Choosing an Album Title: An Indie Rock Ontology
Deciding on an album title in a democratically minded band can be problematic. Being an indie rock band only compounds the difficulty, since indie rockers tend to be nonchalant (read: lazy) about band-related matters. There is also a self-conscious side to this process, where the choice of a title can have a curious importance. When bandmates can recite Guided By Voices lyrics with the casual fervency of a Dylan Thomas fan in the '60s, the indie rock naming process can lurch between negligence and serious study. The fine line for an indie album title is this: While it can sound important, it must at all costs avoid being about anything actually important.
A year ago, my band, the Revolutionary Hydra, recorded an album in six days. In contrast, it took 270 days to come up with an album title. At first there were the offhand suggestions that made us chuckle, like Monkeys With Squirt Guns Filled With Monkey Pee. Realistically, however, we knew these were only provisional titles.
The next phase involved more serious negotiations. The months were flying by and we began to feel that naming the album was similar to naming a child, in the sense that you want to honor the family but you don't want the kid to get pounded on the playground. Band e-mails reflected our passive-aggressive frustration: "I really don't care what we call it, but I don't like Giraffe Turtleneck Poetry."
We found ourselves searching Google, investigating whether a phrase had been used by another band, or if some awkward person or movement had historically been attached to it. Other sources of online inspiration came from Hydra threads on the Barsuk Records message board, ideas like Colonic Tonic, Corporal Shunishment, and Cowboy Jowl. Alas, at this harassed stage of the game, funny didn't seem as funny as it used to. We needed something safe, and soon.
In the end, after a little democracy and a lot of Rolling Rock, the four of us voted on a lowest common denominator choice--naming it after one of the album's songs. The paramount lesson learned? We've each started our own side projects, where we can title things as autocratically as we like. JAY CHILCOTE
Jay Chilcote's band the Revolutionary Hydra will open for Track Star at the Crocodile Café on May 28. The show marks the release of their new seven-inch on Montesano Records, two songs that were recorded, true enough to form, over a year and a half ago.