Having a logo is as important to pop bands these days as it was to fashion houses some 40 years ago. Since brand advertising is more ubiquitous than ever (see Times Square, an NHL rink, publicity rags masquerading as general-interest magazines), and since competition for that Big Break is as fierce as ever, bands have begun pitching themselves as products, complete with names, marketing plans and visual identities. Pop bands figure if their packaging is attractive, their music might follow suit. But even if it doesn't, at least you'll have an image to remind you of the group. When your eyes see a cartoonish lightning bolt, your head thinks AC/DC, right? That's no accident.
Logos -- first used by large corporations to create brand identities and later usurped by bands to do essentially the same thing, although with (arguably) less commercialism attached -- have always been used by fringe acts, like punk, rap and metal bands, predominantly as a way to establish individuality in a world of sound-alikes. Logos have never really been the realm of straight-ahead rock and rollers or pop acts, which are more dependent on pearly-white teeth and personality than on the ability to be tidily summed up in a piece of commercial art. (Could you even imagine a Bruce Springsteen logo?) And rock and roll bands with memorable logos, like the Grateful Dead (skeletons), Rolling Stones (tongue-and-lips) and Led Zeppelin (four crop circles), weren't really average rock and roll bands at the time they rolled out their brand-building wares. They were essentially corporations, and their logos were simply line items factored into their annual budgets. Being big business meant acting like big business. Logos and all.
This attitude has finally begun to infect the rest of the rock world, Houston's particularly. Bands possess more business savvy and economics acumen than ever, and they're using all of their skills to separate themselves from the crowd.
The rockers of I am I are holding a logo contest, searching for something to put on their upcoming CD and maybe on a Tshirt. "We've been trying to find something new," says Patrick Higgins, I am I bass player and lead vocalist. "But we've been running into roadblocks." Asked how important he thinks a logo is, Higgins replies: "I think it's super important. Look at everything you buy at the store."
The contest has yet to attract any response.
One band around town that has already been through the logo contest rigmarole is Thanx But No Thanx. Like I am I, Thanx But No Thanx, through its label Pinche Flojo, held a logo contest in November. It got minimal response, but as label head Joshua Mares puts it, the contest "was a good way to generate ideas."
"A logo can be everything, besides the sound" of the band, says Mares. "If you don't have a catchy cover on your CD, it can be harder to sell. Or if it identifies the band, that helps."
Mares and the band eventually decided on cursive baseball-jersey lettering. Thanx But No Thanx's name now reads like the Los Angeles Dodgers logo. Mares designed it.
Still, lest anyone forget, a logo is merely another avenue for a band to sell itself. The coolest logo ever doesn't really matter unless the music does.
Says Jeffree Moore, Cactus Music and Video manager: "A logo is eye-catching, but we have to take into consideration the popularity of the act or if it's something we're trying to push. A logo that's eye-catching is desirable, but it's not going to affect what we choose to put on display."
Potential I am I logo contest entrants should send ideas and possibly rough drafts to iami.homepage.com.
Wednesday nights at The Oven haven't been the same since Giancarlo left. After suffering a hernia this fall while lugging both his amps up two flights of stairs at a downtown nightspot, Giancarlo has cut back on his workload. With a roadie at his side, he still performs, on bass, with Juicebox and picks up side gigs whenever and wherever. But he hasn't been taking the stick (a 12string bass-guitar combo) out much or, at least, as much as he used to. "I can function, you know; I can still get it on," he says with a laugh. "Walking, that's no problem. It's just standing around. I gotta sit down."
The Oven has been much the poorer. Those Wednesday-night shows, which usually drew no more than a handful of people, some who had showed up simply for the cheap beer, seemed to be the perfect marriage of edgy blues-rock and last-chance-lonely-hearts-club-bar-type sentimentality. Best wishes for Giancarlo's recovery and to The Oven's Wednesday-night replacement (or lack thereof): jukebox night.
The sun has indeed set on Sunset Heights. One of Houston's most-respected and biggest-drawing acts is calling it quits after ten years and six albums. The band performs its last show Friday, February 18, at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue.
Singer/guitarist Jackie Hibbard says the breakup was amicable. Talk of ending the band began after bass player Jason Youngblood became a nine-to-five stiff like the rest of us. "He was the last original member," says Hibbard. "We thought without him it wouldn't even be Sunset Heights." Youngblood, according to Hibbard, is working with handicapped children at Richmond State School.
"We're all okay with it," says Hibbard of the breakup. "It's time to move on. I think the band's done all it could do.We all feel good about it. There're no hard feelings."
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All this isn't to say any of Sunset Heights's members have hung up their instruments for good. Hibbard and guitarist Jorge Castillo have been performing blues-rock since January as The Phuz, mainly in and around Austin, and are auditioning drummers and bass players for Soapbox, another new outfit. And Hibbard says Youngblood and drummer Joe Frenchwood might not be MIA from the local scene forever. "We've joked around, talked about reunion gigs," says Hibbard with a laugh. "But this will be it."
For more performance information, call the Satellite Lounge at (713)869-COOL.
-- Anthony Mariani
E-mail potential Amplified logos to Anthony Mariani at firstname.lastname@example.org.