12 Crazily Named SXSW Bands That Are Actually Worth Hearing

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This weekend, while you’re setting your clocks forward, the music world will be packing for next week’s 25th annual South by Southwest festival in Austin. Along with film and tech offerings, there’s five days and nights of music by about 2,000 bands there, many of which we’d love to see, if only our cloning device were up to speed. As such, you gotta pick and choose among the aural smorgasbord out there.

Big-name acts (The Strokes, Bright Eyes, Wu-Tang Clan, and even Duran Duran) abound, but we’re always fascinated by the bizarrely named bands that show up at the festival: While Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin is returning this year, it looks like we won’t be seeing I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness, and Gay Witch Abortion seems to have dropped off the schedule, too. Luckily, among the SXSW class of ’11, there’s a whole new class of great bands whose weird monikers shouldn’t scare you away. Check out 12 of the best after the jump.

Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson

Henderson, of course, was the mom on the Brady Bunch (she had an affair with the kid who played Greg, but that’s another story). As for the band, this Norwegian indie-pop troupe not only know how to pick out a memorable band name, but they also have some pretty catchy song titles: Wouldn’t it be funny to hear fans shout out for “The League Will Never Let the Albino Kid,” “Let’s Rent Bikes from 1942” and “I Think E.T. Is Involved in My Family” at their shows? Although their music is definitely in the ether, they’re not space cadets — just beautifully dreamy and lyrical in a nice, shoegazey way. Their usual stomping ground is Scandinavia (natch) and Europe, so unless you’re planning to fly out there any time soon, this is a good chance to catch ’em stateside.

Tokyo Sex Destruction

Keeping in mind that Toyko Police Club are a bunch of Canucks, hopefully you won’t be too disappointed to hear that these guys are from Barcelona. Otherwise, TSD’s name sounds like a really bad weekend or a preview of The Hangover III. Funnymen that they are, they’ve all adopted the last name “Sinclair” in honor of poet/activist/MC5 manager John Sinclair. Musically though, they’re more attuned to the Stooges or Fleshtones, pumping out slobbering garage rock madness, though they do have some soul to them: “God Bless Marvin Gaye,” they proclaim on MySpace, and they don’t sound like they’re trying to be cute about it.

The Ghost Of A Saber Toothed Tiger

TGOASTT is a great acronym (hey, it almost says “ghost” again!), but the main thing that this sweet folk-rock duo has going for it is that one of the members happens to be named Lennon — and it ain’t Julian. Sean L’s new project is just getting off the ground, and you’ve got to admit that, even when singing in tandem with a woman, he does sound an awful lot like his daddy. The sound here, especially the harmonies, recalls John’s early glory years with you-know-who, and we’re not complaining. Oh, and that femme voice belongs to Sean’s beloved, model/actress Charolette Kemp Muhl. If S&C play their cards right, they could be another Thurston and Kim or Ira and Georgia.

Cambodian Space Project

So, this band is actually from Portland or Omaha, right? Actually, no — they are Cambodian… and French and Australian, making Cambodian Space Project quite a cultural melting pot. If you had your hopes up that the rest of their name meant that they were Sun Ra fans or a prog-rock combo, you’re out of luck, though. Instead, they lovingly recreate ’60s R&B/beat music, fronted by tough mama Srey Thy, who sings in her native Khmer tongue and whose affection for cowboy hats will help her fit right in at their Texas shows. Their version of “House of the Rising Sun” might not make you forget Eric Burdon, but it’s heavy enough not to disappoint.

Kikiilimikilii

So, is the name some kind of mash-up of M.I.A.’s “Illy Girl” and Milli Vanilli? (the former we’re down with, the latter we aren’t). Kiki, as we’ll call him here, is part of a French art collective whose manifesto says that they’re all about “putting forth disequilibrium, modifying and reconfigurating the lines (physical and cosmic) to interact with the stage in a more direct (brutal?) and playful way,” which seems commendable even if we don’t fully understand what it means. Kiki’s kind of a mystery but that’s just part of his mystique. If you’ve got a yen for spacey, wild psychedelic noise, he’s your guy, and with a weirdo like this, half the fun will be seeing what the hell he looks like and what kind of bizarre music he pulls out of his backside.

Sissy-Eared Mollycoddles

If old-school classical music leaves you cold, you owe it to yourself to at least dip your toes into some of the modern, bracing, non-minimalist brand. Here, it’s served up from a band whose name comes from a taunt by composer Charles Ives. How serious is this Windy City trio about their music? Their song bag only includes work by living composers, so take that Stravinsky and Stockhausen! Just in case you think they’re too tightly wound, they also have a jazzy lilt to their music, though it’s in line with avant players like Anthony Braxton and Henry Threadgill and not Wynton Marsalis (thankfully). Here’s hoping that in Austin, they unleash their austere take on “Ballad of A Thin Man,” which Dylan would (or at least should) appreciate.

Pop Up Animal Kids

We were imagining that these guys might be a cutesy kiddie band, and hopefully one that wasn’t too enamored of Barney the Dinosaur. Wrong again. This Dutch quartet describes themselves as having “positieve energie” and “voodoo drums” while declaring themselves “a soul shake down party.” Well, not quite… They’re more like new wave-flavored indie rock, dipping into crunching classic rock/grunge and veering close to prog now and then. And here’s hoping that they don’t like Barney, either.

Hurray for the Riff Raff

To be honest, we loved this band’s name so much that we almost didn’t care what they sounded like, as long as they were at least half-way decent. Luckily, we didn’t have to worry. HFTRR has a sweet, romantic story: Bronx girl Alynda Lee Segarra did some traveling around until she wound up in New Orleans and found herself taking up the banjo and digging on roots music while corralling a small group of kindred spirits to form a band and put out two albums on their own. They offer up some soulful alt-country/folk stylings featuring accordion and violin alongside Segarra’s gorgeous vocals. Oh, and hold the drums, please (this is old-school roots music, after all).

Hoodie Allen

If you’re like us, you were hoping that with this hilarious moniker, this white kid from Long Island would be a backpack or nerdcore rapper. Well, we’re all in luck, ’cause he is. School is his big subject, probably because he’s not too far removed from it. His rapid-fire rhymes don’t recall Busdriver’s or Twista 500 MPH’s delivery so much as Eminem’s, though he’s in no way as tough as the Detroit superstar. Hoodie Allen’s full of funny pop culture references, low on braggadocio and not immune to pop/R&B hooks. If that weren’t enough, he offers up his new album, appropriately titled The Pep Rally, at his website for free.

Shit Horse

Not to be confused with Shit Robot or Shit and Shine (who’ll also be at SXSW), dare we say that these guys are the shit? A trio of white indie rockers from North Carolina who dig garage rock and dirty blues is one thing, but add an extra ingredient — an older African-American singer with lots of soul and who shouts and improvises lyrics — and you have something special. From the looks of their video, vocalist Danny Mason (aka Danny Magic) is quite a showman too. And what do they call their album? They Shit Horses, Don’t They? Perfection.

Tiger! Shit! Tiger! Tiger!

Yup, another “tiger” band — and another “shit” band! T!S!T!T! are three nice Italian boys (named Masciotti, Vedovati & Vedovati) from Lo Stivale motherland itself, churning out some engaging post-punk revival music. All right, they do have one other thing in common with Shit Horse: they also drop the S bomb on their album title (Be Yr Own Shit). We wonder if they have tiger blood like Charlie Sheen.

I Was Totally Destroying It

We’re all for sentence-length band names as long as they flow nicely, and this Chapel Hill five-piece has a pretty cool handle: “totally” is so ’90s but “destroying it” (whatever “it” might be) is just gnarly. Think of IWTDI as kind of a mash-up of other local bands (including members of Sorry about Dresden, Strunken White and A OK, all of which are also pretty good names), combined to form a mixture of booming gimme-decade drums, jangly indie guitars, groovy synths, and grrrl vocals over enough attractive hooks to make them sound like a heavier version of the New Pornographers.