If, like me, you spent your teenage years forming, dis-banding and then re-forming various bands with your mates, then you will have wasted just as much time as I did discussing the relative merits of different band names. At 14 (or thereabouts), the name of the band is probably the thing that occupies the attention more than anything else, including the songs and rehearsal time (doh!)…. it is an important part of the musical journey.
OK, so the name of the band actually means nothing in terms of how good they are but this is not an issue without its importance. And, while there are lots of bands through the history of rock and pop music whose names are, frankly, ridiculous, but that we now utter without batting an eyelid because they are so familiar, the odds are that a ‘good’ name for your band is going to help while a ‘bad’ name is going to be a hinderance.
Which is kind of where the app Starfish Escalator from developer Mark Wherry comes in. The app has been around on the App Store since early 2015 but it was updated to v.1.1 over the week-end. Now, I have to put my hands up here and admit that I know Mark. He used to be on the editorial staff at Sound On Sound magazine but, after interviewing Hans Zimmer for the magazine, he got a call out of the blue with a job offer, and has spent the last 13 years working in Hollywood’s most active film scoring team. While that undoubtedly keeps him busy, Mark does still write for SOS on a freelance basis but, over the last couple of years, has also become interested in iOS app development.
Starfish Escalator is a bit of an experiment for this latter interest. As you might have guessed from the start of this post, the app is a ‘band name generator’ and, while Mark suggests it is aimed at indie bands, having given the app a bit of a spin over the last day or two, I think it might easily cough up a few gems for indie, rock, pop or more ‘art house’ musicians to ponder.
In terms of the practical details, the app is universal (including Apple Watch support), requires iOS7.1 or later, is a 12MB download and is free to download (it’s supported by some very unobtrusive ads at the base of the screen). In use, you simply launch the app and it will make a band name suggestion and place that in a sentence context. If you want a further suggestion, just tap the screen…. and keep tapping until you hit on something you like. The app is essentially putting two words together from its dictionary in a mostly random fashion but the end result is not unlike playing the ‘what’s my pornstar name?’ game :-)
This update has expanded upon the dictionary used to generate the names so it takes some considerable time before you start to see words used reappear. You can also choose to let the app speak the names/sentence context out loud (this is quite good fun if all the members of the band happen to have had a couple of beers). Is is, of course, an app that doesn’t take itself too seriously….
Regular readers here (and particularly those that subscribe to the email newsletter) may well be aware that my eldest son is just about to head off to university to start a music degree. The course is focused upon contemporary music styles and, as he is starting at the same time as his friend who plays the drums, a band will undoubtedly soon be forthcoming…. As such, my ‘test project’ for Starfish Escalator was to see whether we could get anything interesting for him to tackle the most important question any new band faces…..
You can obviously see a few of the suggestions in the screenshots embedded here. Yes, there are some that are utterly ridiculous – although that might be part of the point – but there were also a few gems thrown up that, in the right musical context, would be more than useable. For example, The Carmine Horizon might be a great prog rock band (which might suit my son and his mate), while Apocalyptic Aversion might suit a retro extreme punk band (mush more my kind of thing!)? That said, I’d pass on being in a band called Aubergine Pumpkin or Kitten Stairwell…. although whether they are actually any more ridiculous than the Arctic Monkeys or Def Leppard is a matter for (mostly pointless) debate!
Anyway, here’s hoping that Mark can (a) keep adding to Starfish Escalator’s dictionary options and (b) that he isn’t deterred by the development process and will actually work up a couple of more serious iOS music app ideas I know he has in the pipeline :-) Oh, and yes, the app’s name is based upon it’s own name generation process…. but if you actually want to form a band called Starfish Escalator, then maybe have a word with Mark first….. :-)