News and Features

How to Name a Band

Categorized Under: Music


What’s in a name? If you’re in a band, it’s the most important marketing tool next to your music that you’ve got. KERA’s Stephen Becker spoke with North Texas musicians headed to Austin to play at South by Southwest about the tricky process of naming yourself:

  • KERA radio story:
  • Expanded online story:

In 1979, Carl Finch was considering names for a polka band. And even he knew his favorite style of music wasn’t exactly considered hip.

Carl Finch: “So we wanted to think of the most un-cool term for a group at the time. And ‘combo’ was the word that parents would use to describe a group or a band. But we also felt like we couldn’t just make it totally goofy. We couldn’t call it the sauerkraut combo.”

No, he knew playing polkas would also require some guts. And he wanted that reflected in the name, too.

Thirty years later, Denton’s Brave Combo is still playing those polkas. It’s all the proof musicians need that naming your band is important business.

Anyone who’s tried to name something, whether a child or a pet or a boat, know inspiration can come from a variety of places. Sometimes, the words just come from nowhere, like a gift from God.

On a trip to California, Chris Johnson was writing down directions to pick up a van. One of the steps was “turn on to Telegraph Canyon Road.”

He knew instantly that Telegraph Canyon was perfect for his new Fort Worth band.

Chris Johnson: “That name sums it up. Communication in space. That’s what good music is.”

Jason Reichl says it’s important that a band’s name evokes its music. In essence, that’s your brand. The name Giggle Party, he says, pegs his band perfectly.

Jason Reichl: “For us, we hope when someone hears that name, they can think this is probably going to be fun and kind of like a happy birthday adult kinda sing along.”

But not everyone thinks so literally. After all, the world of music is littered with nonsensical names. Really, what do Coldplay or U2 or Aerosmith even mean?

Still, having an abstract name can allow a developing band to become whatever it will.

Denton guitarist Nathan Allen says that he and his bandmates texted around made-up words until something just felt right. They eventually settled on Seryn.

After that, he knew the next step was passing what he calls “the Google test.” As in, when people search for us online, what are they going to find?

Allen says Seryn’s online competition turned out to be pretty slim.

ALLEN: “There’s a cat in New York that’s got a lot of videos on YouTube of her doing things like playing the violin or drinking milk or watching TV. And then, there’s a baby named Seryn, and there’s like 300 videos of the first three years of her life.”

Giggle Party was less fortunate. After settling on the name, Reichl later learned that a nasty computer virus and adult business also had the same name.

But he takes it all in stride.

REICHL: “We’d like to think that now we’re the official soundtrack of people with the virus or attending sex parties. We try to promote that as much as possible.”

If you can’t find a name that either says something about your band or just feels right, you can always take the third route and just go with a name people will remember.

Toby Pipes was watching TV one night searching for inspiration. Of all places, he found it on a show talking about essential items for women. No. 1 on the list: the Little Black Dress.

Ubiquity has its advantages.

PIPES: “It’s around so much that when it comes up, people think about your band once or twice a day. … When you hear someone say it, someone might think, ‘I haven’t thought of that band in a while, I wonder what they’re doing?’”

Plus, at this point in music history, a lot of names have been claimed.

PIPES: “Everyone can’t be the Smiths anymore, or you can’t be Duran Duran. Or the Cure, or the Police. All the good ones are taken.”

That is until the perfect name comes along. And that’s when we all wonder, “how come nobody’s thought of this one before?”

Visit the Art&Seek blog all week for coverage of South by Southwest.

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Wednesday Morning Roundup

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Categorized Under: Uncategorized

Middle of the week. Hump Day. Woo-hoo!! It’s all downhill from here!

Wait … that’s not what I mean.

BANDS, BANDS, BANDS — IS SOMETHING GOING ON IN AUSTIN? Over on the feature side, you no doubt heard/read Stephen Becker’s amusing report on North Texas band names — bands headed to SXSW, by the way. In the Fort Worth Weekly, Anthony Mariani has been keeping track of all the local bands going to Austin. Did I read this right? He says almost 100 bands from FW will be playing the music end of the conference.

A FOOTE IN THE NORTH TEXAS DOOR? Theater Jones reports that a Dallas-Fort Worth-wide festival of plays by the late Horton Foote may be in the offing. Not many details other than that. Currently, New York’s Signature Theatre is presenting in repertory all three parts (nine plays) of Foote’s Orphans’ Home Cycle off-Broadway. Me, I’d love to see any of Orphans’ Home. And speaking of Signature, it’s run by SMU grad James Houghton — whose choice of architect Frank Gehry to design Signature’s new $60 million home on West 42nd gets a feature treatment in the NYTimes.

WHY A CERTAIN TUNE CAN DRIVE YOU CRAZY AND HOW TO FUGGEDABOUT IT: Turns out, scientists have been studying what makes a tune “sticky.” Unsurprisingly, earworms are generally marked by simplicity and repetitiveness and connect, somehow, to “the primitive parts of the brain.” (I knew my brain was trying to kill me.) One possible cure: Sing the damned thing out loud, although that may well make it stick in someone else’s head. Another possible cure — it seems we may actually be able to consciously change our memories. It could be a way of treating childhood phobias. I have a childhood phobia of “The Pina Colada Song.”

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Flickr Foto of the Week

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Categorized Under: Uncategorized, Visual Arts

Steam Engine

Congratulations to Matt Harvey of Addison, the winner of the Flickr Photo of the Week contest! Wish we could show the photo of this locomotive in Grapevine as big as possible. The details are incredibly tactile. Matt is a prolific shutterbug, as you can tell from his often stunning photoblog. He follows last week’s winner, Sarah Philipson.

If you would like to participate in the Flickr Photo of the Week contest, all you need to do is upload your photo to to our Flickr group page. It’s fine to submit a photo you took previous to the current week, but we are hoping that the contest will inspire you to go out and shoot something fantastic this week to share with Art&Seek users. If the picture you take involves a facet of the arts, even better. The contest week will run from Monday to Sunday, and the Art&Seek staff will pick a winner on Monday afternoon. We’ll notify the winner through FlickrMail (so be sure to check those inboxes) and ask you to fill out a short survey to tell us a little more about yourself and the photo you took. We’ll post the winners’ photo on Wednesday.

Now here’s more from Matt:

Matt Harvey

Title of Photo: Steam Power

Equipment: I’m working from memory on this  – Canon 400D with the lens, Canon EF-S 10mm – 22mm f/3.5-4.5

Tell us more about your photo: I actually shot this back in September 2007 and don’t really remember too many details of the shoot, other than I was out testing a new set of Hoya filters and had never really spent any time in the old downtown part of Grapevine. But I thought that the old train equipment would be interesting to shoot.  That, and the grain silos.  I’d just gotten back in to photography, after stopping for a few years when film got too expensive and I no longer had access to a darkroom and before digital SLRs had gotten good enough to approach film in image quality. So I guess when I go back and look at some of these images from those times, I think about how I felt glad to finally have my favorite creative outlet back again after several years of it missing — at least on a somewhat serious level — from my life.  Since then, I’ve rediscovered my love of the still image and it’s a central part of my life now.  In fact, I’m in the middle of a trip to Palo Duro Canyon and New Mexico with the main goal of photographing things, in addition to giving my wife and myself a much-needed break from the non-stop pace of Dallas.

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SXSW: No Room in the Inn

AUSTIN – If there’s one theme wafting through the discussions outside theaters, it’s been the difficulty getting in them.

The Austin American Statesman reports that the number of film registrants is up 25 percent this year. The number of seats, unfortunately, hasn’t grown at the same rate, leaving many festivalgoers out in the cold.

Chris Vognar of The Dallas Morning News and Charles Ealy of the Statesman have each grumbled about the problem this week, and I’ve had the same problems as they have.

On Sunday night, I was really looking forward to James Franco’s SNL documentary Saturday Night, which was playing at the Alamo Drafthouse on Lamar. But after entering the parking lot and surveying the line snaking all the way from the box office to the street, I headed directly to the shuttle, defeated. That’s been my only shutout so far, but that’s partly due to the fact that I’ve made a point of seeing films playing at the 1,200 seat Paramount, where attendance for badge holders is virtually guaranteed. I’ve waited in some really long lines there over the years and always made it in.

So what’s the solution? Probably branching out to multiplexes. So far, the festival has really made a point of booking independent houses over the large cinema chains. That lends a definite film purist vibe to the whole affair. But as the event grows and grows, quaint may have to take a backseat to reality.

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SXSW: Circling Back to the Twitter Discussion

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AUSTIN – On Tuesday, I briefly touched on Twitter founder and CEO Evan Williams’ keynote address at the Interactive conference. But I didn’t really write much about it because, well, it was boring. And I like you all too much to bore you.

As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one non-plussed by the talk. The New York Times Bits blog posted about the discontentment of those in the room, quoting a tweeter who wrote: “There’s a line to get OUT of the @ev keynote.”

The Austin American Statesman also took note of the grumbling and compared the discussion with a 2008 panel featuring Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg fielding inane questions from Business Week columnist Sarah Lacy. (I was at that one, too, and it was truly awful. As in there was almost a riot awful.)

At least Twitter users balanced their rage with wit as they took to the site to ravage the talk. Favorite quote in the NYT post from someone tweeting in the room: “There are hundreds of people in the room. Someone. Anyone. Kanye this keynote and ask Evan a good question.”

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Nifty New PAC Website Tool

phppmsWU0PMIf you go to the AT&T PAC website to buy tickets or just to learn what’s playing, you may encounter a cool little Flash addition.  In the lower center of the “More Information” page for the Dallas Theater Center’s  offerings, there’s a pop-up, flip-through reproduction of the show’s actual, 36-page print program, Rolex watch ads and everything. It’s a really smart, condensed way of providing you a lot of information about the show, right down to the cast bios and lists of corporate contributors. If you’re into reading the fine print. The DTC’s site has the same deal, down at the bottom.

Too bad none of the other PAC offerings, touring shows or locals, seem to have anything similar — at the moment.

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SXSW: Lemmy on Film

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Categorized Under: Film and Television, Music

AUSTIN – Every year, South by Southwest features its share of music-related films. This is Austin. And this year is no exception. Among the films on the slate are The Runaways (starring Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett), a documentary on Brazilian music called Beyond Ipanema and Thunder Soul, which will play at the Dallas International Film Festival in a few weeks.

On Monday night, I decided to take in Lemmy, a movie about Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister that featured some of the best and worst elements of documentary filmmaking.

Let’s start with the best. Directors Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski were granted incredible access as they interviewed the king of metal extensively and followed him to everywhere from recording sessions to a tour of Europe to his favorite bar stool at the Rainbow in Los Angeles, where he lives. Along the way, we learn of Lemmy’s fascination with collecting World War I and II mementos, his love of Jack and Cokes and why the rock legend chooses to live in a tiny apartment. When we’re not following Lemmy, a who’s who of metal icons (Ozzy, Metallica, Slash, etc.) trip all over each other to let us know what an influential musician/all around stud he is.

Sounds great so far, right?

The problem with the film is that there’s just too much of it. Olliver and Orshoski are clearly in awe of their subject; this is one of the most reverential docs you’ll ever see. If Lemmy is your idol, consider the film a church service. But after the 50th talking head says some version of “Lemmy is awesome,” it becomes repetitive quickly. And while the directors impressively capture that rock doc staple of the musician making that focused walk from backstage to the spotlight, do we really have to see it in Nashville, Berlin, Finland and Moscow? One of those is plenty, thanks.

At 90 minutes, Lemmy would have left me wanting to crank “Ace of Spades” on my way home. Two hours of Lemmy, though, was Lemmy overload for me. It’s hard to imagine that anything was held back from the film for the DVD.

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Tuesday Morning Roundup

THE FUTURE OF THE METROPOLITAN OPERA IS A TEXAN? The Grand Finals Concert of the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions — a bigger deal since director Susan Froemke’s 2007 documentary, The Audition — has actually gotten attention in opera circles for more than 50 years. On Sunday, nine young singers competed for five prizes of 15 grand each — having already beaten out nearly 1,500 other contestants.  Anthony Tommasini writes in the NYTimes that judges were picking the Met’s future stars (the great Frederica von Stade won it 41 years ago). One of the winners was Nathaniel Peake, a 28-year-old tenor “from a town in Texas with a semingly un-Texan name, Humble.” Ha. Fresh bit of New York humor there — fresh like a 10-year-old latke! (Rimshot.) OK, so Peake sang a little cautiously but he has “a warm, ringing and expressive voice.”  And it doesn’t hurt that Peake tied for second in the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition.

SEE? DALLAS AND FORT WORTH CAN BE FRIENDS! Remember that recent NPR story about the Dallas and Fort Worth high-end art scenes competing with each other for snobbery’s sake? No? Good. Pretend we didn’t mention it. Anyhoosie, the Fort Worth Weekly profiles the two-some who make up the local psychedelic-stoner music band, Eyes, Wings and Many Other Things: Colin Arnold of Dallas and, you got it, Sean French, formerly of Fort Worth. Their new album, Secret Space, should be out in a month or so.

AND JUST TO MAKE THIS AN ALL-SINGING ROUNDUP! Lady Gaga’s making her North Texas debut at the American Airlines Center July 22 (Jimmy Fowler likes her more than Madonna), while Scott Cantrell love-love-loves the Choir of St. Thomas Church, who performed Sunday at Highland Park United Methodist. (They left him “wondering if there’s a finer such group anywhere in the world”).

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The Last King of Texas: Charles IV at the Meadows Museum

smaller greyer chuck

Francisco de Goya, Charles IV (0il on canvas), 1789.

Southern Methodist University’s Meadows Museum of Art has one of the largest collections of Spanish art outside of Europe. It also has well-established ties with major museums in Spain. But KERA’s Jerome Weeks says that the Meadows’ new exhibition draws on another, older tie.

  • Gaile Robinson’s review for
  • KERA radio story:
  • Expanded online story:

If you’ve heard of Charles IV at all, it was probably as a footnote in art history. Charles ruled Spain from 1788 to 1808. And for his court painter, he appointed Francisco de Goya,  Spain’s greatest artist. But it’s a sign of Charles IV’s general lack of esteem that the Meadows exhibition, called Royal Splendor in the Enlightenment, is the first major one to take stock of him — as a patron of the arts.

Mark Roglan, the director of the Meadows Museum, explains.

ROGLAN: “Charles IV was not the greatest administrator – as a king. But he was one of the greatest collectors that Spain ever had.”

Royal Splendor has more than 80 items – including a portrait of the king by Goya (above). But more than paintings, the exhibition features domestic décor of a high order: clocks, furniture, ivories. The music you’re hearing was played on the king’s collection of Stradivarius violins. There’s even an elaborate, enclosed salon chair. The queen sat in it while two stewards hauled her around the palace. Think of it less as a substitute carriage and more as a sideways luxury elevator — for the home.

27 Royal Workshops, Sedan chair of Queen María Luisa (wood, gilded metal, bronze, velvet and silver), 1795

Most of these works have never appeared in the United States before, and most came from the Patrimonio Nacional, Spain’s National Heritage Trust. The Patrimonio manages nine royal palaces, more than a dozen monasteries and convents and some 50,000 acres of parks.  The current king, Juan Carlos, uses them for state occasions; otherwise, they serve as gardens, research archives and museums for the people of Spain.

And for the people who were once ruled by Spain. Yago Pico de Coana is president of the Patrimonio. He explains why it’s significant that the Meadows in Texas is the only museum outside of Spain to host Royal Splendor.

De COANA: “We share great moments in history with your state. And we have a special relationship to Charles IV in Madrid.”

That’s because Charles IV was the last, uncontested King of Texas. The Meadows Museum underscores this with a related display of historic maps from SMU’s DeGolyer Library. The words Nueva Espagna often appear spanning the entire western United States – we were the Colony of New Spain.

But in 1808, Charles IV was exiled by Napoleon. Charles’ son, Ferdinand, did eventually regain control of the crown — but only as a divisive, constitutional monarch. As part of those divisions, Mexico broke away from Spain in 1821. And of course, 15 years later, Texas broke from Mexico.

So here we are at the Meadows – looking at a throne that once ruled Texas.

ROGLAN: “It’s the throne of the queen, Maria Luisa, the wife of Charles IV. It’s a beautiful chair, and what it comes with is this incredible 16-feet canopy that’s made with silk and gold and silver threads. Some of the silver has been oxidized because of time, but yet it’s just a monumental work of art.”

Royal Splendor is an exhibition about court life as a last flowering of neoclassical artifice. It marks the end of the road for this kind of absolute monarchy — in fact, when Charles was crowned King of Spain, his family, the Bourbons, ruled most of Europe. In his lifetime, they lost France, Spain and Italy.


Luigi Valadier, Dessert Service (gilded bronze, marble, semi-precious stones), 1778.

So everything here evokes traditional Renaissance and Church authorities – but only if it can be covered in silk or jewels or gold. Minimalism, this isn’t. There’s a grand banquet centerpiece — a dessert service, no less — that compiles every Roman cliche of arch or column or obelisk. But these toylike temples are made of ivory, amber, marble and gilded bronze, and together, the whole thing is nearly nine feet long.

ROGLAN: “It goes back to Charles IV and his interest to collect small things – yet of really good quality.”

82Charles did love miniatures and clocks – as if he could reduce the universe to decoration and ornate machinery. Over the course of this show, the king actually becomes a poignant figure, a relic in his own life. The traditions Charles stood for were swept away by the forces of the French Revolution: liberty, equality and military dictatorship. One of the last images we see of Charles is an enigmatic, almost comical portrait by Juan Bazil of the back of the former king’s head – as if he were exiting (below, left).

Or turning his back on us.


In all this, there is one moment in Royal Splendor when we might recognize Charles’ ties to us in Texas. The king was an avid hunter. And the exhibition features his shotgun, a gift, ironically enough, from Napoleon.

It’s a gorgeous shotgun.

ROGLAN: “All of that is gold. I mean, all of that is inlaid in gold. And it still works.”

Fatou, detail of Charles IV’s Shotgun (wood, gold, steel and silver), c. 1800

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SXSW: The Many Faces of Twitter

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Categorized Under: Film and Television

AUSTIN – Yet again, Twitter is the virtual epicenter around which nearly all conversation rotates at this year’s Interactive conference. Twitter founder and CEO Evan Williams gave today’s key note address (too much generic business speak for my taste, though there was this announcement at the beginning). And there have been panel discussions on everything from how Twitter was used during last year’s Iranian elections to the tricky question of copyrighting tweets. Tomorrow there’s a panel titled, “Twittering Through Chemo – Survivors Unite.” If you can tweet it, it’s been talked about here.

And not surprisingly, the focused discussions are the most interesting. Before Williams’ keynote, I stopped in on “Slow Twitter: Users Who Take Their Time Tweeting.” The panel was made up of five heavy Twitter users who take the time to think through and craft each of their tweets. Most of them are virtual comedians, and they won’t issue a joke online that they wouldn’t tell in front of a live audience.

If you’re looking for new users to follow (who isn’t!) I took some time after the panel to read through some of the panelists’ pages as well as some of the writers they recommend. Of those, you might take a look at momku (who writes only in haiku), Nick Douglas (who edited a book called Twitter Wit) and fireland (who’s got more than 30,000 followers).

Oh, and please utilize the favorite tool if you like these folks. That’s how they get noticed and gain more followers. And for people who live their lives on Twitter, it’s all about the followers.

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