A rock group from Brazil named after Sweden. A punk group from Mexico named after Hong Kong. Two Canadian rockers with Japan in their names.
How do you keep it all straight?!
Lately, it seems like musicians are spinning globes and naming themselves after wherever their finger lands. Sometimes they’ve never even been to their country of choice, but they simply relish in confusing and amusing people.
As a writer who highlights global bands, I am far from amused. So I’m putting these bands back in their place in this how-to guide for music lovers who refuse to be deceived!
Here are 13 bands that named themselves after countries other than their own!
1. Architecture in Helsinki, from Australia
Architecture in Helsinki said they stumbled upon their band name in a freak magnetic poetry incident, years before they ever actually got to Finland. I guess the words just looked good together on a fridge.
Okay, it’s not the best band name story. But the sextet more than makes up for it in throwback disco party insurance.
Architecture in Helsinki, on the verge of releasing their fourth studio album, plays punchy, unapologetic, upbeat, disco-style electro pop that sounds like Prince begat a modern musical baby with the B-52′s.
2. Jamaica, from France
In what was probably the worst Google-ability move ever, French rock duo Poney Poney renamed themselves Jamaica, ’cause, well, they thought it was a cool name for a band. Frankly, they could use a magnetic poetry kit.
Fresh from their debut album release and weeks away from playing the CMJ Music Marathon in New York, Jamaica is a tongue-in-cheek, grungier version of the French rockers Phoenix. They play upbeat, guitar trebled melodies and thick basslines, and though DJs from Justice and Daft Punk agreed produce the duo, you won’t find any synths here.
Check out their hilarious debut video for “I Think I Like U 2,” which takes viewers through the fake rise and fake fall of Jamaica.
JAMAICA – I Think I Like U2
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3. Garotas Suecas, from Brazil
There are no Swedish people in this Brazilian retro tropical funk/soul/rock sextet, and only one of them is a girl. But the band name translates from Portuguese to “Swedish Girls” anyway.
Unlike most folks on this list who used foreign names to mess with people, Garotas Suecas — now three EPs strong and a US tour under their belt — have an actual story.
When Brazil first took the World Cup championship decades ago, the football players were known to consort with hot Swedish women. So they’re basically like one country now anyway.
Check out their hot 70s style funk track “Bugalu.”
4. Miami Horror, from Australia
Before Jersey Shore season two, there was another horror in Miami…from Australia.
The disco house foursome Miami Horror doesn’t remember how they got their name, but clubs and hungry house fans don’t seem to care. Their recent debut album Illumination is igniting dance floors around the globe, though it didn’t hurt to have Aussie cohort and diva Kimbra on the track “I Look To You.”
I guess they can have Miami – but doesn’t Australia have its own beaches and hot people?
Check out “I Look To You,” feat. Kimbra.
Miami Horror – I Look To You, ft Kimbra (official HD)
Miami Horror | MySpace Music Videos
5. Beirut, from USA
citywhere cultures collide.
And indeed, Beirut the band is chic, theatrical and hip, and Condon has experimented with so many instruments (the ukelele, the glockenspiel, the accordion…) and so many world genres, that it seems right to name the group after a melting pot.
Beirut hasn’t been up to much lately since releasing an EP last year, but Condon often goes on long travels or periods of seclusion to seek inspiration.
Here’s hoping he comes back from South Africa with a vuvuzela album!
6. Egyptian Hip Hop, from UK
UK quartet Egyptian Hip Hop will spoil your day if you’re expecting hip hop, or Egyptians.
The quartet of young, scruffy-haired dudes from Manchester play experimental electro pop, with some indie indie punk tracks (like “Wild Human Child” below). No hip hop here. And certainly no Egyptians.
Other than playing gigs and shilling their EP Some Reptiles Grew Wings, the band offers little genuine information about themselves. And no, pictures of the Nile and ancient obelisks don’t count.
I wish they weren’t good, so I could stay mad at them.
7. Bombay Bicycle Club, from UK
These indie rock London boys named their four-piece band after an Indian restaurant chain in their home city. Bombay Bicycle Club, now two albums into their career, feature blistering drumming and guitar that recall Bloc Party, as well as some uniquely angsty vocals by Jack Steadman.
Oh, and they’re the only band on this list to have made it on the Twilight: Eclipse soundtrack. Just think, all those vampire tweens think they’re falling in love with a band from India. The wrongness of it all.
8. Of Montreal, from Georgia, USA
This eight-member + band is from America’s deep south Bible belt. Not up north, as their name implies. They’re used to warm
muggy temperatures and peaches, not dog-sledding (okay, I know Montreal is a city.)
Frontman Kevin Barnes named the band Of Montreal after a girl from said city broke his heart.
I’m sure he’s over it by now. What with the international, chart-topping success, the stream of funds for insane stage antics (i.e. a humping a woman dressed as a pig, seen here), and the 11 albums under his belt. That ex-girlfriend may not have been into him, but the world fell in love quickly with his quirky indie pop group.
9. Brazilian Girls, from New York
You’ve got to hand it to ‘em for their accuracy…there is a girl in this band. New York’s loungy, sultry electro quartet Brazilian Girls may have helped jump start the recent ‘name ourselves after foreign countries’ revolution.
The gorgeous, mysterious lead singer Sabina Sciubba has plenty of national ties — she’s from Rome and has a German mom, and she speaks six languages fluently. (Down boys, she’s taken. By the keyboardist.)
But none of the band members have a drop of blood from Brazil. They chose their name simply because it doesn’t make sense. You know what else doesn’t make sense? Sabina’s wardrobe, which often resembles oversized cutlery.
10. Hong Kong Blood Opera, from Mexico
Mexican quintet Hong Kong Blood Opera’s music certainly begs for hardcore imagery. Their freaky, industrial, electro scream sound — which just got a showcase at SXSW — required a complementary gruesome name.
So the band, a group of film and comic book junkies, chose Hong Kong Blood Opera, a subgenre of 80′s action flicks by Chinese director John Woo. Why? Because it’s properly intense. I tend to agree.
Check ‘em out live!
11. Portugal. The Man, from Alaska, USA
What do Sarah Palin and the nation of Portugal have in common?
Why, nothing whatsoever. If there’s any justice in this world, Portugal has never even heard of her.
Which is why it’s perplexing that the experimental prog rock quartet Portugal. The Man, hails from Wasilla, Alaska originally. Yes, the very municipality that created Sarah Palin.
Truly vexing. Especially when you listen to the band’s layered, lovely but larger than life rock music, John Gourley’s Jack White-esque voice, and choice electro samples. Portugal. The Man is also incredibly prolific, releasing an album every year since 2006.
They chose the nation of Portugal completely randomly, adding “The Man” to differentiate themselves from the country. See, they’re even humble. What gives?!
12. Boards of Canada, from Scotland
Boards of Canada’s otherworldly, experimental, electro-psychedelic tracks make it okay for the Scottish band to name themselves after a country halfway across the globe. Their music, which the duo has been laying down for more than two decades, doesn’t really sound like it’s rooted anywhere in particular. The ether maybe?
The duo named themselves after the National Film Boards of Canada, which they worship for its award-winning documentaries. But Boards of Canada aren’t just film nerds — they also lived in Canada for a year in the late 70s when their parents were seeking work (the bandmates are childhood friends). Check out their video for “Dayvan Cowboy,” which I recommend for meditation.
13. Japanese Popstars, Japandroids, Japanese Voyeurs, Japanther, and Tokyo Police Club
I had to triage all the Japanophiles into one category. Um…sorry guys? The Filipinos seems to be free, and that’s right nearby!
Electro club trio Japanese Popstars are Irish, and they took the name because they love Japanese culture and thought it was hilariously opposite from what they do. (Do they know that actual J-pop stars could probably buy all of their houses, cars, and first-borns combined?)
Canadian garage rock group Japandroids couldn’t decide whether to be called Japanese Scream or Pleasure Droid, so they created their combo name.
Indie rockers Tokyo Police Club come from Canada, and they simply tell reporters: there are worse names.
UK thrash metal band Japanese Voyeurs named themselves after a real guy who was arrested for spying on Japanese people during lewd acts.
And lastly, Brooklyn punk rockers Japanther wanted an epic name that would be on par with Iron Maiden.
Infer what you will — I don’t know…Fetishism? Adoration? Irony? — but there isn’t a Japanese person in the whole lot. And the only female is in Japanese Voyeurs, amidst four other dudes. Is it just me, or is this trend a bit…I don’t know….creepy?
Try as I did to find a band of Japanese girls called Creepy White Guys, it was fruitless.
But the trend of naming your band after foreign countries wasn’t invented by the hip xenophiles above. It is, in fact, a time honored tradition.
Remember Asia, the 80s band from England? Yes, they’re still touring.
And how could you forget Jerusalem, the 70s Christian rock band from Sweden. They’re releasing their NINTH album in two weeks. But I doubt it’ll trump their 1983 hit Can’t Stop Us Now.
No Jerusalem, it appears we can’t.