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AJJ: Andrew Jackson Jihad’s new name and the weight of band identity

Image via AJJ

Image via AJJ

 

Earlier today, Phoenix, AZ folk punkers, Andrew Jackson Jihad, announced a formal change to the group’s current moniker, down to that of its widespread, abbreviated nickname, “AJJ”.

The chosen alternation – as frontman Sean Bonnette explains in the official statement released by the band – makes a lot of sense, as AJJ is one the quickest, most recognizable shorthand among fans and industry writers alike, whenever discussion about the group is at hand. Heck, even the group’s official Twitter handle stood before now as @AJJtheBand. Below is the full statement with the announcement, as per the band’s official website.

Hi Gang! Big news today.

We are officially changing our name from Andrew Jackson Jihad to the simple, familiar abbreviation that most of you already call us: AJJ.

The two biggest reasons for this are:

1.) We are not Muslims, and as such, it is disrespectful and irresponsible for us to use the word jihad in our band’s name.

2.) We no longer wish to be a living reminder of president Andrew Jackson. Interesting historical figure as he was, he was an odious person and our fascination with him has grown stale.

We are very sorry to any people the name has offended. We would like to thank those who have reached out over the years to let us know that the name is problematic, especially those who reached out with kindness. Had we known in 2004 that we would still be making music together 12 years later, we most certainly would have chosen a more thoughtful name from the start.

The name AJJ fits us better than Andrew Jackson Jihad. It has been our nickname for those in the know forever. It hearkens back to the great skatepunk bands like JFA, FYP, LFO, etc… It also retains, even amplifies the quality that I liked about the name Andrew Jackson Jihad; that it can be interpreted in different ways. Now that we are AJJ we can be “Arizona Juvenile Justice”, “Anonymous Junk Jugglers,” “Actress January Jones” (Chris Farren thought of that one) the possibilities are endless and we’re very excited to see what you all come up with.

Now that we are officially and proudly AJJ, we would like to share our new song “Now That I’m at the Top of my Game.” We recorded it in Dallas with John Congleton while making our forthcoming album. This song seemed confident enough to stand on it’s own.

The video was made by Karin Graham, Mark Glick, Mark Roebuck and Sean out of some stock footage of body builders and Sean’s crooked teeth.

Thank you all so much for reading, for listening, and for being so good to us for all these years,

we love you all,

AJJ

Past the forthcoming social media typing convenience for fans, and saving of ink costs for future band shirt prints, Bonnette’s disclosure of the reasons for this change inspire a conversation that goes beyond one group. That is to say:

 

Does it behoove a band to sometimes listen to the ongoing, unchanging and nearly ubiquitous voice of its fan base? 

and

How much value and weight does a band’s name carry in the present day, given the fast burning nature of the music business today?

 

Band names are one of the first lines of identification for musicians and yet there are some monikers that just come together in a moment a of mental lightning. A thought comes, someone shouts it out and there’s the name, which somehow sticks. Perhaps the name is mutually loved by all in a band, and maybe it even has a clever, quirky little story behind it that makes for a great ice breaker at parties. Everything about how a name got chosen made perfect sense and that’s why it was made into “the one.” Still, is that enough? For the bands that – even if they don’t have the resources at first – intend on, and eventually do, hustle and study and plan and work themselves to the bone so they can make music for the long haul, should the first line of ID perhaps be crafted with more stable longevity in mind?

How a band’s name comes about might be connected to a nearly infinite number of scenarios –some of which might not be of the most public friendly circumstances. That potential for variety is what can make for some of the best interview questions, party stories and so on. But if a group is talented enough and is hell bent on making it past the local level, there’s a point of view that could say a name should be chosen – no matter how early in days it is – with others in mind more over oneself. Sure, a name should reflect one’s music and or vision but, how a group summarizes those things in word form should be determined and selected with a prudence that thinks ahead toward those people one is envisioning themselves playing for in the future.

Conversely, if a band manages to wade through the waters of listener attention spans and comes through after years and years with a large fan base still intact, as AJJ have, a name/brand change late in a band’s career is less of a make or break move  in identity retention because the group has already ingrained themselves in the ears and minds of people for a plethora of other reasons.

What this particular conversation really boils down t is the question of whether one approaches band names with a formalized mindset and willingness to filter or, an “anything goes” mindset that banks on a band being so successful that their name ceases to have enough weight to break the group apart in the eyes of the public –both the supportive and the disapproving halves. Where there’s a wrench in the mix for bands now, as opposed to bands from 12, 15 and 20 years ago before AJJ even started, is that the lives of most non-mainstream bands either are shorter than the long tenure of a band that can afford to stop caring about name issues or, a band does exist for a long time but in a sub-genre/culture that falls outside the mainstream scrutiny and criticism of the median consumer and concert going audience.

Those are quite a few different scenarios. It looks like, even if a band lets their name come from a completely loose thought, that if one is having to think over other such things like sub-culture and longevity of a demographic, why not take an extra bit of time to include the decision of one’s very name in the delicacy of those founding discussions as well. It might just save one from having to delete a lot of “I’m offended!” emails.

In honor of their new name, AJJ have left fans with this video for their new song, “Now That I’m At The Top Of My Game.”

 

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