What’s in a name? Well if you asked the ancient near-east, Egypt or Persia perhaps, they believed that a persons name existed as a separate manifestation from the person themselves. An aspect of culture that passed down both into the rituals of both ancient magic and the Catholic Church, wherein a demon cannot be exercised from a being unless it is summoned by the exorcist in question and then forced to forego its given name – so heaven knows how you’re meant to get rid of a Demon that’s clever enough to not tell you it’s name!
Naming unimportant things like babies and puppies is hard enough; so you can imagine how tricky naming something that really matters like a band or a guitar is, and much like music in general when it comes to band names there’s no hard and fast rules. Joy Division took their name from a group of women kept in a concentration camp for the sexual pleasure of Nazi soldiers described in Ka-tzetnik’s novel House Of Dolls, The Ramones took their name from Paul Ramone an alias Paul McArtney would use to check into hotels and everyone’s favourite emo-punkers Jimmy Eat World, rather cruelly took their name from guitarist Tom Linton’s younger brother Jimmy who had a weight problem and singer Jim Adkins’ younger brother drew a picture of him consuming an entire planet on his bedroom door – proof were it needed that it takes all sorts!
There’s of course some routes that are more commonly mined than others, literature is a common source of inspiration, Tears For Fears took their name from the book Prisoners Of Pain by psychologist Arthur Janov, The Velvet Underground took their name from a Mike Leigh book on sadomasochism and Belle & Sebastian was taken from a children’s book by French author Cécile Aubry, shockingly entitled Belle et Sébastien.
Alongside literature, probably the biggest inspiration for band names is the work of other bands. There’s a long history of bands “borrowing” names from their colleagues: Phoenix lifted their name from a Daft Punk song, Radiohead are named after the “least annoying” song on True Stories by Talking Heads, whilst The Rolling Stones took their name from Muddy Waters, and many people would say that wasn’t the only things they pinched from the Blues legend!
Lately some bands are going even further, and just taking someone’s name and making a pun out of it, Elvis Depressedly following quickly in the footsteps of Joanna Gruesome and cover bands everywhere by coming up with a name somewhere between a pun and a tribute, and proving that you can basically call a band whatever you like, and whilst you will be judged on it, you’ll probably be forgiven eventually.
Elvis Depressedly is the work of Delaney Mills and Mat Cothran; best known for his work with Coma Cinema.
Lo-fi bedroom pop, based largely around one microphone and a series of battered, bruised and well loved instruments. The downbeat vocals seem to drift in and out of audibility, such is the hazy fog in which they are recorded. The backing comes from a variety of synths, acoustic guitars, weirdly processed and oddly hectic vocal samples and a wide variety of percussion from finger clicks to full kits.
The band are from South Carolina; originally at least, from the city of Spartanburg. Spartanburg despite having a population of less than 40,000 has produced some noteworthy musicians: singer-songwriter Marshall Chapman; whose songs were covered by the likes of Emmylou Harris, Joe Cocker and Olivia Newton-John, the godfather of Americana Music Walter Hyatt, and Pink Anderson, a Blues musician who was the inspiration behind the Pink in Pink Floyd. Elvis Depressedly have now relocated to Asheville in North Carolina, the birthplace of Roberta Flack.
The duo first started recording music back in 2011, initially on a fairly informal basis releasing a number of singles and EPs. Following the release of their debut album, 2013’s Holo Pleasures, Mat quit his job and moved to Asheville to focus on the recording of their second album. That album, New Alhambra, is due out in the UK on June 8th via Run For Cover Records, the album already being available in the US.
New Alhambra may only last for just over twenty minutes, but it’s a fully formed spectacular piece of work than sets Elvis Depressedly out as lyricists, musicians and purveyors of sadness of the very highest order! Throughout the album the mood rarely shifts far out of downbeat, and seems perfectly happy to be that way. It’s a record that wears it’s pain as a comforting blanket of sadness, never more evident than on the excellent title track; a fluttering vibrato synth, washes of background sound and a the slow distant pounding of a drum recalling Joy Division’s excellent Atmosphere provides the backing for Mat’s tale of “barely getting by” that ends with him concluding, “I have wasted my whole life” yet despite his melancholic words he seems oddly fine with the situation.
Mat’s work from a lyrical stand point seems to fluctuate between the twin pillars of love and death, and almost sees them as one and the same. On closing track Wastes Of Time he’s at his most upbeat, which isn’t saying a great deal, noting “heartbreak can’t change me, I am crazy for you, it’s a sad world you were raised in, let it fade into something new”, before telling us, “it’s a sad world you can hate it, but what’s the use?” As the songs picks up to it’s conclusions, he takes an oddly to the point world view, reminiscent of some of the UK’s own lo-fi in the shape of Trust Fund, he sings “if you try, I will try, if we fuck up it’s alright, there’s so much more to life than all these wastes of time.” It’s honest, and heartfelt and unlike so many other songwriters it doesn’t slip into melodrama or over emoting.
The superb opening track Thou Shall Not Murder starts off with a series of warped, spoken word samples; apparently lifted from pro-wrestling events, which also provide the album’s title, New Alhambra being a professional wrestling venue, gentle drums meld in, the vocal is hazy and distorted, and there’s the gentle buzz of keyboards, it brings to mind the likes of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone or even Sparklehorse. The songs warm but downbeat vibe is at complete contrast to the frankly disturbing vocal samples about spilling blood and murder!
Elsewhere Rock’n’Roll pairs a Phil Spectorish drum beat with the wonderful lyric “Jesus died upon a cross, so I could quit my job” and some melodies that are roughly as old as the concept of music! He shares a similar ability to pair the horrendously sad with unquestionably pop melodies as perfected by Eels, and let’s hope his thread on n.m.s.s to write “no more sad songs” doesn’t come true for a good few albums yet!
Not suitable for those of a tearful disposition, or the kind of people who think Radiohead are just miserable music for depressed people. If you’re the kind of person, who, like us, think Radiohead aren’t quite sad enough, and Sparklehorse and Elliot Smith were bang on the money, you won’t be disappointed at all.
New Alhambra is out in the UK on June 8th via Run For Cover Records.