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May 10th, 2006 MARK BAUMGARTEN | Riff City
 

The "Band" Problem

The English language was not equipped to deal with Portland's solo music makers...until now.

     
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IMAGE: ZACH ROCK
There is a glaring flaw on the cover of this week's WW. There, in the middle of the cover, is a lone man, Marius Libman, holding a Korg RK-100 and looking something like the touring keytar player for Flock of Seagulls. It's a good look. But below Libman—who makes music under the moniker Copy—are the words "Best New Band." Now, a man can not be a band. So what gives? How did we screw this up?

Well, we didn't screw it up. The term Best New Band was chosen after some serious consideration. Logic dictated against it, seeing as the winner of the annual poll, as well as three other acts in the Top 10 (Tractor Operator, White Rainbow and DJ Beyonda), was clearly not a band. But other options didn't seem to work. "Best New Artist" was misleadingly vague. "Best New Solo Performer" was way too narrow. "Best New Music Maker"? Man, what a mouthful. We kept coming back to Best New Band because it was the name we used for the first two polls. Unintentionally, though, our cover also illustrates a drastic disconnect in the world of music.

The term "band" is clearly becoming antiquated. The emcees and DJs of the hip-hop world dominate the airwaves nationally and are growing in influence locally. Looping and playback technology make it easier for even the most modest artists to compose complex music on their own and give it a moniker that expresses that they aren't just some guy or girl with an acoustic guitar.

The solitary music maker is, in today's culture, what four white dudes with shaggy hair were in the late '60s. But the all-encompassing term "band" will not go away, its kung-fu grip on music-making culture as tight as ever. Even Libman, who chose the moniker Copy because "Marius Libman just doesn't roll off the tongue," wrestles with what to label Copy, acquiescing to call it a "band or 'solo project.'"

Those two choices are about all music journalists have in their arsenal to describe entities like Copy, White Rainbow or Tractor Operator. They both fail. "Band," as we've discussed, is just wrong. And "solo project" automatically brings to mind the dismissive "side project."

Others didn't add much to the conversation. White Rainbow's Adam Forkner calls it his "art project." About Quiet Countries, sole member Leb Borgerson says it is his "solo project...one-man band? Nah, those sound lame. How about 'death ray'? Yeah."

Not getting anywhere with the artists, I sat down with some serious intellectuals/drinkers and tried to hash it out. Horrible ideas flowed, including "nom de tune," "tunetalitarian" and "solitune." Horrible.

Then it came to me, as if by divine intervention. Essentially Copy is Libman's handle, lending him both anonymity and attitude. But it's also more than that, a multifaceted music-making entity; essentially a band, without the band members. I combined the two terms, like an Us Weekly writer nicknaming Hollywood couples like "Bradgelina" or "Bennifer," and came out with this: the bandle. As in, "Did you hear that Marius Libman's bandle just won Willamette Week's Best New Band poll? When are those idiots going to change the name of that poll?"

Bandle. Go forth and spread the word.

 
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