The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'vampire weekend'
The Wall Street Journal has a piece on the ever-worsening shortage of band names; all the good names are invariably taken, and in this globalised age of MySpace, SoundCloud and MP3 blogs, it is no longer considered acceptable for every other city to have its own The Bumpin' Uglies. That and the increasing power of intellectual-property-owning corporations, keen on smacking down anybody so much as hinting at their trademarks without a licence, goes some way towards explaining the current fashion for impressionistically meaningless word-salad in band names:
Between takes in a recording studio, Mr. Jones brainstormed about names with his new band mates, including former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, then checked them online. Their first choice, Caligula, turned up at least seven acts named after the decadent Roman emperor, including a defunct techno outfit from Australia. Eventually the rockers decided on Them Crooked Vultures. The words held no special meaning. "Every other name is taken," Mr. Jones explains. "Think of a great band name and Google it, and you'll find a French-Canadian jam band with a MySpace page."("Techno"? I thought Caligula were a Curve/Stone Roses knockoff.)
By 2006, they had come up with what they thought was the perfect country-music moniker: Jane Deere. It was simple, blue-collar and a little jokey. But after their lawyer registered the name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the company behind John Deere tractors took exception. Moline, Ill.-based Deere & Co. asserted in filings that the Jane Deere trademark would cause "a likelihood of confusion" among consumers. The musicians backed down and the government officially canceled the Jane Deere trademark in January 2009.Of course, in the US legal system, might often makes right, and you can nab someone else's band name if you're confident that you can afford better lawyers, as Kathleen Cholewka of another Brooklyn band named Discovery found out when the Vampire Weekend side project refused to relinquish her band name:
With the help of a lawyer friend, Ms. Cholewka sent a cease-and-desist letter to her rivals. After some initial communication from the band's lawyer, Ms. Chowleka says, she's gotten no further response. She doesn't have the money to hire a trademark lawyer, but she says she's willing to compromise: "If you want to buy the name from me, great."The other Discovery have refused, saying magnanimously that there is enough room in the world for two bands of the same name. Of course, the fact that, should Ms. Cholewka attempt to exercise her right to ths name, she would find it impossible to promote her own project (even if she keeps the name, the amount of explaining she has to do would be tantamount to a de facto renaming to "Discovery—no, not that Discovery"), is not their problem, and winners are grinners.
Guy Blackman writes about the recent wave of afrobeat-influenced indie, excoriates Vampire Weekend for being privileged, apolitical hipsters and using the music of the global downtrodden to essentially crow about their own privileged lives:
As for Vampire Weekend, the newest kids on the Afro-indie block, their adoption of West African and Madagascan musical elements seems deliberately apolitical. "There are certainly going to be a lot of people that listen to our music and they couldn't care less about that stuff," says drummer Chris Tomson, who met his bandmates as students at Columbia University, a prestigious Ivy League college in Manhattan's moneyed Upper West Side.
Despite their protestations, Vampire Weekend are undeniably provocative, and arguably offensive. Their preppy image and campus-based lyrics invoke connotations of rare privilege, while musically they mix their clean Sunny Ade guitars with a heavy dose of Weezer-style nerd rock. They describe their music as "Upper West Side Soweto", and filmed the video to first single Mansard Roof aboard a yacht on the New York Bay. Their debut self-titled album (released last month on influential British label XL Recordings) includes a song entitled Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.
But it seems the past decade or so of conservative rule in the West, along with the progressive dilution of independent music culture into the diminutive, apolitical genre that is indie, has divorced many young artists from the larger ramifications of their music. These days everything is available, everything is free, and so nothing needs to mean anything.I wonder whether the whole taking-the-music-of-the-downtrodden-and-singing-about-elite-colleges thing is meant to be some kind of deliberate attempt at ironic asshole cool, like Gavin McInnes (the Vice editor) wearing a Skrewdriver T-shirt with a Michael Jackson badge.