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And You Are...? Playing the Name Game with And I Am

by Deuce of Clubs

(First published in Planet Magazine, 26sep1995)


And I Am is a band that's hard to pigeonhole. Their music would probably fit in well on stations like KZON, if you like to categorize by radio playlists, but they don't sound much like any other specific artist. However it's described, their music has earned them a loyal following, as well as the support of LA-based manager Tim Duffy of Evil Empire Management. Duffy, who has worked with the Rolling Stones, Metallica, David Bowie, and most recently Pearl Jam (at least, until they cancelled their tour to protest against TicketMaster—speaking of Evil Empires), considers And I Am his best prospect, and is currently shopping around the band's demos.

Even harder to figure out than And I Am's music is their name: "And I Am" what? To find out, I spoke with Peter Forbes, the band's frontman and songwriter. Forbes is serious about his music, but fortunately he has a sense of humor about his band's name, which he says originated with a former member, since replaced (though, oddly enough, not for coming up with the name And I Am).

Deuceofclubs: Okay, fill in the blank: And I Am _____.

Peter Forbes: And I with envy.Green Eggs and Ham. And I Am...Samiam. I do not like...And I Am!

See? It's kind of a silly name.

You Am I—have you heard of that band?

No, but the letters UMI are painted on the roof of a house down by Fiesta Mall! They've been up there for years, and I wish I knew why. Once I went over and knocked on the door and asked about it, but the occupants were renters and didn't even know it was there. The head geek at the company where I worked used to make the password, "IMI,UBU." See? I am I, you be you.

You know that band UB40? I met these old guys in a retro band who called themselves WE B 50.

And I Am—you've kind of got a reggae tie-in there—you know, "I & I."

I'm not in love with the name, okay? It hasn't been registered or trademarked or anything, so—

So maybe there's still hope that someone, somewhere, might steal it?

There's been every other variation: Yes I Am, Samiam—

But those names make sense. "Samiam" is from Dr. Suess; "Yes I Am" is from that beer commercial, I guess.

For that matter, Yes I Am is Melissa Etheridge's coming-out-of-the-closet album.

I think you should steal David Spade's tag line from SNL: "And You Are...?" But And I Am—I don't know. It's like you're joining the name in progress, like in medias res in literature. "And I Am" what?

We used to be called More Islands. Can you believe we actually played out under that name? We were being confused as a reggae band, however, so we dropped it. Again, that was a name that was misunderstood. Even we didn't understand it.

Do you understand this one?

No, not really.

It almost sounds belligerent. It's hard to tell what it is. You might be a rap group: "And I Am—DAMMIT!" Or you could put some umlauts over the vowels and be a metal band. Actually, the name makes me think of Neal Diamond's "I Am I Said." Remember that song?

(Sings) "And no one heard at all, not even...the chair!"

Someone once called that the worst stretch for a rhyme in pop music history.

Neil Diamond didn't write that song, did he?

I think he did. He also wrote "Red, Red Wine."

(Sings the UB40 version) "Red, red wine, you make me feel so fine"—hey, if we were still called More Islands, we could do that song....

One of my all-time favorite inept reviews was about you guys. According to the reviewer, your music "blends mind-pop and the sterile synthonics of posh English etherics. Curiously, the lead vocal colorization is order Gabriel; resulting in an acceptable new voice to pop stardom."

That makes no sense!

That's what's great about it! You do get compared—perhaps unfairly—with Peter Gabriel, but probably more from a lack of something else with which to compare you.

The element of keyboards in our band, maybe that's the one thing that makes it different from Tempe guitar bands. It's happening in some of the industrial music—Nine Inch Nails is doing keyboard-oriented music. Maybe that's the dilemma about our sound, that we do have that element.

Maybe the dilemma is the name.

I dunno; maybe we should change it.

Have you considered the name Wagner? What do you think of Wagner?

I can't say I've spent any time with Wagner.

Boy, I can. But I'd vote for "And You Are...?" As if I should get a vote. What other names did you consider?

One was Nutritious Furniture.

Yikes! No wonder you picked And I Am. A name I always thought would be great was Sucking Chest Wound. Then some band actually used it. Now I'm thinking Blunt Force Trauma is the way to go; that way, whenever the papers talk about the OJ murders you're getting free publicity.

One of my favorite local band names is Anus the Menace. I always enjoyed that one.

Remember that band called The Very Idea of Fucking Hitler? And Mighty Sphincter? And Jodie Foster's Army? And of course The Meat Puppets. Maybe we haven't had too many great bands in Phoenix, but we've had lots of great band names.

And what you're saying is, And I Am isn't one of them.

It just bothers me. I don't even like to say it. When Notaro asked me the name of your band, I lied and said I couldn't remember. Maybe you should make an anagram out of it. An anagram for And I Am. Hey, that sounded like Lenny Bruce: "Another martini for Mother Cabrini!"

An anagram for And I Am. An And I Am-agram! I don't know, the band has a dark, minor element to it. Dark pop. But we're not like The Cure or something. Our band sounds dark but then "Make Me Talk" is in C major. So that's why it's difficult to describe us. I don't want to say rock; that's just too general a term.

"Dark pop"—I like that. That could be your name. You could be the King of Dark Pop. In fact, I think you might be darker than the King of Pop, who isn't so dark any more. Listen, are you sure you don't want to be called Blunt Force Trauma? I could let you have the name real cheap. Or how about Blunt Force Drama? That way, the abbreviation would be BFD. I'm just thinking here. Anyway, what's next for you?

We're getting ready to release a CD. There's a lot of variety on it. One song is extremely dark, almost soundtrack-like in feel. Then there's a track called "Make Me Talk," which is a real poppy, straight ahead tune. It's diverse.

You write most of the material, right?

Yeah. I write at home with a Mac, sequencing stuff. It's a good way to get ideas out. I can present a tape with everything intact, with some sort of arrangement.

You've had some strange opening gigs.

Yeah. We've opened for Foghat, Leon Russell, Peter Frampton, Ozric Tentacles.

That's a weird name. But—you call yourself Ozric Tentacles, people know they're dealing with a certain type of band, see? You call yourself Sucking Chest Wound, you know what you're getting. I hope I'm not insulting you....

Nah. I knew you'd probably have fun with the name.

Nothing personal. It's my job.

You know, back in grade school we used to bring tape recorders into restaurants and have these stupid dialogues for hours on end. For what reason? Same reason we named the band And I Am. There was no reason!

Your first show was at the Mason Jar, right?

I think Franco is deeply misunderstood. I think underneath all the gold chains and the clogs and the little hats he wears and the 75-cent Kamikazees, there's a good guy who wants to come out. Franco was confused by our name, too. "And I Am? And I WHAT?" In fact, instead of And I Am, the Jar's ad said "N. I. M."

That could work! Nine Inch Nails is NIN; you could be N. I. M. Aunty Em! Aunty Em!

I yam what I yam!

OK, do I have the rest of your lineup right? Brett Neils, keyboards; Matt Niskern, guitar; Tony Robinson, bass; Joe Morris, drums. Didn't you used to have a different drummer?

We got rid of our first drummer.

So you have your own Pete Best, then? Do you know that after he got dumped by the Beatles, Pete Best came out with an album of his own stuff and called it Best of the Beatles?


Better keep an eye on your ex-drummer; he might come out with an album someday.

And I Am...Not With That Band Any More!

What happened with the other drummer?

Well...just one of those things.

Another good band name—we should be selling these! You gotta have those up, happenin'-type names, filthy names, like Pap Smear. They're all like that: Green Jello, Green Day, Pearl Jam. Yuck. That's really filthy.

See? You're feeling better now about the name And I Am, aren't you?

© Deuce of Clubs

Pete Forbes

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