When is a band not a band?

(November 03, 2015)

What constitutes a band, the people in it or the name? There's a subject that could form the basis of lengthy and heated discussion. But why? The answers are legion. It could be when only the name remains while the founding members have long since gone their individual ways. Perhaps it’s when the in-fighting between former band-mates occurs and leaves them communicating through legal channels. Maybe it’s when a band is formed around one person and he/ she carries the name despite all else changing beyond recognition. Possibly, the unfortunate demise of a band member could prevent the band from existing any longer or possibly it’s when the ‘band’ is nothing more than a loose collective in the first place. 

This train of thought began as I considered the impact that line-up changes in bands can have on the individuals, the music and on the perception held by audiences and fans. The nature of life, especially in creative environments mean that change is inevitable. Add personalities to the creative mix and the concept of holding a band together can be fraught with difficulties. However, ultimately does it make a whole hatful of difference? In the main, no. And if the band changes in some or many ways is it not still the same band?

If the name remains the same when all else changes then it’s probably best to accept that and stop trying to rationalise it. You’ll only go steadily insane. There are any number of bands that have successfully undergone frequent line-up changes and remained a band under the same name. There are bands that have undergone a musical sea-change and come out the other side bearing little relationship to what went before, and yet retained the old name. In the cosmic scheme of existence it matters not one jot unless you think it does, and then it really only matters to you.

The idea of change without change is a little like Trigger’s broom: “… owning the same broom for 20 years … has had 17 new heads and 14 new handles, but it is still the same broom.” (For the philosophers among us The Ship of Theseus or Theseus' Paradox). And best of luck working out that one.

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