Band names have long been a source of trouble, and getting the balance between memorable and cool yet not super pretentious is a balance few manage to achieve. However sometimes the band name problems run a little deeper than that. Such has been the case for a certain power-pop quartet from Kent.
Formed of Jamie Glass, Ollie Nunn and brothers James and Rob Simpson, the four-piece first got together around four years ago for what first started as just a bit of fun. “The first two years it was a hobby.” Glass tells me, “Then we managed to get management and some really good support, and over the next two years it became more serious.”
Obviously with increasing support, you’ve got to think up a name that people can profess their love to on Twitter. “I vividly remember deciding the name.” Glass recalls. “We were just sitting in our friend’s shed and I wrote a list of names and said ‘I’m going to name the band one of these’ and we talked through them and I kind of just went ‘that’s it, Get Inuit.’ I can say I probably gave next to no time on naming it, I just thought it was a funny pun. It wasn’t until the last six months where it became an issue, when people became a bit more aware and people became more concerned with the name…”
A wordplay on the phrase “get into it”, Glass tells me how no one had ever really raised problems with their name before until around six months ago when they got called out on Twitter by Canadian Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq. Tweeting about her anger at four white boys from England using “Inuit” in their name, what followed was an onslaught of Twitter abuse hailing the group as racists. “It all happened over about four days,” Glass explains, “and we just woke up one day with it all happening.” Picked up by the Canadian equivalent of the BBC, guitarist James issued a statement saying how the band were using the word as a pun and never intended to offend anyone. “The people tweeting us thought we were using it in a derogatory way and they took it that way.” Glass tells me. “They pronounce it slightly differently in Canada so they don’t get the pun that we do, so we were having to put out a lot of fires to explain we didn’t mean it in the way people were taking it.”
“It just means so much more to so many more people than it would ever mean to us.” He sighs. “At the end of the day, it’s just a silly name and has upset people as it’s their word. The Inuit people, when people Google it, they want it to be them so you can learn about their history and not a band taking up all of their attention. As soon as we saw it from that point of view, taking away the insults we were getting thrown at us, we realised it’s a sensitive issue. The only reason for us to keep that name would be through selfishness. Me, personally, I hold a lot of guilt towards it because I was the guy who said ‘oh, let’s just name it after this.’ I feel a lot of guilt towards how it’s affected the band.”
“What really did it for us was not people swearing at us or insulting us – I think your natural instinct as a human is to go “you’re wrong, I’m not listening to you” – but we did have people also saying, ‘we know that maybe you didn’t realise you were doing it, but if your band ever gets successful every time someone wants to find Inuit music, they’ll have to try and find it through going through all of your stuff in the feeds. You’re basically saying that the word Inuit is just a word, whereas to us it’s a culture.’ Stupidly, I never thought about it like that, because I didn’t think they were as oppressed as they are, and after researching into it I now know they are a minority who have to fight quite hard to stay alive.”
“I’m sure it’ll be ok if you’re not an asshole.”
Deciding to change their name a few months ago, tour contracts left the band in an awkward limbo stage of not being able to distance themselves from their former name whilst not being able to tell anyone about the plans to change either. “We realised about a month or so ago that it was the right thing to do but unfortunately we had contracts signed with tours and stuff like that.” Glass continues. “So as soon as we got to the end of those, we made a clean cut to change the name. It does now feel a nice relief to draw a line in the sand and come up with a simple stupid throwaway name for a band.”
Unveiling their new name of Indoor Pets earlier this week, I ask Jamie how the support has been for the band so far. “Yeah, there’s not been anyone that’s been like ‘I thought you guys were racist for the past four years without saying anything,’” he laughs, “everyone’s been just as oblivious as we were which is a little bit comforting and now they’re aware of the same situation. There’s so many people around us who are so supportive who don’t care about the name and just like us for us.”
And it’s hard not to like the band. With their power-pop stylings and infectious melodies, Glass describes their sound as “harmonious as the Beach Boys with their high-pitched melodies, whilst at the same time having the grunge of Nirvana.” And what more could you want? Now having just announced their “first real” headline tour in February, it’s set to be the start of what will be an undoubtedly exciting year for the quartet.
As our conversation draws to a close, it’s obvious that realising their past mistakes has allowed the band to view other matters in a different light. “It seems like the last year, I definitely realised, being a Caucasian male from a first world there’s a lot of horrible people, and I’m kind of in that pile,” Glass tells me, “People are now having more of a voice through social media and you’ve got the Harvey Weinstein stuff happening and all this stuff coming out about people who thought they were invincible. It makes me kind of understand why everyone has naturally hated the power that I had being a white male, because I never thought about it before until the last couple of years. It’s never affected me as a person, I never thought to myself ‘oh I’ll get this job over this woman’ but the last year its become so obvious to me how much stuff is happening behind the scenes and minor details affecting women and other minorities and it’s a lot of pressure because it’s so easy to have people hate you, just say the wrong tweet and everyone will shout at you, but at the same time it’s a positive pressure because it’s like ‘don’t be a dick. I’m sure it’ll be ok if you’re not an asshole.’”
And that’s a motto we can all learn something from.