January 18, 2008
Pop-punkers OK with Gob name
By MIKE ROSS - Special to Sun Media
Here comes another edition of Who Named the Band - an ongoing forum for rock musicians to unwittingly reveal themselves through the curious phenomenon of rock 'n' roll nomenclature.
Why did you give your band such a ridiculous name? How do you deal with being asked about your absurd handle again and again and again? Do you cringe when you see it on a marquee? In short, what were and are you thinking?
It's surprising Gob, on stage at Jet Nightclub tomorrow night, hasn't been the subject of this topic before. If so, singer Tom Thacker doesn't remember. But he does remember picking the name and assumes full responsibility for the repercussions, such as subjecting these unassuming Vancouver musicians to countless spittle references and observers' secret wishes for an all-expectorate dream festival: Gob, Saliva, Spit and Drool. (Snot, Loogie and Frothing Mucus - all real bands! - could be on the B-stage.)
"There are days I wish we had a more sophisticated name," sighs Thacker. "But it doesn't matter. It's just the name of the band."
Yes, it's just the name of the band. That's what they all say. You don't think of a metal balloon when you think of Led Zeppelin, do you? Even so, if it's possible that your given name can affect what you do in life - not many strippers named Condoleezza, not many brain surgeons named Britney - then it follows that a band's name can influence how it sounds.
Is it because Gob went into the inherently light-hearted pop-punk genre that they picked a silly name or did the silly name dictate their direction?
Thacker says, "There wasn't really a punk scene in Vancouver when we started out, so we played with all sorts of different bands and one thing we noticed is that they all took themselves way too seriously. So we just made fun of ourselves and everything else and people really took to it. People really appreciated our sense of humour."
But when it came time to get serious, would a band called Gob have trouble being taken seriously?
"There was a little of that," the singer admits.
From success with the indie album Too Late, No Friends, containing material like Custer's Last 1 Nite Stand and Fido Dildo, the band broke its own name-created mould with the release of the tellingly-titled How Far Shallow Takes You in 1998.
"That was possibly our most serious record," Thacker says. "It was less goofy, less poppy, but fans responded to it in a really positive way."
Social conscience and a big hit emerged with Give Up the Grudge in 2003. And now comes Muertos Vivos, a concept album on the subject of death. It opens with an upbeat number called We're All Dying. Wacky!
"It wasn't really a conscious thing," Thacker says. "I think it came from everything we face in the media, a lot of war, a lot of people dying. It just seems times are really bleak right now."
And yet he maintains Gob is still a fun band. They're just finding mirth in grim subjects. But it's a joyless sort of mirth on this record, downbeat topics, churning anger, scathing satire and all relatively free of the typical pop-punk silliness. Despite the festive "day of the dead" sleeve artwork, Muertos Vivos represents a serious side to a band called Gob. Now did these guys try harder to be serious in order to overcome the legacy prescribed by their name or does it matter at this point?
Thacker recalls that while his mother was - and is - very proud her son is in a successful punk rock band, she seemed embarrassed by what he chose to call it.
"When we first started, my mom, when people asked, 'what's your son's band called?' answered, 'uh, they're G. O. B.' and spelled it out," Thacker says.