Battery Acid Blues: Catch The Clap! One Night Only!

Keir DuBois explains what’s in a name. (Originally published in the Artsweek section of the UCSB Daily Nexus on 5/15/97).

Our band has always garnered a lot of questions about our name. For newcomers, the blues band that I’m part of is named the Clap, and in our brief existence we’ve heard one query after another: “Where did you guys come up with that name?”

People either like it or they hate it, and that usually depends on how much thought they actually give it. We’ve had a lot of fun making up reasons as to why we chose the name, and some are better than others, and some are even better than the real (read: serious) reason.

One theory is that the name is based on a pun; when you hear our music, you like it and so you “clap” to it. That one died a quick but horrible death- ditched almost immediately, in fact- for the obvious reason of smelling worse than rancid limburger. Another explanation that didn’t make it to the bank was the one that claimed that, well, we wanted to have a gross, disgusting name that would no doubt endear us to those wholesome folks at the Parents Music Resource Center, (sorry Tipper, your daughters are gorgeous, but we can’t forgive you your silly album stickers) but “The Butthole Surfers” was already taken.

Closer to the truth, but ridiculous nonetheless, was the idea that, since we’re a blues band, we’d undoubtedly be influenced by Eric Clapton at some point in our career, and so by calling ourselves The Clap, we would not only be paying tribute to him but also show up right in front of Slowhand in all of those alphabetically-listed rock encyclopedias and anthologies and stuff.

This was misinterpreted to insinuate that since the Clap would come before Clapton, The Clap must think that they’re better than Clapton. This is of course untrue, and why we didn’t see this whole fiasco in the first place is beyond me, but after many laborious interviews explaining away our bad taste, we finally deflated that bag of hot air, apologized to Eric, and made everything nice again, hoping that the next time we get bad press it would be easier to defuse. It wasn’t, and so we finally gave up trying to make bad jokes about our dirty band name.

The real reason our band name is so dirty is that, surprise surprise, it was entirely supposed to be. Well, sort of. We didn’t exactly plan to become famous as members of a band named after an STD, and though it might seem calculated now, it was totally spontaneous at its inception.

See, Adam, Bryn and I were at a coffeehouse shootin’ the breeze as spoiled white teenagers do, listening painfully to the band that was playing that night. Cover after cover emanated from their amplifiers, and we started to get annoyed; hey, if we wanted to hear Alanis and Hootie and, hell, the Eagles, we’d turn on the local Top Forty station and get comfortably numb. We soon realized that, without being egomaniacs and with a little practice, we could go up there and play and eat those other bands for lunch. Famous sax man Brandford Marsalis once said that there’s “no better feeling than to go up on stage and just cream all the other bands, you know, beat the shit out of all the other bands,” and we took this advice to heart.

While the three of us were having delusions of fame, power, money, making great records, and meeting beautiful women, the cover band finished their set. Being as we were in Southern California, where everyone is too cool for anything and then some, no one in the tiny audience applauded. We usually do, just cause we know no one else will, but this time we didn’t clap because they sucked.

Their lead singer was not getting the instant gratification he expected, and that really went up his ass sideways. “Hey,” he told the crowd, after numerous suggestive “thank you”s “a little appreciation, huh? A little applause, huh?” No noise. No, a few pinkie-claps were heard. “Aw man, “ he whined, “come on, people, clap! Clap! CLAP, DAMMIT!!”

This finally garnered a fraction of the reception he wanted, but Bryn hadn’t noticed; he just sat there laughing to himself like a little boy who just got away with whacking off in the bathroom. He waited until Adam and I noticed him, and then blurted out “Guys, we should call our band ‘The Clap’!” He barely got this out before exploding into a fit of laughter that was more contagious than said STD, and soon all three of us were guffawing uncontrollably, rolling around on the pristine tile floor like weighted beach balls.

When we came to our senses after about fifteen minutes of this seventh-grade regression, we did it all over again, and then agreed yep, that’s it- we were gonna be The Clap. I could just see the marquees: “Come catch The Clap tonight at the IVBC!” I fell over laughing a third time.

We hadn’t reckoned on all of the implications of our name, but we soon came up with a semi-serious reason for it. We argued that, well, we’re a blues band, and the blues in its original form had been widely regarded by whites as everything from dirty to oversexed to downright satanic. The dirty part was right; musically most electric blues is amplified to a distorted, fuzzy-souding level. The sexy part was right, too; blues rhythms derived ultimately from ancient African percussion beats, which were very animated, enough to get one’s groove thing going in a matter of seconds. It started at dancing and then went from there. The devil-music thing was more a combination of the other two traits seen through the conservative eyes of white southern Baptists, but the legendary Robert Johnson was said to have learned the blues from a man who learned himself from playing guitar while sitting on a tombstone at midnight.

Anyway, we put all these things together to justify our name, saying that it’s a dirty name for dirty music; raw, hot, sexed, and very crude. After all, what is “rock’n’roll,” other than an old blues euphemism for sex?

Needless to say, our moms think the band’s name is lame. We know that they’re right, and we know that nothing we could say would legitimize it, so we won’t bother to explain a way or apologize for our name.