To the town of Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, where last Saturday saw a marathon discussion at local hostelry The Oinker’s Arms, between a group of up and coming musicians, desperate to settle on a monicker for the project they’d been working on for the previous six months. “We went straight to the Oinkers after band practice on Saturday afternoon.” Drummer Trevor Wonkshake told Home Defence exclusively. “It’s never busy in there, and the landlord’s willing to tolerate those of us with long hair, although he isn’t happy if you try and pay for a round in 5ps. I got the first drinks in at about four o’clock, and we expected to have plenty of time to sort through the suggestions mentioned over the last few weeks. The others were just discussing the middle eight in our song ‘Eyes On The Prize’ when Lofty arrived.” The band’s long-term friend and current manager, Dave ‘Lofty’ Layman is so-called because, at six foot nine, he is unable to fit through most doorways. Bringing with him a handwritten compilation of his favourite eighty-seven potential band names, Lofty had been hard at work narrowing the list down from several hundred possibilities suggested by acquaintances or taken from phrase generating sites on the internet.
“I was optimistic we could come to an agreement. After all, we had the entire day.” Lofty reminisces ruefully. “The
lack of a title for their project had been a standing joke among the lads at first, but as time wore on and nobody
could think of anything good, it became more and more irritating. Personally, I’ve got all kinds of great ideas for
promoting gigs and building a brand around their unique take on contemporary pop, but it’s hard to get bookings
when a venue asks what they’re called and you can only respond with silence. I was thinking of calling them
‘Hello, Are You Still There?’ at one point.”
The discussion began in an upbeat manner, with guitarist Terry ‘Tel’ Pathogen saying “he didn’t much care what we
call ourselves, as long as it reflects the songs”. Indeed, the budding four-piece describe their sound on the group’s
My Space page (www.myspace.com/…) as a Libertines-inspired, emotional electro-punk. This is mainly down to vocalist Colin Gubbins, who sings in the kind of strangulated gulp that normally signals extreme discomfort while occasionally playing a keyboard.
Over the course of the following seven hours the five men consumed thirty-eight pints of lager and a large quantity of bar snacks, at the end of which they were still no closer to agreement. “Me and Gav [bassist Gav Gavinson] really liked ‘By Proxy’ but Colin said that would make us sound like a metal band.” Tel Pathogen told HDUK. “He used the same logic to discount ‘The Nailline Test’ and I remember Lofty and Trev arguing for ‘The Busted Flush’, but that makes me think of either broken toilets or The Benny Hill Show. Then someone said ‘Zaftig’ might be good, but it was rejected for being “too wordy”, even though it’s only one word. We went on like this for a while.”
Indeed, other possibilities raised by the assembled company but subsequently rejected included
‘Odometer’ (“Too American”), ‘Cyborg Tea Party’ (“Too twee”), ‘Chiaroscuro’ (“Too poncey”) and
‘Zapruder Footage’ (“because it makes us sound like conspiracy theorists”). By this point, arguments
for and against favoured appellations were becoming increasingly heated, to the extent that other
pub regulars stayed clear of the band’s table for fear something might kick off, a prospect Lofty
pooh-poohs with some force.
“My boys are just passionate about what they do, whether that’s a three-minute bass solo or an original
and exciting name. They refuse to settle for mediocrity.” Layman claims. “That said, after about six hours we were starting to lose the plot. At one point Trevor fell over on the way to the toilets and injured himself, and we were still no closer to a decision. I’d set the boys a deadline to sort this issue out, and when the bell rang for last orders it didn’t seem like they were going to make it. That’s when I realised I had to act.”
With renewed urgency, the band’s manager crossed off all those potential names that had been nixed during the day, leaving a truncated list from which he extracted five possibles the band agreed they could tolerate operating under if absolutely necessary. From there Lofty devised a ranking system, whereby each of the four band members would assign a score, from zero to three, to this quintet of potential monickers. “At the time I didn’t realise the awarding of points might result in the least memorable, most dissatisfactory option being chosen.” Layman says now, with some regret. “I was more interested in getting it all sorted out so I could catch my bus home.”
Although no one’s preferred choice, the name to come out with most points ended up being ‘Ess’ which scored four in total. ‘Ess’ is a suffix that can be appended to words to denote the female gender, or added to an adjective forming an abstract noun. As a band name it was originally suggested by one of the singer’s friends who failed linguistics at university, and elicited only ambivalent grunts when first mooted.
“It was just a relief to get there. I decreed the band were now called ‘Ess’ and promised to be in touch, encouraged by the fact that none of them spoke up against their new name.” The manager reflects. “In retrospect, I think that was because they were fed up talking about it. Also, the landlord had started turning the chairs upside-down and stacking them on tables.”
Satisfied his aim had been achieved, Layman was disappointed to receive three separate emails from band
members on Monday stating unequivocally that “there was no fucking way” they were going to play in a band
called Ess, a development that took them all back to square one. Indeed, this negative verdict ultimately
proved unanimous, since the only reason bassist Gav initially remained silent on the subject was because
he had completely forgotten they’d made a decision.