Spinal Tap turned it up to 11. The Monkees were real life daydream believers. But what about the bands that never broke through their fourth wall? That were never anything more than their fictional incarnation? Bands that never existed beyond their imagined confines. Some bands, like Dr. Funke’s 100% Natural Fun Time Family Band Solution are probably best left in their imagined realm (although we’re not saying we wouldn’t absolutely love to see them live) but others, well we damn well wish we lived in a world where they existed.
Conceived as a pseudo-compilation album, psychedelic Brooklyn three-piece Prince Rama released Top Ten Hits of The End of The World last year via Animal Collective’s own label Paw Tracks. Tracking began with Tim Koh in Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti’s studio and was then completed and mixed with producer Scott Colburn (Animal Collective, Sun City Girls, Arcade Fire) at Gravelvoice in Seattle. The Hare Krishna community raised siblings Taraka and Nimai Larson and friend Michael Collins invented ten different pop bands that died during the apocalypse, channeling the ghosts of each one to perform the various songs across genres and stylistic eras. Yep, you read that right, we’re talking future post-apocalyptic music here. A retrospective requiem to pop music.
Now of the ten bands that went out in crashing flames of glory as the world perished around them there are bands like The Metaphsysixxx, who upon hearing the world was about to end, took all the ecstasy they had and jumped on a treadmill, running until they collapsed but our favourite has to be Rage Peace. For starters, what a name. Then there is their fictional tale of fame and demise which, according the press release, goes a little something like this.
“Rage Peace formed as a small protest band in the early 90s and before they knew it they were the Bob Dylans of a whole generation of angry youth. They became founding members of the Rage Peace movement, based on the principle of nihilism as the only true order, and wrote songs with violent messages placed in seemingly saccharine pop structures. The band was notorious for staging organized acts of violence and destruction, burning cars and sometimes buildings in the name of chaos. When the end came, their bodies were found locked inside a limousine they had set on fire. The license plate read “HEY U”.”
There are stories like that for all the bands, which you can read here, but this is our favourite for the pure rock’n’roll nihilism it embodies and more than anything, we would just love to live this world, safe in the knowledge, that if the apocalypse does come, music will live on.
Taking their name from a company in Elio Petri’s 1960 film The 10th Victim, the band made up of actor Mike Myers, The Bangles’ Susannah Hoffs and power-pop singer-songwriter Matthew Sweet isn’t explicitly referenced within the Austin Powers trilogy. Myers formed Ming Tea after he got together with friends Hoffs and Sweet for a night of B Movies. Inevitable jam sessions followed and a few live appearances at LA’s comedy clubs convinced them that the project had legs.
It took life as a hyperbolic facet of Austin Powers’ identity and the band members were given equallly ludicrous nom de plumes (Hoffs became Gillian Shagwell, Sweet was Sid Belvedere) to compliment the main character. “Manny Stixman” (New Radicals drummer Stuart Johnson) and “Trever Aigburth” (Canadian VJ and ‘Black Velvet‘ songwriter) were added to flesh out the line-up.
It’s Sweet’s songwriting that shines through in the two songs and several instrumental pieces that saw the light of day as part of the films while Myers does a passable amalgam of a vocal pitched somewhere between Roger Daltry, Anthony Newley and Steve Marriott. Outside of the movies, they played the odd TV show; a fully-live appearance on VH-1′s Sparkle shows Ming Tea making a decent stab of being an actual band.
Marin Kanter, Diane Lane and Laura Dern unwittingly filled in the gap between punk and riot grrl when they appeared as The Stains in the 1981 Lou Adler (who produced The Mamas & The Papas and Carole King) directed film Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains. The production was so chaotic and turbulent, rather apt for a film about punk rock and the music business, that the ending was shot two years after the film wrapped.
The Paramount Pictures satire only saw a full release in 2008 after its cult status had reached breaking point through endless art house screenings. The film itself co-stars Sex Pistols men Paul Cook and Steve Jones, alongside Paul Simonon from The Clash while most of the music was written by Barry Ford and Rob Morton, the pseudonym of Nancy Dowd.
The Stains, comprised of brashly cynical lead singer Corinne “Third Degree” Burns (Lane, barely 15 at the start of shooting), her sister Tracy (Kanter), and cousin Jennifer (Dern, who was 13 at the time), were an overnight sensation, embodying teen rebellion in their skunk striped hair, lightening-bolt eye make-up and provokative see through shirts. Their attitude and rallying cry has probably inspired more people than we’re aware of, imagine what they could have done if they were the real deal.
It’s a classic. Anyone who loves this film, and that I am assuming is most of you, can probably see the scene play out in your head. That moment when John Cusack is burying his head in fear of how much Barry is about to crash and burn, Vince and Justin are swiping CD’s from the DJ booth while Laura looks to the stage encouragingly. “It’s my great … great pleasure to introduce … Sonic Death Monkey” he says before Jack Black walks on stage triumphantly, of course what we don’t get is Sonic Death Monkey. The band have skipped a couple of phases in their career and whilst on the verge of becoming Kathleen Turner Over Drive they play Barry Jive and The Uptown Five and famously cover Marvin Gaye.
And while we do of course really wish we could see Jack Black doing his best ‘Let’s Get It On’ thrust, what we would like to hear more than anything is their Sonic Death Monkey phase, whose immediate influences are German and whose music promises to go over the edge, to provoke a reaction.
“And if Laura’s bourgeois lawyer friends can’t take it. Fuck them. Let ‘em riot. We’re fucking Sonic Death Monkey.”
The Late Greats’ have the best lost track of all time but we will never get to hear it. Romeo, the greatest singer in rock and roll, has a voice made of gold but we will never get to hear it. How messed up is that? ‘Turpentine’ doesn’t exist anywhere but thanks to Jeff Tweedy and Wilco we will always feel its absence.
Fronted by Trent Lane, Jane’s brother and Daria’s high school crush, Mystik Spiral were so much more than many real bands could hope to be. An angst filled garage band with grunge sensibilities their ludicrously hyperbolic insights into the human condition began to formulate, according to MTV’s background story, when Trent was 12 and met his musical soul mate, and later band mate Jesse Moreno.
We wish they were real because well they represent everything it is to be a struggling musician. They have a fan club run by Jesse’s brother. They have never released a record. They drive around in a beat up old van called the Tank, doing show after show, desperate to have their art appreciated but unwilling to compromise their artistic vision, even though they’re only playing birthday parties, keggers and bar mitzvahs. They casually admit they’re lame on several occasions. Cool kids never admit they’re cool anyway.
According to their website “Mystik Spiral performs a raw, naked brand of searing, anarchic sound. Our songs are stark reminders of the tortured human condition — howling sonic poems of raw intensity. We will also play the hora upon request.” Sounds pretty good to us.
Included not only because if everything Douglas Adams wrote was real we’d live in a crazily exciting bizarre world, but because Disaster Area are the loudest rock band in the Galaxy, in fact they are generally considered to make the loudest noise of any kind at all.A “plutonium rock band from the Gagrakacka Mind Zones, they play shows via remote control in a heavily insulated spaceship which stays in orbit around the planet, or a completely different planet, to crowds some thirty-seven miles away from the stage in concrete bunkers because my friends, ear pluggs just won’t cut it. Fronted by humanoid Hotblack Desiato their sound is built around familiar boy meets girl scenarios but happy endings are replaced with explosions and destruction.
Taking inspiration from those pesky bombs from Super Mario and, erm, Tom Jones’ rather creepy noughties comeback hit, Scott Pilgrim‘s resident house band Sex Bob-omb hold a place right up there with the best. Portrayed as just an average garage band in the Bryan Lee O’Malley comics, the group get a transportation to the big screen courtesy of Edgar Wright’s 2010 adaptation. And with Beck providing the music to the film, it’s hard not to wish they’d actually existed. Heck, anything would be better than Michael Cera’s stint in the “indie supergroup” Mister Heavenly, a band consisting of The Shins, Islands and Modest Mouse, yet nowhere near as good as that sounds like it should be.
Set in Britain during the glam rock days of the 1970s, the Todd Haynes directed Velvet Goldmine tells the story of a pop star that is mainly based around David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character. The story follows journalist Arthur Stuart (played by Christian Bale) as he revisits his own past while researching an article about the mysterious disappearance of Brain Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Stuart locates and talks with people connected to Slade, trying to find out what happened to him, and recalls the glam-rock scene of the ’70s in a series of vignettes.
Part of this story is Venus in Furs, the Spiders from Mars to Slades’ Ziggy, who were in fact made up of Thom Yorke (channeling Bryan Ferry) on vocals, Jonny Greenwood, David Gray, Suede’s Bernard Butler, and Roxy Music’s Andy Mackay. Now how about that for a line-up?! The entire sound-track is genius and we’d love to see a fictional band called Wylde Ratttz that consists of Thurston Moore and Mudhoney’s Mark Arm, we think the idea of members of Suede and Radiohead playing in a band together is long overdue.
The pedigree of the fictional band put together by Camera Crow for 2002′s Almost Famous was largely informed by the director’s time on the road with The Allman Brothers, an experience that also gave the film its story. Crowe’s inspiration for Stillwater also came from several other bands he toured with in the early 70s – chiefly Lynyrd Skynrd, The Eagles, Neil Young and, in large parts, Led Zeppelin.
The director’s beginnings as a rock journalist and fan looking in on an early 70s “mid-level band struggling with their own limitations in the harsh face of stardom” helps provide an organically layered approach in creating characters that inhabit the two dimensional flat-pack-rockstar archetypes we know and love (egotistical frontman vs talented guitarist etc) yet retain a human depth that’s consistent and never sketchy. It helps that the onscreen band and their music-creating counterparts are populated by an assortment of characters with a credible pedigree. Crowe’s wife and one half of heart Nancy Wilson took lead on songwriting duties as well as helping Crowe build up an authentic look and feel to the movie’s snatches of life on the road. The core talent (Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, drummer John Fedevich and Red House Painters/Sun Kil Moon man Mark Kozelek) were also enrolled in a ‘rock n roll school’ with Peter Frampton, who acted as musical consultant for the movie. Up to that point Lee’s priors in music amounted to little more than a cameo in the clip for Sonic Youth’s 100% (http://www.youtube.com/watch?
Crowe’s link to Frampton goes way back to writing the lines notes on Frampton Comes Alive!, still the best-selling live album of all time and he ended up joining Wilson as songwriters of Stillwater’s fictional oeuvre – four songs that are played in snatches throughout the film but later found a release as part of a deluxe DVD package. Aerosmith songwriter and producer Marti Friedriksen was drafted in and responsible for providing Jason lee’s vocal while Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready played Crudup’s guitar parts. The real life Stillwater bears no relation to their fictional counterparts but cleared the use of their name for the movie.
They feel like a band – pure and simple – and the film’s greatest success lies in the ability to imbue them with everything you want a band to be and everything you fear they really are. The balance is all important and a credit to Crowe’s acute observations as a young music writer back in the day. Wilson wanted to make Stillwater “really good, but not all the way formed yet,” with “an ‘opening for Black Sabbath’ kind of sound” that would underscore the character’s egos and lifestyle.
“We had to walk the line between parody and something that sounds legit,” she explained. ”The lyrics and music had to be likable, but the humor had to be tucked in there, too. We couldn’t just go totally Spinal Tap.”