What’s a Lollapalooza anyway? With diehard music fans descending on Chicago for the 2012 edition of the legendary festival, we decided to decode the meaning of it all – literally.
From the festival name itself (which Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell found while thumbing through the dictionary) to the litany of monikers emblazoned across t-shirts and other merch fans are sure to snap up at the fest, the meaning behind band names is all to often a mystery.
The L.A. rock legends got their start back in the ‘80s as Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem, even playing a show under that name. Soon realizing they needed to upgrade to something snappier, singer Anthony Kiedis says the name just kind of happened. “We started going through these huge laundry lists of idiotic, meaningless, boring names,” Kiedis wrote in his autobiography, Scar Tissue. “There was Louis Armstrong with his Hot Five, and also other bands that had ‘Red Hot’ this or ‘Chili’ that. There was even an English band that was called Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers, who later thought we had stolen their name. But no one had ever been the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a name that would forever be a blessing and a curse.”
This deceptively simple moniker actually has a pretty deep meaning behind it. “The name comes from this guy Alfred McMoore, who was a schizophrenic artist who Dan’s dad had met and was helping sell these scrolls that he made,” remembered drummer Patrick Carney during an interview on NPR’s “Fresh Air” radio show. “He would make 5 foot wide by 50 foot long scrolls in pencil and crayon. They were really bizarre continuous drawings of cross-dressing police officers pumping gas in a motorcycle. But the gas pump was a really ornate street light, and there would be like a casket and Jesus playing electric guitar.” After Carney’s dad wrote a piece on the artist in a local paper, McMoore would often call the house and leave random phone messages, sometimes referring to the drummer as a “black key,” like on a piano.
This Swedish electro-rock outfit came up with their band moniker by combining a friends’ name with a Japanese film director. “Because we wanted to avoid the whole process of coming up with a name, we picked the name of an assistant engineer of a video we had all worked on out in L.A,” singer Andrew Wyatt told Out magazine in 2009. “We thought he was a nice guy. Then we modified the spelling so he couldn’t sue us!” The extra “I” in “Miike” is said to be inspired by aforementioned director Takashi Miike.
After watching a racehorse named Archduke win the Northumberland Plate race in 2001, the Scottish post-punks began discussing Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Soon, a band name was born. “Mainly we just liked the way it sounded,” said bassist Robert Hardy. “He was an incredible figure as well,” added singer Alex Kapranos. “His life, or at least the ending of it, was the catalyst for the complete transformation of the world and that is what we want our music to be.”
For this British post-punk outfit, choosing their particular band name was something they’ve grown to regret. “I wish we hadn’t done it now. It was something that was completely ambiguous,” singer Kele Okereke told Pitchfork when asked about it in 2005. “It’s just a band name. That’s all it meant to be,” added drummer Matt Tong.
For Anthony Gonzalez and his dreamy bliss-rock outfit M83, the band’s name was inspired by the mystery of the skies above. “When I was 17, I was looking to take the name of a galaxy,” Gonzalez said in 2008 in regards to the spiral galaxy Messier 83 which is approximately 15 million light-years away in the constellation Hydra. “It fits with the first version of the band, when the music was more electronic.”
For upbeat Icelandic folk-rockers Of Monsters and Men, coming up with a band name seems to have been little more than an afterthought.” Well, I thought of it, and then I just mentioned it to the guys, and we were trying to find that new name,” said -singer/guitarist Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson to Austinist earlier this year. “Everyone seemed to like it, and we just ran with it, I guess.”
Originally known as The Shakes, this breakout southern rock outfit’s initial brush with popularity forced them to update their moniker. “There are so many bands called The Shakes that it’s impossible to pull up the right information — it was a booking agent’s nightmare,” singer Brittany Howard told USA Today earlier this year. “It was going to be impossible for us to be seen or heard if we were named something that somebody else was named. So we just added ‘Alabama’ on there. We like names like that: We like the Detroit Cobras and the Tennessee Two. And ‘Alabama’ is a cool word.”
This wildly irreverent rave-rap duo out of South Africa have crafted sonic mash-up sound that draws heavily from what’s known as “Zef” culture in their homeland. “Zef is our flavor, our style,” said the band’s MC Ninja to Vice. It means f***ing cool. But even more cool than f***ing cool. No one can f*** with your s***. Zef’s the ultimate style, basically.” The band’s name means “The Answer” in their native Afrikaans language.
“It’s derived from Temper Temper, which is a name we were thinking of,” the Australian indie rock band’s bassist Jonathon Aherne told Spin in 2010. “But we changed it because there was already an emo band in Milwaukee or something called Temper Temper. I remember not wanting to go with the Temper Trap because I thought it didn’t mean anything. But I guess it has sort of a psychological angle to it. To be honest, feelings in the band are still mixed about the fact we’re called the Temper Trap.”
Photos courtesy Getty Images.