WHO NAMED THE BAND: Gorgon Horde turns to rock

Görgön Hörde is not comprised of actual Gorgons, is neither horde nor Swedish death metal band. It is an Edmonton punk trio saddled with a silly name that may already be too late to change. Nomenclatural intervention would be painful.

And so it is written in gratuitous umlauts, which, like tattoos or ear lobe labia, are almost impossible to get rid of. Görgön Hörde plays its tour kick-off at the Yellowhead Brewery Thursday night, poised to spread its petrifying brand of low-fi rock across Western Canada. The umlauts – the röck döts – are important. Guitarist Görgar Görgön says that the band name in general is a nod and a wink to the “cheese factor” inherent in the rock canon since there was one, one of many very silly traits that help make the music fun while not lessening its impact in the slightest. No one ridicules Motörhead. Or Mötley Crüe, at least not for its name. The film This is Spinal Tap – which didn’t miss a single silly rock ‘n’ roll quirk – talks about the metal umlaut: “It’s like a pair of eyes. You’re looking at the umlaut and it’s looking at you.”

Enough about umlauts. What of the Gorgons? Singer El Görgön says they wanted a name that befits the band they’d formed three years ago: “A tongue-in-cheek epic rock ‘n’ roll band.” At the mind-numbing naming session every band must endure if it is to play in public, El and drummer Al Görgön pulled out their trusty Advanced Dungeons & Dragons handbooks, flipped to the Gorgon – a monster whose gaze or breath turns victims to stone – and concluded, “If one Gorgon is scary and awesome then a horde would be that much better.”

So what we have here is a rock band whose misleading name is freighted with superfluous Germanic punctuation and irony – how long can you get away with being ironic about something before becoming the very thing you’re being ironic about? – not to mention the unfortunate fact of being inspired by the D&D Monster Manual. Moreover, it is a name worthy of note before hearing a single note of the music it represents. The unwritten (until now) rock ‘n’ roll rule states that the quality of a rock band is inversely proportional to the cleverness of its name. The Band – good band. Herman’s Hermits – bad band. Case closed.

Of course, there are exceptions.

El Görgön says, “We like to catch people off guard. They don’t know what to expect, and they just have to deal with it when they get there. We even have something for the metalheads. Our constituent audience are scumbags. We do our best to keep them happy.”

Must be a punk thing: “Scumbag” is meant as a term of endearment.

El Görgön goes on, “You know, those gnarly rock ‘n’ roll dudes, they’re not in a band, they just come out to rock, those people you could count on to come out and party on a Wednesday night. There’s not enough of them left anymore.”

He adds, “The people who get what we’re doing are people who don’t take themselves too seriously.”

And yet with all other things – songwriting, recording, performance – they can remain dead serious. That’s the beauty of the cheese touch factor. Just a little, not too much, makes a good rock band just a little bit better. It’s too early to tell if the name will have a creative effect on the music. As it is, Görgön Hörde can do the fun-punk thing with songs like Tubby’s Revenge (about a hamster) and Neckbeard and Sweatpants (ode to unemployment), and get downright serious with a song like Midnight Blue, about a rape victim’s revenge.

“When it comes to songwriting, we don’t put limitations on ourselves,” Gorgar Görgön says, “But at the end it still sounds like us.”

Aside from occasionally being mistaken for some Norwegian black death band, and the fact that promoters, venue owners and headline writers usually neglect to include the umlauts in the band name, so what’s the point of even having them, the name Görgön Hörde has posed few problems. Gorgar, who joined late, says it wouldn’t have been his first choice, but it’s best to roll with it now.

“Sometimes I think a different choice might’ve been better,” he says, “But there’s no changing it. We’ve invested a lot of time and energy in this and we’re really proud of what the band is – and the name is part of that.”

A successful rock band must have two things, he goes on: “Unique sounding vocals. If you don’t have that, you have very little chance of success. And you also have to have a name that’s unique and memorable. I wouldn’t argue that there may have better choices than Görgön Hörde, but I don’t think it’s going to hold us back.”