A R T I C L E
How Unique is your Band Name?
by Ian Duggan
Finding a band name that is unique can be a tricky thing. A quick check on the internet can confirm that seemingly the most obscure and clever names have already been taken. One ex-Hamilton musician, after finding a number of bands had names similar to his ‘Radio Over Moscow', changed the name of his indie-electronic project recently to the more unique moniker 'Anecdata'. I decided to search for the names of a number of currently or recently active Hamilton bands on Facebook, to see if there were other bands in the world with the same names as ours. Names were treated as equal if the only difference was the presence or absence of a ‘The’ at the front of the name.
Unique is Glass Shards (although there are several ‘Shards of Glass’), there are no other bands called Sora Shima or Ancient Tapes, and Dick Dynamite has no doppelgangers. Interestingly, neither does Radio Over Moscow, despite the name change, though there are a number of Radio Moscows! But there were a number of match-ups to be found.
Rumpus Room has five bands sharing its name, although all but one of these goes by ‘The Rumpus Room’. The other ‘Rumpus Room’ sensu stricto is rather close to home, however. They are described as “a (sic) energetic wedding covers band available in the Auckland region and beyond”.
Hamilton punk band Contenders had the most shared moniker, with 21 other bands on Facebook calling themselves either ‘Contenders’ (3) or ‘The Contenders’ (18). These included a variety of genres. Straight ‘Contenders’ include a German cover band, and an Electronic Dance Music (EDM) producer from Florida. ‘The Contenders’, on the other hand, includes bands describing themselves as “original melodic alt-rock on the Space Coast” (Florida) and “an angsty pop punk band from the seedy outskirts of Pittsburgh”, while one in the UK describes themselves as “an eclectic mix from Punk to Funk, Rock and Soul”. Interestingly, one of their ‘Contenders’ namesakes is a ‘Pretenders’ tribute band from California.
Next to top, HUP favourites ‘The Scones’ had seven other bands on Facebook appearing as ‘The Scones’ (4) or simply ‘Scones’ (3). While ours pronounce their name to rhyme with ‘con’ rather than ‘cone’, it was unclear from the other bands’ descriptions how they articulate theirs. Interestingly, however, three additional bands use the ‘Rolling Scones’ as a name, which only works with the ‘cone’ sound; this joke seems to be particularly funny in Scandinavian countries. Surprisingly, only one of these appears to actually be a Rolling Stones tribute band.
Even our biggest of exports are not immune to double-ups, with a rock n' roll band called ‘Los Datsuns’ hailing from Chihuahua in the north of Mexico. Honourable mentions must also go to Ghosts of Electricity (2 shares) and Inchworm (2; including one from Tokyo). Grok, now based in the UK, also have two; this includes a French heavy metal band, while I have not included in the count ‘Grok Enrol & The Nu-Thing’, self-described as “Yorkshire-based masher-upperers of Psyche, Dub, Metal, Prog, Punk and Electronica”.
So why might having an original name matter? Firstly, having an original name might hinder how easy it is for potential fans to find your band on social media. Aspirations are also important. For example, making it big, or trying to go international, can lead to either an enforced name change if another band has already laid claim your name, or even litigation.
I N T E R V I E W
by Ian Duggan
Photos by Ngamihi Pawa
Ancient Tapes have recently reformed after a year and a half hiatus, and will be playing at the HUP/HUM Xmas party later in December. Sometimes as awkward as a three-way handshake, I talked to members Sam Brockelsby (vocals, guitar), Gareth Schott (guitar) and Rob Shirlow (bass) about the bands beginnings, sound, their high turnover of drummers, and we play a version of ‘Desert Island Discs’ especially personalised for the band, ‘Traffic Island Tapes’.
HUP: How did Ancient Tapes form?
Gareth: Rob and Sam were working together at the time and that led to the discovery that Sam had fantastic music taste for one so young. Sam became Rob's Padawan and the rest of us were drafted in to make up the numbers, I think? Sam and Rob kicked it off and remain the core of the band to this day.
Rob: I'm a teacher and Sam was a teacher aide in my class. I still remember the moment I discovered he dug Ride. I couldn't quite believe it. I remember seeing Gareth drop his kids off at kindy near school, in all manner of band t-shirts and eventually getting to know him through school too. Eventually I suggested we all have a jam, with Liam Clancy on drums who I knew through football, and away we went.
HUP: How do you describe your sound?
Sam: I don’t! But I find it interesting hearing what other people think we sound like. Someone once compared us to the Smashing Pumpkins, which was very flattering, but I don’t see it personally. We all really like those alternative guitar bands from the ‘80s and early ‘90s, so I guess we must sound a bit like that?
Rob: It's noisy, melodic, layered, guitary, dreamy indie rock. I think.
Gareth: Our sound is BIG. We are loud but not in a teenage turn-it-up-to-11 way. We have a big sound thanks to effects, song structure and having three guitarists. Songs generally have a LOUD-quiet dynamic and will inevitably build. We aren't really shoegaze although we have given ourselves that label. That was more a summation of the bands that we all like and had in common — Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Ride, etc — which gave us a guideline as to that kind of song parts we'd try and write and the way in which each of us should contribute to a song. i.e. no one should add a metal lead break or add bass slaps, that kind of thing. It's actually a good way for bands to avoid musical faux pas. It quickly got us on the same page. Although our sound has changed since we got back together. We are probably just indie-guitar now. Adding a bit more pop to our songs in an attempt to combat Hamilton audiences desire to sit and watch rather than stand or dance... maybe that's just for us.
HUP: Your first gig was in September 2014, but performances ceased in May 2015 when Sam left the country. You have only recently reformed after a year and a half gap. Stylistically, are you picking up where you left off, or has the break led to a rethink of the direction the band might take?
Sam: There has been a bit of a shift away from the more post-rocky stuff in favour of shorter, faster paced songs with more up-front vocals. This is partially because we wanted to have a more exciting live set, but also because of [drummer] Albert [Bannister]’s influence on the material. He has definitely brought something different to the table, and the songs have a bit more bounce to them now.
Gareth: We have dropped a massive proportion of our old set for a number of reasons. We are sick of playing some of them live, some haven't stood the test of time, maybe one of us doesn't like a song for whatever reason, and some songs we feel are better songs for a recording than a live set. We have a lot of songs. Instead of just doing the same stuff now we are back, we want to do new songs. Our first gig back contained two new (unfinished) songs. Old songs that have survived the chop are less effects driven when played. Simpler sound, so we can enjoy playing them and not have to shoegaze so much. That has given them a different feel and new lease of life. Basically we are weeding out the more epic post-rock numbers in favour of shorter punchier songs. Bit of Clash, Ramones, Wedding Present sneaking in there on top of existing influences. New drummer Albert [Bannister] also has had an impact; Mark [McGeady], enjoying too much success in Arc of Ascent to even contemplate returning to Ancient Tapes, was a much heavier drummer. Some songs don't sound right without Mark. Albert brings more of a Loz Colbert (Ride)/Danny Goffey (Supergrass) quality to the sound. Although he's off... so who knows what Ancient Tapes drummer #5 will bring.
Rob: Stylistically it's very similar, but maybe there's a focus on being a bit more upbeat. We want to record of course, but I think I'm right in saying the collective focus is to make a live set that blows minds, and that's not easy. I've been lucky enough to have had that before in the early Sora Shima days, and it's a real thrill to play music that takes people's breath away, including your own. There's work to do for sure, but to be honest I don't know what the point is really if you're not aiming for that as a band. Whether you get there or not is a different matter of course.
HUP: I am sure each of you still has some old cassette’s in your music collections. If you were stuck on a traffic island, which one of your ‘ancient tapes’ would you chose to have with you?
Rob: Traffic Island... hmmm, it would be noisy, eh? So probably my [Jesus & Mary Chain] Psychocandy tape, which still plays nicely despite the battering it has had over the years. It's got the rage songs to get you through rush hour, and the mellow songs for 3am. I guess it depends where the traffic island is though.
Gareth: Probably The Cure's Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me for its sheer variety of songs.
Sam: Cassettes were already on the way out by the time I started getting into music, so I don’t actually own any. But I do remember my dad had this acid jazz mixtape that he used to blast in the car when I was about 7 or 8, until one day it got left on the dashboard and was melted by the sun. That was a sweet tape and I’d love to have it back somehow, so I guess I’ll put that as my answer.
HUP: What are your aspirations for the band?
Sam: Play more live shows, and hopefully get a few things recorded next year. We have a lot of songs, old stuff and new stuff, and there’s easily enough there for an EP or even an album. It would be nice if we could hold on to a drummer for more than six months as well.
Gareth: Have fun. Not be too bothered if no one gets it (still working on that one). Play some big gigs with great bands. Record some songs.
Rob: Play some great shows, meet some cool people, write some great songs, record something worthwhile. Have fun.
HUP: While the three of you have been stable in the lineup, you seem to lose drummers faster than Spinal Tap. What’s the deal with that?
Gareth: Rob's wind.
Rob: Possibly Gareth's wind after Vege burger night at the Schott's. Or plain old circumstances. Liam left to go to Scotland. Then Sam went to Berlin and Mark joined Arc of Ascent. Now Albi is off to sunny Whakatane for employment. As Sporting Director and thus head of recruitment, we've had to review some HR policies. Watch this space I guess.
Sam: I don’t know, but it does concern me. Maybe we’re just insufferable assholes and don’t realise it?
I N T E R V I E W
RISE OF THE GRIMM
by Pternandon Grady
Alternative psych pop rockers Cheshire Grimm are doing stuff that you should know about. On top of careening around the North Island recording their new E.P Rain or Shine, they are also headlining a gig here in Hamilton with their mates Armed in Advance, Skinny Hobos, and Wolf Wizard. This calamity of visual and aural rock porn will be taking place at Biddy Mulligans this Saturday the 3rd of December. Pternandon Grady managed to hijack their recording session to ask them a few questions about what they’ve been up to lately.
What inspired the creation of Cheshire Grimm?
Lora: I was looking for a new original music project after my previous bands had both ended in 2011. I was kind of in a transitional phase, writing and recording demos in my home studio, but didn't have anyone to jam them with. Kat and I had known each other for a couple of years and she was writing songs, singing and playing her acoustic bass. She played some of her songs at a mutual friend’s party, and I was like woah! They were good, so I hit her up to see if she would be keen to collaborate.
Kat: Yep. Lora pretty much abducted me. And I liked it.
Do you remember your first jam together? How did it go down?
Kat: I shat my pants. Lora brought a PA, amps and mics over to my house, Dan brought his drums. I had no idea what was going on, but it was super fun and I was cloud nine about actually jamming in a band!
Lora: We had a couple of acoustic sessions together with Kat on bass and me on guitar, then she suggested possibly asking her brother in law Dan to come jam with us on drums. We met up at Kat's, we had a couple of songs between us that both of us roughly knew, and went from there. We all got along instantly which was awesome! Dan has since moved on and we've had a few line-up changes, but he's still (literally) part of Kat's family and I love him like a brother.
Your lyrics can be extremely deep and meaningful, yet your sound remains catchy and upbeat - is this something that comes naturally?
Lora: Nah. Sometimes they actually make absolutely no sense. Like today we are recording and joking around with our lyrics about a banana boat (we are not actually singing about a banana boat). Generally, Kat writes most of the lyrics, or we write them together – and both of us seem to find our inspiration comes from the struggles we go through.
Kat: I like cats.
How is the new E.P coming along?
Lora: It's going well! This week we've finished off all of the recording and are now entering the editing & mixing phase. We've had some exciting new experiences working at Roundhead Studios with Ben King and at Revaulting Records with Paul Lawrence, as well as returning to The Porch Studios (where we recorded our first EP).
Is it difficult creating new material while one of the bands most central components (Lora) is living in Melbourne?
Lora: Most of the songs we are recording right now are songs we have already been playing live, and have been sitting on for a couple of years - so to us, they definitely don't feel new anymore. We are really looking forward to taking some time out early next year to work on our many, many new ideas! Our biggest challenge over the last year has been changing drummers and bassists - so rather than spending time writing when we get together, a lot of our time is spent getting session players up to speed on our old songs before shows. To some degree this is why we have chosen the name Rain or Shine for our new E.P – it reflects the fact we have been through several line-up changes this year (including one drummer who bailed on us on the day of a gig). We have managed to work through that and still make this record!
Kat: I miss Lora. All the time. I miss our jams and I'm looking forward to band-camping it up next year to do some serious writing/jam time.
Under what circumstances/ conditions do you find you are most creative?
Kat just poured herself a ginger wine and said she will think about that one.
Kat: Depressed. Stoned. Coming down. Sad panda.
You have recently stolen one half of Skinny Hobos (the half that wears a red tie and flashes hairy nipples) - how is working with Sam Holdom going?
Lora: Sam's been an absolute awesome dude! We've loved having him play on Rain or Shine with us. He will be playing a few shows with us too. We're looking forward to our Aussie shows with Skinny Hobos next year. We're still looking for a permanent drummer, but Sam's help has meant everything to us while we're looking.
Kat: Sam is the man. But we can't have him forever. It's been such a blast working with such a proactive down to earth musician.
I also hear that you have a new bassist in the mix?
Kat: Dan Reese is covering some live gigs for us while we experiment with the dynamics as a four piece. We're hoping to steal him for a while.
What does the cryptic saying ‘full tit’ really mean?
Lora: Tits are the new dick.
Kat: Full tilt?
Who are your favourite New Zealand artists at the moment?
Yukon Era, Decades, Electric Wire Hustle, Skinny Hobos, Sola Rosa, MC Tali, Ladi6, Curly's Jewels, Armed in Advance.
If you could resurrect ANY musician from the dead to jam/party/ fornicate with - who would it be?
Lora: Rob Zombie. Is he dead yet? Are we allowed to kill for this purpose?
Kat: I'm not into fucking dead musicians, man.
Why should the people of Ham Tron come to Biddy’s this Saturday? What can they expect?
Kat: We started in Hamilton, and haven't played a show in the Tron for a very long time – it would be fantastic to see our original fan base in the crowd, as well as some new faces!
Lora: The point is - why should they not? We've only played one show in Hamilton this year, and we're so excited to play our last show of the year in Hamilton. They can expect an awesome night of 4 amazing rock bands for $10! (or $8 if you buy a presale from eventfinda.co.nz).
What lies ahead for Cheshire Grimm?’
Lora: We've got lots of exciting things in the pipeline for next year, an NZ and Australian mini tour, some festivals, and hopefully writing the beginnings of our debut album.