and an Englishman, were once asked to put together a band to play a St.Patrick’s night gig. We agreed that with it being St Paddy’s day we should use an Irish name for the band, so my mate Tommy from Belfast decided we should be called "The Tree Fellers".

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@Chuck, I actually think that "Shameless Anus" would have been the better name . But then you couldn’t really say that it was ‘tongue in cheek’ could you? (well you probably wouldn’t want to).

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Ha, Ha,… I’m horrified!

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Trouble is, when you’re trying to choose a band name, it’s so much easier to think of joke names than anything you’d actually want to use.

To my mind, Irish phrases (rather than names) are only appropriate when you have someone in the band who has at least a little of the language (and pronunciation.) But maybe that matters less the lower the chances of an Irish speaker ever coming to one of your gigs!

A language you don’t speak can be tricky. I got a lot of chuckles from a French audience when I said I was going to play "Les Poules Hupées" for a dance but that I didn’t understand the name.

You might not want to choose an Irish name of "O’Farrell’s Welcome to Limerick" for your band.

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Then again, you just might… 😉

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On a more serious note, a few years ago "Lankum" decided to change their name from "Lynched" because of the obvious connotations. Of course, when the band was formed, this was the last thing in their minds and Lynch just happened to be the name of one of their members.

So, band names may become less or more appropriate over a period of time and depending on the circumstances.

I once remember Clare McLaughlin commenting that, on reflection, she wished that they hadn’t chosen the name Deaf Shepherd although it was obviously quite a funny idea at the time. However, as the band gained in popularity and became much more serious musically they were still stuck with the name.
Of course, they kept the name and still perform occasionally although they don’t tour or record regularly these days.

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Then there’s the Scottish band Wolfstone - not to be confused with the afore-mentioned Wolfe Tones, but wonder why Wolfstone chose that name?

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Thanks Johnny Jay: seems a good enough reason!

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Some band names are misleading:

The Four Winds (I thought it would be four winds, but alas, only two; the other two are string and percussion)

The Piano Guys (I thought it would be two or more pianos, but alas, only one; the other guy plays cello)

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How about Four Men and a Dog? Now that’s just blatant false advertising!

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A good name for a Clare band: Feakle Matter?