It’s tough to decide on a band name. Instead of risking potentially calling a project something regrettable (maybe something food-inspired or in honor of a public figure?) that might eventually wind up being changed to something else, some musicians take the easy route and simply opt to name their band after themselves. Yet as some solo projects expand to take on new life as full-fledged bands, bandleaders are often faced with a strange dilemma. They can either rename the project entirely and risk losing whatever early traction they may have gained or they can supply a suffix that acknowledges the presence of a backing band. Milwaukee music has no shortage of “& bands” with origins that range from the humorous to the inspiring to, well, just naming off the two collaborators. Though we’re sure there are many more (and some bandleaders have since returned to their solo distinctions), here are some of our favorites.
1. Bo Triplex And His Beautiful Band
After Kane Place Record Club came to an end, Bo Triplex struck out on his own…well, kind of. The incomparable bass player—who also contributes to New Age Narcissism’s winning sound—applied his name to a new project, along with “And His Beautiful Band” which Triplex says “encompasses an un-described group, therefore [he] can add remove or manipulate players to [his] needs as [his] sound grows and develops.”
Beyond flattering his collaborators, the bandleader tells us he employed the name with a specific goal in mind. “I put this group together shortly after the release of Plectrumelectrum and had a vision of an all-girl band,” Triplex says. “Clearly that’s not going to happen.”
2. Caley Conway & The Lucy Cukes
It’s difficult to come to terms with the fact that a band whose music sounds so pleasant was derived from old sushi and a jam band fantasy, but apparently that’s the case here. Allow Conway to explain in greater detail.
“I came up with the ‘Lucy Cukes’ while eating expired sushi at my grocery store job back in 2011. Distracted by the texture, look, and bitter taste of an old cucumber, I mused that if I were to front a psychedelic jam band, it might be called ‘Translucent Cucumber.’ Naturally, our die-hard fans, goofs that they are, who’d follow us around the country would lovingly dub us ‘Lucy Cuke.’ I later came to question my decision to divulge this fantasy to my friend and drummer, Tim. It was as much a surprise to me as anybody when that became our name. During practice one night, he told us that he’d booked us our first show as the Lucy Cukes. The name, since, has been almost as irksome as the task of telling it’s story. Oh well!”
3. Evan Christian And The Stinkies
Not far away from expired sushi and miles from a Beautiful Band sits the occasional backing support of ever-active local songsmith and guitar virtuoso Evan Christian. Based on the few times we’ve observed the full band in action, Christian calling his band The Stinkies is not an assertion of their quality nor their scent—rather, it’s a term of endearment.
4. Hugh Bob And The Hustle
When then-Milwaukee (now Nashville) singer-songwriter Hugh Masterson wanted to adapt his crowd-pleasing musical accounts of his upbringing in rural Butternut, Wisconsin, he applied “The Hustle” to the project that also bears his first name and the, uh, nickname of his middle name (Robert). But wait, it gets more confusing! Occasionally, the alliterative and country-fried name extension of Hugh Bob’s project plays with Frankie Lee, resulting in Frankie Lee And The Hustle gigs from time to time.
5. Ian & The Dream
Ian Ash is a good name for a lead singer. As tough as that cool solo moniker must’ve been for Ash to withhold from listeners, the name “Ian & The Dream” isn’t exactly a nightmare. In fact, it’s as warm, optimistic, and altogether positive as the band’s sound itself.
6. JP Cyr And His Radio Wranglers
Country crooner JP Cyr couldn’t ask for a better or more explanatory name for his project than “His Radio Wranglers.” With it, you know exactly what you get.
7. King Eye & The Squirts
After fronting Meteah Strike and Fable & The World Flat and spending some time in Fresh Cut Collective near the project’s end, Steven Look wanted to try a solo venture again. Instead of naming it after himself, he dubbed the punk-tinged surf rock project King Eye. Once he wrote enough material, the King found some loyal subjects to join him on stage, all of whom were roughly his height. “As we stood in a circle thinking of names, each of us nearly six and a half feet tall, ‘The Squirts’ seemed to be the perfect perverted irony,” Look says.
8. Lisa Ridgely And The Fainting Room
With utterly gorgeous vocals combined with lush and delicate instrumentation, Lisa Ridgely‘s renderings are certainly capable of weakening some knees. The Fainting Room name is fitting for such a soothing project that’s tethered to distress.
9. Max & The Invaders
Since the late 1980s, Max Wisniewski has served as the frontman and namesake of Max & The Invaders. With Max at the helm, the Milwaukee ska band has invaded countless stages, other unconventional performance spaces, and the WAMI awards ceremony.
10. Mike Mangione & The Union
To quote Mangione:
“I initially named my band ‘The Union’ because I wanted something that sounds strong and means something to everyone but nothing in particular. But more importantly, I have always been a strong believer in the audience-artist relationship becoming its own entity. The artist creates and the audience receives. By receiving, they give back to the artist and the artist receives their heart and mind. The sum becomes greater than its parts and there is communion. I am a strong believer in the beauty and power of this communion. Because of this, I felt The Union would be a fitting name.”
11. Myles Coyne & The Rusty Nickel Band
Between the frontman’s easily misspelled name and the “And” or ampersand quandary, Myles Coyne’s “& The Rusty Nickel” band was frequently written incorrectly. “I basically did it ’cause I thought it was a cartoon-y name—cartoon-y as in ‘fun folk band with an ever-changing batch of instruments.’ Plus, it helped note the kind of band we were at the time: folk music.” Between the steady stream of wrong billings, some departing members, and Coyne’s transition into a louder and more straightforward sound, the project returned to just plain old Myles Coyne last year.
12. Pharaoh Mac & DMT
Separately, Jamahl “Pharaoh Mac” Turner is a rapper and Isaac “DMT” Chevako is a producer. Together, they’re formidable hip-hop duo Pharaoh Mac & DMT. Or at least they were until Chevako moved to California last year, throwing the project for a loop. Hopefully distance doesn’t spell the end of this pairing, as the premier “& act” in Milwaukee rap seemed to be hitting its stride with last year’s SYMBOLS.
13. Shonn Hinton & Shotgun
Singer-guitarist Shonn Hinton decided to pull the trigger on Shotgun, a.k.a. five more members who provide percussion, bass, guitar licks, and both lap and pedal steel and join the bandleader to forge a sound that straddles the line between funk, soul, and rock and roll.
14. Trapper Schoepp & The Shades
After his project established itself locally, toured significantly, and scored a minor record deal, Milwaukee troubadour Trapper Schoepp elected to stop calling his partially eponymous project Trapper Schoepp & The Shades. Maybe it had to do with rampant member turnover through the years. Perhaps it’s just easier now that Trapper frequently plays solo shows. Who knows, maybe the Office Space guy told him the name was holding him back. No matter the reasoning behind it, Trapper Schoepp is no longer throwing Shades onto album sleeves and flyers.