A Band’s Name Is The First To Be Judged

It is funny how people react to the name of a band, a lot times without even hearing the music first, seems to go hand in hand with that need people have to label every band with a genre trying to define their sound.  I have read in a few places that Ginger Baker, the drummer for Cream famously commented that he thought “Led Zeppelin” was a terrible name.  You may have heard “The Beatles” with an “a”  of course is an homage to Buddy Holly’s Band “The Crickets”.  I have no idea what “Biffy Clyro” means and the Scotsmen will not say.  What are “Feelies”? and on and on…

Straight away I will say my band’s name “The Bitter Roots” has nothing to do with what people call “Roots” music.  Our roots are more based in the very wide spectrum of Rock.  We do share the socially conscious traditions of Folk and Punk as well, but we most likely don’t fit into that genre of traditional folk they call “Roots” or “Roots Americana”.  Neither is our name a play on the name of the very famous and very talented band “The Roots”.

We live in Seattle now, but Ben and I are both from Missoula, Montana, which is a college town in the Northern Rockies where both our fathers were professors of this or that at the University of Montana.  Most people I have met have heard of Missoula, but if you have not, of note, David Lynch at one time lived there, it is also the hometown of Steve Albini a highly notable music producer(Nirvana, Big Black, Silkworm).  Missoula is also the home town of one Jeanette Rankin, the first woman to serve in congress and the only member of congress to vote against entering WWI and WWII.

Geographically Missoula sits in the northern Shadow of the Bitterroot Mountains.  These are the mountains that almost disappeared Lewis and Clark on their mighty quest.  They are hard rugged mountains, and to me they sort of epitomize the character and spirit of many of the people that live around them.  I spent a lot of time in those mountains.  You could say the Bitterroot Mountains are spiritually significant, certainly to my tribe of friends growing up and lots of other Montana folk as well.

Ben, used to play in a band in Missoula in the 80s called “Ein Heit” which is the German word for unity, intentionally separated by the band to represent division in the world.  “The Bitter Roots” is an homage to not only the mountains but also that play on words, as well as being a very appropriate way to express my circumstances.  I lost my Dad to a heart attack when he was 58 and my mom a mere 8 years later to drinking and driving when she was 60.  Sadly no remnants of the Stetson Family remain in Missoula.  These experiences have left my sense of home divided, hence the name now explained.

Ironically there is now a BBQ joint in my neighborhood of Ballard, in Seattle called “Bitterroot”, named after the same mountains and owned by some former U of M students.  Small world.

Also of note, there was a reggae artist in the 90s called “Bittter Roots”.  There is a band in Minnesota named “Bitter Roots”.  There is a band in Atlanta called “The Bitteroots”, they dropped an “r” for some reason.  There is also now a band in Portland named “Bitterroot”.  I don’t know how these other bands arrived at these variations. These things happen.

We are “The Bitter Roots” Seattle.  Check us out sometime.

You can read more about us in the Seattle Weekly,  in the Missoula Independent and on our neighborhood’s blog My Ballard. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

image – JD Hancock

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