Published Dec 01, 2005Trevor Anderson, front-man for Montreal's the High Dials, has first-hand experience with the confusion that ensues when two bands have similar names. When New Zealand's the Datsuns achieved mainstream success, he and bassist/sitarist Rishi Dhir used the opportunity to remake their original band, the Datsons, into something new.
What events forced you to rename your band from the Datsons to the Datson 4 to the High Dials?
The Datsuns started touring a lot in North America and they were opening for the White Stripes. So those shows were getting a lot of attention. For a while, we tried to disregard it. We didn't think it would be an issue. But they began to get a lot of press in the UK and it was right at this transitional period where were changing anyway. We were just about to put out an album that was moving forth significantly from where we had been. So when were down at SXSW, we had this identity crisis. A lot of people were suggesting we change our name. Looking back, I think the name confusion was a gift, a way to make a clean break with the past. It wasn't so much a name change as the end of one band and the start of a new one.
In most cases, artists don't take the need to change their name so lightly.
I don't know whether we would have been brave enough to make the break if we didn't have to deal with the confusion. In our case, we weren't concerned with holding onto what had gone before. It's not like we had this existing fan base of Datsons fans that we were worried about losing or keeping. With some bands, that may be something they have to consider. I was feeling really restless anyway and I wanted to break new ground, do something significantly different. There was a new guitarist [Robbie McArthur] and a new drummer [Robb Surridge]. We were using a lot more in the songs, a lot more arrangements and things. A New Devotion [their first album as the High Dials] was quite a change for us. Before that we had been a three-piece power pop outfit. With A New Devotion, I was feeling a lot more ambitious and it was something we were not going to be able to do as the Datsons.
How important is trademarking to you now?
It isn't. I feel like we have enough exposure and I guess legally we feel like we are pretty safe, but I actually don't know. I know that the only way to be 100 percent safe is to trademark the name and I know some of our friends have done that. I know the Dears have trademarked their name, for example; that's something we've should probably think about.
Do you think most bands are aware of these issues?
If you're starting a band with ambitions to becoming an international act, you should definitely take the time to do the research on the internet. When we began the Datsons, the Internet wasn't as dominant a part of the culture as it is now it's something we didn't think about. There's really no excuse today for not doing the research to make sure the name you pick is not out there somewhere. Most people, when they pick their name,
are only thinking about their own music scene and maybe beyond that, Canada and the U.S.