Battle of the Dimes: What’s in a Name?

Is this the Dimes...
Sometime in the near future, Houston indie-rock fans will have to get used to calling one of their favorite bands something else entirely. Actually, some people will probably always refer to the Westside quartet as the Dimes, but management for another Dimes – a strummy quartet from Portland, Oregon, featured as Spin.com’s “Band of the Day” last Friday – recently contacted their Houston counterparts and said things could get messy if they don’t switch monikers posthaste.

“They said they’d trademarked the name, and if we don’t change it in a few weeks, we’ll have a cease-and-desist order and lawsuit on our hands,” says Cley Miller, guitarist for the 2007 Houston Press Music Award winners for Best Indie Rock, Best New Act and Best Song (“Delilah”).

Daniel Kramer

...or is this?
Miller admits his band saw this coming for a while. A few months after the Houston Dimes formed in early 2004, they heard from the Oregonians. “They were like, ‘We’ve been to Japan, and we think y’all should change your name,” he says. “We were like, ‘Yeah, yeah,’ and just didn’t do it. I don’t know, we just didn’t think it was too necessary. We didn’t really think we’d ever cross paths or anything.”

So far, Miller says his Dimes haven’t had much luck coming up with a new name. “There have been a few that we’ve been close, like, ‘Okay, this is going to be the name,’ and a day later, we’re like, ‘I don’t like that name anymore,’” he sighs. “It’s slightly stressful, but we’ll figure out something.”

Like many bands, our Dimes came by their name on little more than a whim. “There’s nothing deep about it at all,” affirms Miller. “Carlos [Sanchez, vocals] and Iram [Guerrero, drums] were walking to a gas station they always go to near their house, and Carlos was like, ‘What if we call ourselves the Dimes?’ [Iram said] ‘Yeah, that’s cool.’ They brought it up to me, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I like it.’ That’s how we got the name, and it stuck.”

Miller says the quartet may even debut their new name at Saturday’s We Are the Hollow Men warehouse party and art opening at 1620 Keene Street, also featuring the Fatal Flying Guilloteens, Jonbenet and Riff Tiffs. (“That’s going to be one really crazy show.”) Then their calendar is relatively free until opening for the Fiery Furnaces February 2, and since they won’t have to worry about school for most of January, he hopes they can take that opportunity to work up some of the material they’ve written since 2006 self-released EP Animal.

“I don’t want to say too much, but we’ve been trying to get it to sound as good as we think it should,” Miller allows. “That’s what we’ve been concentrating on.”

Beyond that, Miller says the Dimes are focused on SXSW, perhaps CMJ and playing as many regional shows as they can next year. “If we got the opportunity for a good tour, we’d take it, but since we’re having to do this name thing, it’s kind of like having to take a step backward.”

After all, changing a band’s name isn’t quite as easy as a flash of inspiration on the way to the gas station. Now that the Houston Dimes have built a reputation and fanbase, whatever their new name turns out to be, Miller knows they’ll most likely hear some inevitable grumbling from people who wish it was something else.

“When we were first starting, there were no expectations, so it was completely up to us what we could call ourselves, and everyone else could live with it,” he says. “Some people will like it and some people won’t. Before, you really didn’t have a choice; it was just want we called ourselves. But it’s just a name. Some people think the name’s everything and some people think it’s nothing. I can see both perspectives.”

Helpfully, noted humor publication the Onion recently released one of its funniest annual features, a list of the year’s worst band names. So if the Dimes were thinking of calling themselves Penguins with Shotguns, Statutory Grape or Electric Vagina, they needn’t bother.

“It kind of sucks, because we’ve gotten all these achievements as the Dimes, with the HPMAs and all the shows we’ve played, but we can just keep the ‘formerly’ on there as long as we need to,” Miller says. “I definitely wish we could keep the name, but we can come up with something better than the Dimes. We’ve got a lot of thinking to do.” – Chris Gray