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Feature Article - January 2001

 BACKSTAGE PASS - What's In A Name?

Edited by Lee Seelig

As this is my first article of the new millennium, I thought it would be timely to start an ongoing project as part of my Backstage Pass columns. As a writer for Jambands.com, I've tried my best to bring the stories behind events out into the open. As I was brainstorming about potential topics for my next column, I came to the conclusion that the most poignant story a band can tell is the reason behind their name. After all, the essence of a band's music is often times summed up by their name alone.

Please understand that the project is NOT complete (and maybe never will be). This is just a start. There is no way that I could have emailed every band in the country and some bands simply did not get back to me in time. The bands that are included in this initial article are bands that I really like a lot, bands that I know about, bands that I've worked with, or bands that I wanted to include for some other reason. The concept behind the project is that the following list will be added to and republished once every three months for the next year. So, if your favorite band is not included here, tell them to email me. Hopefully, by the end of the year, I'll have a pretty comprehensive list compiled. Happy New Year everyone! Enjoy the stories…

(NOTE: This is fairly obvious, but the name that follows the band's name is the person who is telling the story.)

ACTUAL PROOF - Mark Holmes (vocals), New York

Originally our name was inspired by one of our musical heroes, Herbie Hancock. If you are fortunate enough to find it, listen to the second track on a record called, THRUST (1975), the track is called of course, Actual Proof. After looking further into it, we found out that the term "actual proof" is an English translation to a Buddhist philosophy which basically describes the reality that by transforming your life, and mental state from within one's self, that automatically your outside environment would directly be affected. Which of course is especially relevant for the way we (Actual Proof) live our lives and see the effects of everyday, so, we needed to look no further...Actual Proof it was, and Actual Proof it is!!

ADDISON GROOVE PROJECT - Rob Marscher (keyboards), Massachusetts

The most important thing a band's name should do is to invoke something about their music. I don't think anyone hears "groove project" and thinks that we're a hardcore band. I am the only member of Addison Groove Project that was not in the band at the time that they came up with their name. The first time I heard the name I immediately thought, "They must be funky." Since I became the keyboardist for the band, I've heard a lot of people come up with different reasons for the first word in our name: from as relatively simple as "Addison County, Vermont, right?" to as obscure as "That street sign in 'the Blues Brothers' that reads Addison, right?" I first found out the truth on an afternoon as I was wrapping up my cords after a show. I turned around and in front of me was a middle-aged man in yellow-tinted wrap-around sunglasses. He put out his hand and with a strong voice said, "Hi. I'm Addison. The Reverend."

THE ALLY - John Kim (electric violin, alto sax, vocals), Pennsylvania

An ally, according to the Yaqui Way of Knowledge, is an entity, conjured from another dimension to help a person along his or her path towards self-actualization. An ally will appear to a person in altered states of consciousness, often induced by a shaman such as Don Juan, who is the teacher in a series of books by Carlos Castaneda. "The Ally" is just one of the many allies referred to by Don Juan. Our purpose, as a band, is to inspire people with our sonic stew, to bring our audience into transcendental trance states of awareness, and to empower our fans to achieve their goals, whatever they may be.

EMMA GIBBS BAND - David Phelps (manager), North Carolina

When we first started out, three of us were in school in Chapel Hill and the other three lived in Winston-Salem, about an hour and a half away. Our bassist's grandmother lives in Chapel Hill and let us use her garage as a practice space. She is an old blues singer herself so she did what she could to help us out. During the winter she'd bring us coffee and hot food to eat. We were trying to think of a name for the band and someone said Emma Gibbs Band and it stuck. We keep trying to get her out to sing with us but her agent won't allow it.

THE EVERYTHING BAGELS - Mike Beresh (drums), Maryland

When we began playing together our bass player George was getting up at 5:30am to bake bagels at a local bakery. He would show up for rehearsal with trash bags full of everything bagels. The bakery would throw them away at the end of everyday, so he would bring them home. We ate a lot of bagels. I remember at one time we had five or six trash bags totally full of everything bagels. The name just seemed perfect and it stuck.

GARAJ MAHAL - Kai Eckhardt (bass), California

During our second show ever, at the Connecticut Yankee in San Francisco on 4/27/00, we had a truly magical experience. Our first set was completely improvised- no one had an idea of what they would play next. At the close of the first set, a very enthusiastic crowd projected good vibrations onto the stage. After the break, we continued on into the next set, surfing the wave of positive energy that had come forth. Inspired by this moment of magic, I addressed the crowd by saying, "It is because of your good vibrations that we play so well tonight. Why don't you give us a name?" Upon this suggestion, Andy Gadiel and Christian (our manager) met & agreed to set up a webpage at Jambase.com devoted to accepting band name submissions. A week later, a list appeared with over 800 names. Some of them funny as hell, some serious, some bizarre. The name Garaj Mahal made a final cut of 5 names and was then elected by the band unanimously. It was announced by the band at a show in San Francisco some time later. The person who submitted this name has since sent an email to us, his name is Ted Silverman - he's on the band's guest list for life.

THE JINX MOTIVE - John Howland (guitar/vocals), Massachusetts

We were originally and tentatively called the "The Pleasure Principal" until, during a dinner with my grandparents, I told them the band's name and it somehow spawned a whole conversation, lead by grandma, about masturbation. Back in Boston, I immediately told the guys that we needed to rethink the name. Our drummer wanted to name us after our bassist's mom. But the name "Jordan's Mom" didn't fly with Jordan because people would have to say stuff like: "you gotta check out Jordan's Mom" or "Jordan's Mom was amazing last night." So after narrowing a list of over a hundred names we decided upon the most ambiguous name which was "The Jinx Motive." Some drunken and stoned girl from Cincinnati, who was about to puke, kept repeating these words to herself at a party we all were at one night. She probably felt like I did after experiencing the visual flashes induced by my grandma's masturbation antics.

LAKE TROUT - Mike Lowry (drums), Maryland

I always saw the name "Lake Trout" written on all the signs in the corner stores in Baltimore. It seemed like good advertising and related to the music we were playing at the time. Later on a voice confirmed my sense that this name was for us.

LARRY - Tom Vickers (guitar), Texas

When we first started we couldn't think of a name so we just used the code word that was appropriate to our beliefs. When we wanted to jam, we would say to each other: "hey, is Larry around?" If the answer was "yes," the vibe was all good for some jamming. And, that's how Larry started smoking.

LOOP DREAMS - Adam Macchia (drums), Massachusetts

We wanted something that took up a lot of space...we didn't really have a true sound at the time and we were looking for something to grow into. The loop and the infinity sign symbolize repetition and length to the music and dreams is a word that will allow just about any sound from an instrument to fit into it. Also, I thought the movie "Hoop Dreams" was very inspiring...

MIRACLE ORCHESTRA - Bill Carbone (drums), Massachusetts

Myself and our guitarist, Geoff Scott, have been playing together since we were little Steve Millered sixth graders in Connecticut. We moved to Boston together in 1995. After being in town for a while we started to play with a bunch of musicians, but nothing too serious at first. Our friend and fellow musician, Leslie Helpert, was a catalyst for all of us. She found this place called the Phoenix Coffeehouse that would let her put together a whole night of music. She had her group as well as The Slip (one of their first gigs in Boston - they had just moved from Providence - also when we all met each other!). So, all of a sudden we have a gig and no band name. Days became weeks and still no name. It's a hard thing to do! Eventually I just had to make a flyer so I took a chance. I called us "Geoff Scott and his Miracle Orchestra," kind of a play on "Sun Ra and his Intergaltic Arkestra." It stuck. We were going to change it, but we decided that it was a Miracle that we all met each other and enjoyed performing together so much that we kept it.

MORI STYLEZ - Dennis Lichtman (mandolin/clarinet), Connecticut

Mori means "forest" in Japanese. Stylez means nothing in Japanese. Dr. Akane Mori is a music theory teacher at the Hartt School of Music. Barry (our drummer) and I were in her class freshman year, and she's quite a character. She's one of those people that is funny without necessarily trying to be funny. She's also the only person in the entire Hartt School that's shorter than Barry. The word "Stylez" rolls off the tongue nicely. So does drool.

MOSES GUEST - Graham Guest (guitar), Texas

Moses Guest was born in 1750 and died in 1833. He had two wives and sixteen kids, effectively starting the Guest family in America. He fought in the North Carolina Militia in the Revolutionary War, lived in South Carolina for a time, and died in Comer, Georgia, near Athens. His gravestone is in a pile of bushes and shit off Highway 63. I found the gravesite and tombstone last year with relatives and we took photos of it and made it into a t-shirt for the band. We also have a song called "Saint Mo'" that has a little bit of the "Saint Stephen" riff in it.

PSYCHEDELIC BREAKFAST - Tim Palmieri (guitar/vocals), Connecticut

Adrian (drums), Ron (bass), and myself were in a different band before starting PB. Adrian was doing a little side project with his cousin. His cousin came up with "Adrian's Psychedelic Breakfast" changing the first name of the Pink Floyd song appearing on "Atom Heart Mother" called "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast." So we all left that previous group and were deciding on names and the best we could come up with was taking Adrian's name out and leaving it as "Psychedelic Breakfast." Wah La. It's the most important meal of the day.

RANE - Alan Veniscofsky (guitar/vocals), Connecticut

The name "Rane" actually came after we recorded some demos in the fall of 95. As seniors at South Windsor high school, we found ourselves spending lots of free time recording and experimenting with the school's recording studio. To us it seemed to rain a lot during the fall of 1995, so naturally we decided the name should be rain, but with a different spelling: RANE. Someone suggested it and we all agreed.

SACRED GEOMETRY - Patrick Garry (guitar/vocals), Georgia

Sacred Geometry is the meditative experience of drawing and reflecting upon the elegance, interconnectedness, and symmetry that is organically inherent throughout all of nature. We chose this name because it reflects our belief in the perfection of nature, and our configuration as a family of three playing exciting music together has a particular sacred geometric symmetry to it.

SEEPEOPLES - Will Bradford (guitar/keyboards/vocals), Massachusetts

Our name is derived from the "Sea Peoples," a group of bronze-age maritime explorers who transported ideas and culture throughout the Mediterranean. As far as arriving at "Seepeoples," we feel the best way to continue the tradition of exposing and sharing ideas with new people is to go out and see them. Despite the popularity of color television, we hope to see you too.

SHAKE SENORA - Fez Aswat (bass), Massachusetts

It was a real struggle trying to find the right band name. We were looking for something that captured our certain multi-ethnic/cultural flavor and could come up with nothing that didn't sound stupid. My ex-girlfriend and I were in the car and I had just bought her a copy of the "Beetlejuice" soundtrack. I kept listening to that old calypso song "Jump In Line (Shake your body in time. Ok, I believe you)" by Harry Belafonte over and over again until she finally said: "Hey, you can name your band 'Shake Senora.'" I thought it was cute and Owen (our singer) and I didn't take her seriously until...one day when ... we did. We liked it namely because it's very Caribbean, like us, and people hear the name and then they go "no way, dude, like that song, dude, from that movie 'n shit" and off they skip singing "shake- shake- shake- senora" and then we're implanted in their brain like a successfully bad tv commercial. However, those who don't know the song often think we're called "Shakes and Auras" which we think would be a good title for a new age smoothie joint or, perhaps, a metaphysical bookstore for recovering drug addicts and people with either epilepsy or Turrets syndrome. No offense to any recovering drug addicts or people with epilepsy or Turrets syndrome because when you come to our shows you'll wonder if many of our band numbers are actually afflicted with any of the aforementioned ... afflictions.

SWAMPADELICA - Damian Calcagne (keyboards/vocals), New Jersey

Right before my grandmother died, she gave me this mazatec peyote. I ate it. This lizard came up to me with his/her eyes sewn shut. I turned into a bird and landed aside the New Jersey Turnpike. Upon awakening, I was staring at the exit sign for exit 145. It said, "East Orange / Swampadelica... Rt. 280." I ran with it.

ULU - David Hoffman (drums), New York

The name was a mystery to us all until about 6 months ago when we were doing a radio interview in Boston. The DJ asked us how we came up with the name ulu, and Aaron (tenor sax/flute) said with confidence and knowledge beyond the rest of us that ulu meant BIG PENIS. We were all in agreement.

WHO'S THE FAT GUY? - Mark Ross (keyboards/ vocals), Massachusetts

It had been a mild winter in Boston - my first. In a stupor, I laid myself down to bed one Saturday evening, wondering what I was doing this far North. Would I find anybody to jam with up here? As I pondered, sleep overtook me. Shooting out of bed about three hours later, I awoke urgently, only to mumble to myself: "Who's the Fat Guy? - that'd be a cool name for a band." I dozed back off to sleep, but remembered this strange occurrence when I got up the next morning. The following day was a perfectly normal day, until I received this phone call from a guitar player. He asked if I'd come and jam with this "amazing" rhythm section he'd been telling me about. When I got inside of the foul den these guys were living in, I felt completely at home. The guitar player introduced me to these two guys, Bradlee Cumberbatch and Kurtis Shakemore. Before we'd exchanged three words with each other, on that fine Sunday afternoon, I realized that if these guys dug me as much as I dug them, I'd found my band. After our first jam together, I remembered the strange premonition I'd had the night before. "Guys, I know this might sound kinda stupid, but I had this dream last night..."

UNCLE SAMMY - Jeff Waful (manager), Massachusetts

Max Delaney (guitar) and I were talking about putting a band together in the spring of '97, and were discussing the name of the band over a few beers on Cape Cod. Max came up with the idea of naming the band "The Samuel Southworth Quartet" after our good friend Sam, because he knows everyone in town. Literally, you can't go anywhere with the guy, without running into someone that knows him. Max's rationale was that if we named the band after him, everyone would recognize the name and come to the show. I felt the name was too wordy, so I proposed "Sammy," which everyone seemed to like at the time. We stuck with that name for the first summer and fall of '97. Then in the spring of '98 we had a show at the Middle East in Cambridge and a ton of people showed up to see us. We didn't recognize any of the people and they were all dressed in black and kind of had that Goth look going on. It turns out they were there to see ANOTHER band by the name of Sammy and they all stormed out before our set even begun. After doing some research, (which in retrospect, should have been done months earlier), we found out that the other Sammy was signed to Epic Records and we figured we should change our name.

I felt that we should keep Sammy in the name since we had done so much promotion already and people in the Boston area already knew the name. My mom actually suggested Uncle Sammy. At first, I wasn't sure about it, but after running it by the band, everyone decided it was the most practical moniker. Contrary to what most people think, the patriotic sound of our name is purely coincidental. If our friend's name had been different, we could have just as easily been called "Uncle Jimmy" or "Uncle Billy." We really try to downplay the red, white and blue thing.


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Content: jambands@jambands.com | Technical: Sarah Bruner and David Steinberg