It's a well-known fact that most band names are essentially gobbledygook, but here at Rocks Off we're working hard to find meaning in the oddest monikers.
Negative Utopia is only six months old as a band, so I'm not sure exactly what they'll be when they grow up. Their sound has some cowpunk influences with riffs ripped right out of a Morricone soundtrack, but there's a bit of Texas rock to it as well. So far they've not loaded anything online for you to get a feel of save for a recent performance on YouTube. This means I'll have it keep an eye out for further evolution to see if the harsh buzz of amateur recording masks or makes them.
Honestly, though, no one gets into this column because of how they sound. They get on here because I see their name in a concert listing and it drives me into a psychotic rage. Negative Utopia... what the hell does that mean? Is it hell, or is it just the complete prolapse of all hope for a reward at the end of this hard row to hoe? I don't need this existential crap crowding out all the Doctor Who trivia in my head, so I hit the old email to extract the meaning of the name form the band.
According to the manifesto I received when I asked for simple answers the name came about when singer Sheila Andrews and guitarist Sam Andrews were taking a walk through the neighborhood discussing band names and dystopic novels. Sam suggested the name Negative Utopia and it seemed a good fit.
"To us, Negative Utopia has a bifurcated meaning," says Sheila via email. "On one hand it has to do with the ever-encroaching hand of authority into the lives of honest people just trying to get by. Negative Utopia is sort of based on the fear of an Orwellian-type government and the fact that it may be fast approaching.
"It is one of our core beliefs that an individual should be judged by the fruits of his labor, his hard work, and integrity," she continues. "We also believe that his success should be measured by the aforementioned, rather than constantly regulated and forced into submission in order to carry the dead weight or society.
"The other aspect of the band name is overcoming personal struggle, whether it be addiction, physical, mental, or spiritual," adds Sheila. "For example, addiction could be the over-regulating control in your life whispering in your ear, 'Just give your life to me and I'll take care of you.' Our message talks about overcoming all this if only you are willing."
Now, I'm pretty sure that what I just read is a smoke-screen for the oft-misinterpreted rantings of Ayn Rand, but I want to congratulate Negative Utopia. In the years I've been exploring band names it is very, very rare to find any kind of actual philosophy behind the names bands choose. Examples like The Doors are extremely rare. Usually it's more like Matchbox 20 getting their name of some guy's jacket patches.
So kudos to the Andrews and company for their purity of vision. And hey, what would rock and roll be without screaming against a giant (perceived) overlord of authority that can only be held back with cunning rhetoric? If I sound a little sarcastic it's because I have way too many Libertarian friends preoccupied with boring apocalypses that don't involve monkey uprisings. It can get a little old.
"1984 is so close to being realized that I believe George Orwell just got the year wrong," says Sam. "It shows what can, will, and is starting to happen when people are so eagerly willing to give up freedom for security. Everyone wants something for nothing, they want reward without effort and praise without a price, and those in control dole out just enough to string us along and then we become slaves to our providing masters."
Sigh... I spend more of my time than I'd like to admit arguing with people over the black helicopters coming for us sometime after the twelfth of Never. I'll admit that the message sounds a lot better when Sheila sings it.
Negative Utopia (n): 1. A new twang on an old tune. 2. The big old omnistate of fear. 3. Paul Johansson or D.B. Sweeney.
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Negative Utopia plays with Hellatonin Friday at Vintage Pub, 13245 Jones Rd.