WHO NAMED THE BAND: Deep thought behind Market Forces

A rock band is a slippery thing to name. It resists being confined by a word (or number) or three and mocks the absurd idea of having a body of creative musical work summed up by a clever catch-phrase. It cringes like a cow about to be branded.

But once the name sticks – it happens during the first gig when the singer first utters the words “Hello, Edmonton! We’re Insert Name of Band Here!” – the band cannot be thought of any other way. Its creative direction and indeed its entire destiny is shaped by a nomenclatural albatross around its neck.

When confronted to answer for their ridiculous names, band guys always say the same thing, “Hey, man, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just the name of the band.”

It sure is.

John Tidswell is a deep thinker – and the former bassist for Neo A4 (we’ll get to that one in a moment) put a lot of thought into naming his new band whose debut CD release was Friday, Oct. 21 at the Starlite Room: Market Forces.

The phrase is a “small obsession,” Tidswell says. “I’m interested in politics and economics and how they affect the world we live in and how they affect individuals. People spend a lot of time talking about money issues and a lot of time talking about things affected by economics without even knowing they’re talking about economics. It seemed to me that market forces is a pretty broad, important thing that people need to be aware of.

“Anyways, we needed to come up with a rock band name and that was the one we came up with.”

In truth, he had the name picked out before the band played a single note. The process of band naming can illustrate the distribution of power within the band, he says, and Tidswell wields the hammer here. Market Forces was his idea, and while says he “tries to run the band like a democratic state” – fully aware of the irony in that statement – and let his fellow band members decide if they wanted to be called Market Forces, they didn’t really have a choice. Some liked the name, some didn’t. Now they have to live with it. Tidswell says his 18-year-old son said the name was “too intellectual, too heavy, too of-the-mind, not enough of-the-gut.”

The music isn’t like that. It’s ballsy, bluesy, basic four-on-the-floor rock ‘n’ roll sung with raspy enthusiasm by Andrew White, who’s come into his own as a rock singer on the side of his regular career as The Soundman Everyone Calls. The line-up is rounded out by guitarist Jim Ward, drummer Eric Wikman and guitarist Evil Mo (who named the guy).

Play All Night is like a party tune, though it asks a deep question: “Why do all men seem so much in need?” It’s a rhetorical question. The song is about sexual politics, the economics of romance, the market forces of relationships and the overriding desire to “play all night.”

Other songs tackle more standard political ideas. Drew expresses hippie ideals in The Time Is Now: “It’s time to find a new road that takes us to a better place.” The mellow, more U2-like Maybe We’re Wrong opens with this shot at the Almighty: “We’re waiting for your second coming cause we weren’t here for the first” before referencing Martin Luther (not Martin Luther King) in a poke at “the temple with the banker’s rules.”

Yes, it’s ZZ Top meets Adam Smith.

Tidswell says he learned early on in his songwriting career not to try too hard to be political. “When this band very first started, I did talk about the idea of promoting a certain ideology and being quite left in our approach. But ultimately, when I try to write songs that are deliberately that way, I find that they come across as inauthentic and preachy – and no one wants preachy when they’re going to a rock show to have a good time.”

It happens that Sept. 11, 1981 is the date of the naming of his last band, NeoA4, which earned some Canadian college success before disbanding in 1990 or so, during a time when an Edmonton band releasing any kind of recording was a huge deal. Not anymore, of course. The date is memorable for obvious reasons, but also because it turned into what Tidswell describes a marathon naming-the-band discussion. One imagines the dishevelled and tired musicians finally emerging from their sequesterment to declare: “Gentlemen, we have a band name! It shall be NeoA4, a metaphysical representation of the new fourth dimension – and it shall rock!”

These guys were WAY too of the mind for this one, but most fans agree that the name sounded cool, was decades ahead of the name-and-number band name fad, and the deep thinking concepts fit nicely with NeoA4’s deep-thinking music. They were very idealistic in the early days, they were trying to be Rush, they were trying to be Yes – but then “we straightened out.”

Why? You guessed it: Market forces.

Tidswell explains, “The songs in 4/4 went over better than the songs in 7/4.”