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Mai 8 2010, 6h58

Perhaps should have seen this coming. I was contacted the other day by the US band Box Elders. Note the 's' on the end. That's important.

You may have heard of them depending on how 'into' your indie blogs you are. They're one of those US DIY 60's punk pop garage bands that became all too common after the magnificent Black Lips. (i love the black lips)

Way back when, i spent a fair while looking into the name 'Box Elder' for our band. It's an old Pavement track (Box Elder from slay tracks (1933-1969) EP)

I stumbled across a US surf-punk band called 'Boxelder' that appeared to have split in 2005 (or at least have been waiting a veeeery long time to release their 'upcoming new release')

This didn't concern me; 1 because they had been inactive for a few years, 2 because it was spelt differently, and 3 because they played completely different music and no one with any interest in music could confuse them with our sound.

It was a couple of months after we'd started playing shows (which we'd probably been offered purely because of the Pavement reference...) that 'Box Elders' first began appearing in internet searches.

Apparently they chose the name after the infestation of box elder bugs (which coincidently grow on box elder trees) in their snare drum. This makes the included 's' make logically sense, but i think we were onto the winning combination of just 'Box Elder' in terms of a 'cool sounding' band name.

At first i wasn't concerned... this was just another little band in another little corner of the world and neither of us would probably survive and outgrow our respective scenes. And after all, the spelling IS different, right?

Then things got serious.

For them that is.

They released an album and have toured the US and apparently Europe (at least according to the email they sent me). Pitchfork reviewed it. They played with the Black Lips in New York. Basically living my dream.

This is not to say that my band had been sitting round twiddling thumbs. For our scene the mere fact we're still playing is a sign of life. We'd undergone a transformation of sonics since our first gig, played a ton of shows with a ton of really talented local bands, and have recorded our EP with songs written to begin recording our own album.

Hell, we even have an ABN registered.

Then i got this email:
Hello,
My name is Jeremiah, I play in Box Elders. We're working on some
licensing deals for our stuff in Australia and are starting to make
some rough plans for playing some shows down there. We've came across
you guys and wanted to talk to you. We've had the name for a while
and have toured both the U.S. and Europe extensively. We've done one
record on Goner (U.S. home to eddy current suppression ring) and have
one coming out soon on Captured Tracks. It seems to us like things
would be less confusing if you considered a different name. Thanks.
-Jeremiah

It's a frustrating and confusing situation, with the google search 'what to do if an international band asks you to change your band name?' not being as huge a help as i'd hoped.

The names are different, the music is different, and yet because they want a 2-3 week jaunt along the east coast on our continent they expect us to change a name we've spent 2 years playing under. Naturally we have no problem with them touring and releasing stuff in Australia, but we're not sure if the feeling is mutual should we ever wish to 'break into' the US scene (HA!). Like if roles were reversed...

Perhaps it is confusing. Perhaps it is different enough. Perhaps 'Box Elder' has more relevance to our music than 'Box Elders' does to theirs. Perhaps it makes no difference either way. Perhaps their major label has major lawyers. Sigh.

There have been similar cases like this in Australia. Jack White's group The Raconteurs had to deal with this. There was an Australian pub band playing under the name. The Australian band were offered money to drop their name, but refused (requesting more), at which point Jack White and co. got sick of the nonsense and toured Australia as The Saboteurs.

There also exists Muse and The Muse, Mars Volta and The Mars Volta, and probably dozens of others. They 'coexist' (as our guitarist enjoyed putting it).

But is it worth the hassle? No one really seems to know who we are. Maybe a 'relaunch' of our band would be 'good'.

Changing has it's complications too. Straight up, if feels like a gimmick. I mean, are we to become 'the artists formally known as Box Elder'? Or pull a Death from Above 1979? Name changes can go drastically wrong, eg. Shihad/Pacifier (although some of the issues may have been long standing regardless of name). There was also The Muslims change to The Soft Pack, which incidentally coincided with them releasing a record that failed to meet expectations.

I mean, finding a name that works is almost the hardest part of forming a band (other than finding members, organizing practises, organizing gigs, organizing recording, writing music, settling both music and non-music related disputes [ie what to make of the new Interpol song 'Lights'] etc)

And then there's all the web presence carefully constructed over the years; the myspace, the unearthed page, the last.fm fiasco, our blogspot, facebook groups, and the heart warming mentions in local blogs such as www.prosepurple.blogspot.com and www.spoz.blogspot.com.

We ended up sending our reply:
Hey Jeremiah,

We appreciate your getting in touch and congratulations on your album and touring. We understand where you're coming from but don't intend on changing our name which we have played under for over two years, as this would undo much hard work in building our reputation.

We don't feel the confusion justifies the need for a name change, and are more than happy for you guys to tour/release your music under the name 'Box Elders' while in Australia.

Let us know if you have any further questions

Pat (Box Elder)

but haven't heard back. Maybe i'm just paranoid, but i keep thinking i hear the muttering of major label lawyers...

I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself.

If you know me in real life (or random last.fm stalkers, you're welcome to too) and have an opinion let me know. I might not listen to your advice, but i'll certainly hear your words.

And obviously i haven't tagged 'Box Elders' last.fm page here. Just thought that'd be weird. Check out our page at http://www.last.fm/music/+noredirect/Box+Elder

Comentários

  • Sebcup

    bummer. hopefully, though, the reply that you sent will be the end of it. if a year and a half of law has taught me one thing it's that legal proceedings are prohibitively expensive. at this stage, major label or no, going after you is absolutely more expensive for them than the 'damage' caused by you having a similar name. I could be wrong, but I wouldn't lose too much sleep over it.

    Mai 8 2010, 7h37
  • wally-raffles

    Yeah, Goner Records don't seem like the kind of label that would have the funds or mind to attempt legal action. Would seem like a poor allocation of money for an independent label to chase up international name disputes for a young band on their roster.

    Mai 8 2010, 8h20
  • reubsolomon

    Jeremiah needs to relax.

    Mai 8 2010, 8h54
  • burf

    Maybe you could support them on their east coast tour?

    Mai 8 2010, 13h50
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