The Naming of Things

About 2 years ago, I was playing with my band, the Wittchen Initiative, which is comprised of 2 harpists, a vocalist, and myself. We began to play in different combinations with each other, where sometimes the 2 harpists would play solo, or I would play with the singer, or three of us would play music for a particular project. As the different permutations increased, I decided I wanted to have a band name for each of those permutations. Not a tall order there, but I wanted each band name to be broken down into its elemental part, so we could just combine them to create the ensemble of that moment. That meant all four of us had to have our own moniker that stood on its own, and could be combined meaningfully into a new name. While I never quite perfected it, here’s what I came up with:

Death. I tend to have a darker outlook from the rest of the group.

Maiden. Alex is the youngest of our group.

Voyager. Andrea has to travel farthest to meet up with us for rehearsals, as she lives in the Lehigh Valley.

The Head. Samantha is the link between all of us, since I went to school with her, and the rest of the band is her family.

Each of those are solid names in themselves. The fun part is when you combine them. The possible sub-bands we can form are as follows:

Death and the Maiden
Death Voyage
Deathhead
Maiden Voyage
Maidenhead
Head Voyager
Death and the Maidenhead
Voyage of the Deathhead
Voyage of the Maidenhead

While some of them are questionable, one thing should be clear at this point: I love coming up with names for things.

I love the wordplay aspect of songwriting, and it carries over to coming up with band names. My favorite ones are double entendres, puns, and band names that are fun to introduce. In fact, that’s one of my favorite places to start. Once you think you have a good band name, just say out loud, “Hi, we’re ________.” If it has a ring to it, you’ve got something, such as: “Hi, we’re Deathhead!” I’ve had the pleasure of saying that one before, and it’s a rush, though that’s probably because we were playing accordion and ukelele at that particular show, and the incongruity of it all was entertaining.

Also falling under the classification of “fun to introduce,” I’m in a band with my good friend E.J. called “We’re Terrific,” just so I can say “Hi, we’re terrific.” One of my favorite ones in that vein is the band name Wurwur. As in, “Hi, we’re Wurwur.” A band I toured with for years came up with that one, so hopefully they’re not mad that I spoiled it now. I don’t think they were using it anyway. My stage name, Neon and Shy, is actually uncomfortable to introduce. After all, I’m only one person, so it feels weird to introduce myself as two things. I’m learning to be more comfortable with it, since not only does it describe me well, but it’s a fun play on words too.

Song titles are also fun to come up with, though the fact that they’re filled with words already, many often repeated, makes them a little more concrete than band names. I have yet to experiment with parentheses (as the PSA’s of my youth have taught me to be careful of), but I like adding parentheses at odd parts. Sort of like how Radiohead has “Exit Music (for a film).” Ladies was originally titled “(All the Ladies I Loved Love) Ladies (Now).” This gives it a snarky inflated sense of importance which I eventually chose to set aside for simplicity sake. Recently, though, I have encountered a new type of naming that has been the most exciting: Album Title.

A few months back, I started trying to come up with an album title for the album to be released on August 25th (once again, save the date!). At first I wanted to base it on the recording project I had done in 2011, which is when I recorded the songs for the album. There wasn’t much to do with “2011,” so I thought of the Roman Numerals: MMXI. I wanted to find a four letter title that used those letters, but that damn X made it awkward. I even thought of the military alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc.), but regardless of which one I chose, it was always something like “Mike Mike Xerxes India.” Now the double M was making it less interesting.

Then I started poring through the lyrics of the songs I had written. Odds were good that I could find a phrase that I liked from among them. I went through each song in my head and wrote down every lyric that either had poignancy, was funny, or had a double meaning. Here’s what I came up with:

Passion from Piety
Spiky Brown Hair and a Pride Parade
Brown Hair Slight Curl
You Can Hear My Heart Break
Hoping for a Happenstance Impossible
Absolute Reference
Eclipsed by the Shortage of Time
The Colors that Bleed
How Our Borders Do Overlap
Always I
I Cannot Do Better
Bad Metaphor Machine
Pure as Driven You Away
Hypodermic Needle to my Antiseptic Thread
Up, Sharp, and Self-Aware
Holocaust of Life
Everything’s a Dull Cliche
A Monotonous Beaten Path
Etched in the Status Quo
Paths of the Human Mind
Two Soul Mates’ Lives Entwined
Unanswerable Queries
Quizzical Theories
Vibrant Insecurity
All There Is
Big Enough for the Brain to Expand
Forward Plodding Steady
A Juicy Roast Beef Sammich
Clam Itch
To Entertain and Wow Us
Bittersweet Moment (and the Rest of Your Life)
Why Would I Now?
It Doesn’t Always Turn Out Fair in the End
I Don’t Want to Be Your Friend

B Sharps

We need a name that’s witty at first, but that seems less funny each time you hear it.

I sent it out to a few friends and the oh-so-intimate Neon and Shy Song of the Month club to get their take on it. It was really neat to see which ones people latched onto. I will say that one of the ones in the above list is the upcoming album title, but I’m not ready to say which one yet. I’ll let it out of the bag in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

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4 thoughts on “The Naming of Things

  1. Andrea Wittchen says:

    You didn’t pick my favorite lyric so I’m bummed that it won’t be the album title. Of course, I don’t think the song is on the album either, so that might be a problem. My favorite words? Divide and factor down.

  2. neonandshy says:

    Ah yes, that song was not recorded in 2011 (by me, anyway), so it’s out of the running. Perhaps on the next one!

  3. MN says:

    I really like Bittersweet moment (and the rest of your life) Maybe it’s the parentheses It just reminds me of some kind of profound thought.

    My favorite it Vibrant Insecurity It’s kind of what it takes to take the songs you have poured your heart and soul into molding and perfecting into something special and acknowledging the personal risk in putting them out there for the world to listen to.

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