The Frumptious Bellytots

by Jack Solloway

There’s no such thing as a great band name. There are only those we know and those we don’t. It’s true: algorithmicised playback has made it harder to experience the thrill of discovering new music. That is, until a well-meaning friend – with the word of their mouth – tells you about the Frumptious Bellytots, a band you must listen to, because the Frumptious Bellytots play exactly the kind of music you like.

Now I’d never heard of the Frumptious Bellytots but just by the sound of it I’d say I didn’t much care for them. Nor did I care for their Mercury-snubbed, acoustic remixes of field recordings that combine migratory birdsong with micro-amplified growth noises of fungi indigenous to the South West London area. I’m surprised you haven’t heard of them either, the Frumptious Bellytots. They often gig in pubs where they serve pints in three-quarter glasses. An important detail, you’re told, because those are exactly the kinds of places you like to go to.

Certainly both you and I would like to like the Frumptious Bellytots, sure. Though you stand to reason, somewhat defiantly, that the name, the Frumptious Bellytots, is – yes, nonsensically infantilising and unheard of by all but an elect coterie of listeners – but, above all, a disqualifying factor. Under no circumstances, your reason continues to loiter, could you reasonably belong to a tribe who is deeply moved, emotionally and physically, by a band with such an idiotic and purposely obtuse name. Frankly, it’s infuriating that anyone might book someone like the Frumptious Bellytots over, I don’t know, some worthier up-and-comer. Someone like Elma Stud, or Picture Witch, or Automatic Pa. Plenty of no-brainers, also new on the indie scene, that anyone with access to Bing can search out for themselves.

But band names have never been a disqualifying factor. There’s a helpful Kerrang! listicle which collects the obscenest billings of all time, from death metal pioneers Dying Fetus to the Japanese grindcore group Bathtub Shitter. It’s difficult to choose a favourite. There are far worse in the line-up; though some are evidently the nomenclature equivalent of a bratty toddler dispossessed of his binky, with almost presidential complex for attention seeking. At the risk of looking prudishly belt and brace, it’s probably best not to give them the airtime they so desperately crave. It’s at this point CNN cuts to the studio. The anchor turns to camera. Perhaps it’s no wonder that you haven’t heard of them either.

Beyond provocation, one wonders what – if anything – is in a band name? Is its job simply to be memorable, to catch the eye of a casual loafer as they scroll the feed? A quick Bing of one of history’s greatest musicians brings us to rock icon and pickled heartthrob Bruce Springsteen. When the six-stringed denim ancient peered in the box marked The Beatles, he found very little in it. Or: he found a lot. Actually, when you look at what he said it’s hard to tell. He called The Beatles ‘the worst and most glorious band name in all of rock’n’roll history,’ which, as a pronouncement, feels decisive and jam-packed with significance. Namely, that The Beatles is, and remains, one of the most terrible puns in music history. Also, that we shouldn’t go looking for meaning where there isn’t any. It’s worth remembering, too, that this is coming from America’s foremost rock lyricist, whose singular anthems, ‘Born in the USA’ and ‘Born to run’, repeat the artist’s own fixation with his nativity, while espousing contradictory advice about what kind of travel best befits his revolt against the American Dream. Is there nowhere to run, Bruce? Or, baby, are we born to do it?

Savvy readers will call this a false dichotomy. Savvier still, that it’s in the interest of popular appeal to kick meaning into the long grass of a crowded field. No one will notice it anyway. Look, there it goes! (I can’t be the only one to have had what we’ll be calling the Shaun the Sheep epiphany. It’s so difficult to know what to take at face value these days!) Take Misery Jets, for example: an indie four-piece who took after a headline in the Evening Standard about a woefully busy flightpath from Heathrow over Twickenham. Today you know them as the Mystery Jets, a label which boasts the je ne sais quoi of a SR-71 ‘Blackbird’ Stealth with a Schrödinger’s ambivalence to bombing. The change came about – not because it was crap – but because frontman Blaine Harrison forgot the name of his own band when scrawling it on a drumskin, because it was crap. Ostensibly the switch had nothing to do with the woefully busy flightpath from Heathrow – ‘London’s premier airport,’ according the Evening Standard, whose incessant noise pollution caused ‘“insufferable” misery for thousands’ who heard it.

Recently I saw that a very relatable meme had resurfaced and was doing the rounds. It featured a Who Wants to be a Millionaire contestant who was relatably confronted with a) Concern! at the Party b) Worry! at the Restaurant c) Fear! at the Nightclub, and d) Panic! at the Disco. It’s unclear why the correct answer is as blindingly obvious as it is, regardless of the question. Presumably even to those asking why – why! – we’re singing that it’s ‘Nine in the Afternoon’, when everyone else definitely calls it the evening. No one’s breaking out the fine china that late in the day, believe me you.

Of course, it’s possible that some nonsense just sounds plausible. It’s equally possible that the more you hear of someone’s nonsense – especially when it’s fleeced among other stuff, some of which may sound true – the more it’s likely to be normalised. This is all to say, that selecting a good band name doesn’t matter that much in the end, as long as your band is a) Prolific! in the Studio b) Good! at the Music c) Ruthless! at the PR, and d) Shameless! at employing The Machinery of Your Label to Maximise Your Algorithm Game on Spotify and Other Streaming Platforms.

Which brings us to the Frumptious Bellytots. Sorry, I’ve a confession to make, and I may as well come clean now. While you’ve been reading – well, I haven’t been entirely straight with you. Honestly, I should have said this earlier in case there was any doubt. While you’ve been reading, I’ve actually been looking up the Frumptious Bellytots and I can’t for the life of me recommend them in good faith. They’re awful. But I have put together a list of bands you must listen to, as I think they’re exactly the kind of music you like. . .

Frightened Rabbit • The Polka Tulk Blues Band • ‘Fraidknot • Placebo • Elastic Band • Picture Witch • Leisure Trader • Earnest Anyway • Pen Cap Chew • And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead • Frank Indigo and The Melts • Moveable Yeet • Oasis • Heard Immunity • Radiohead • The Um • Brother Curdle • Brave, Brave Bravado • Willy Caballero • Candy Sabre • ______ • Napalm Death • Hickory Mason • Damsels in Redress • The Stenographer’s Kindle • Still Reading? • Kindly Neighbour • Huck! • Cher-ing is Caring • Automatic Pa • Tweet This, You Coward • Elma Stud • Jamdemic • Electric Twist and The Cameos