Robert writes about rock & pop music, and vinyl record collecting.
Lets continue with our series about bird and animal band names in rock and roll history, this time continuing our short themes, we have done dogs, then cats, in our last two articles and now, you guessed it, we are doing mouse names.
Mouse On Mars
Since 1993, the German duo of Jan St. Werner (from Dusseldorf) and Andi Toma (Koln) has been creating electronic music as Mouse On Mars. Their music is an eclectic blend of ambient techno, disco and complex mixtures of rock, jazz and jungle.
The duos first release in 1994 called Vulvaland, is a highly focused mix of techno music. However on subsequent releases, their sound has increased in warmth and playfulness, including more of a pop sound and what the duo term "fantastic analysis. Mouse on Mars regularly perform live as a trio, with Toma & St. Werner augmented by drummer Dodo NKishi. In 2005, they released their first live album, titled Live 04.
While releasing albums mainly on British indie labels, Mouse on Mars actually started their own label, Sonig, on which they release their own work and work by other German artists. They also keep very busy producing a number of EPs and have recorded music for film soundtracks as well as remixing the work of other musicians.
Another mouse band that was formed in 1993, Modest Mouse, are an American indie band that have found success with their breakthrough album in 1997 called The Lonesome Crowded West. Amid many personnel changes, the band gained a cult following and is now considered to be one of the seminal bands of the mid-90s indie music scene. The group derived their name from a passage from the Virginia Woolf story "The Mark on the Wall" which reads, "I wish I could hit upon a pleasant track of thought, a track indirectly reflecting credit upon myself, for those are the pleasantest thoughts, and very frequent even in the minds of modest, mouse-coloured people, who believe genuinely that they dislike to hear their own praises."
The band has attained significant mainstream success after they were signed to Sony's Epic Records in 2001. Modest Mouse are one of the leading bands in the commercialization of indie rock, beginning with their LPs The Moon & Antarctica and Good News for People Who Love Bad News, which have been certified gold and platinum by the RIAA respectively. The band has gone on to sell well over three million records since.
After releasing a variety of singles and rarities in 2000, the group released the first LP on Epic Records, the aforementioned The Moon & Antarctica and they enjoyed some success on alternative radio with the singles "3rd Planet" and "Gravity Rides Everything," which wound up being used in a Nissan commercial; a move that the band publicly acknowledged as blatantly commercial but necessary to achieve financial stability.
In 2001, they released the EP Everywhere and His Nasty Parlour Tricks, which was a collection of unused songs from the The Moon and Antarctica recording sessions. In 2002, they joined Cake, De La Soul, The Flaming Lips, The Hackensaw Boys and Kinky on the Unlimited Sunshine Tour.
More personnel changes followed before the release of 2004s Good News for People Who Love Bad News, which scored the group two hits, "Float" and "Ocean Breathes Salty" (which they performed on a SNL gig in November of 2004). The album was nominated for a Grammy for Best Alternative Rock Album as well.
Amid more personnel changes (Johnny Marr, the former guitarist for The Smiths replacing Dann Gallucci), the band released We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank in March of 2007. The album was highly successful and became the first Modest Mouse album to reach number one on the US Billboard 200 charts, spawning the hit single "Dashboard," as well as the singles "Missed the Boat" and "We've Got Everything."
The band toured extensively to promote the LP, touring with R.E.M. and The National in 2008. An update on the band's blog featured a picture of the band rehearsing new songs and an EP titled No One's First and You're Next is scheduled for release in August 2009. In the meantime, the band released the single "Satellite Skin" 7" on May 5, 2009 and have concerts dates in Canada in August 2009. We can expect more great music from the near future. Modest Mouse are excited to announce they will be playing the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival on Friday, July 16. The festival is held at Chicago's Union Park July 16-18.
Mouse and the Traps
Our next mouse band is a prolific garage rock band called Mouse and the Traps, who are most known for their uncanny imitation of the Highway 61-era Bob Dylan sound with their regional hit A Public Execution; which could easily fool even the most die-hard Dylan fanatic. The Tyler, Texas band released some classic Texas punk-psychedelia from 1965-1969.
Mouse and the Traps took their name from lead singer Ronnie Mouse Weiss who was a member in a local band Jerry Vee and the Catalinas, with fellow musician Dave Stanley. They got together with a gent called Bugs Henderson (who co-wrote the cut A Public Execution with Weiss) and brought the song to Robin Hood Brians, who was the manager of Robin Hood Studios in Tyler (it is still in operation to this day). They released the single in 1966 under the moniker Mouse, but when Jerry Howell and Ken Murray joined the band, most of the remaining music was released under the name Mouse and the Traps.
After releasing several regional singles on the Fraternity Records label, Mouse and the Traps recorded two singles for Bell Records. These cuts were produced by Dale Hawkins (the writer and original recording artist for the early Creedence Clearwater Revival hit, "Suzie Q"). The band also performed on two of Hawkins' singles and contributed toward his 1966 album on the label, L.A., Memphis and Tyler, Texas. The band officially broke up in 1969, but all members remained in music except Jerry Howell (who became a Baptist minister).
By 1966, the members of Mouse and the Traps along with Robin Hood Brians and Doug Rhone were working with singer Jimmy Rabbitt, who was attempting to launch a band under the name Positively 13 O'Clock, an obvious play on Dylan's hit in the same time period, "Positively 4th Street." They recorded a frantic version of Count Five's "Psychotic Reaction" at Hanna-Barbera Records in September of 1966, but an album that was planned never materialized. However, if you are looking for some great 60s garage rock and pop rockers, you have to include Mouse and the Traps in your search.
Mouse On Mars Tidbits:
Mouse on Mars collaborated in the studio and toured with Stereolab in the mid 1990s.
St. Werner and Toma are childhood friends who were born on the same day, in the same hospital.
Modest Mouse Tidbits:
Modest Mouse formed in 1993 in the Seattle suburb of Issaquah, Washington by singer/lyricist/guitarist Isaac Brock, drummer Jeremiah Green, and bassist Eric Judy. Johnny Marr joined the band in May 2006 with percussionist Joe Plummer and multi-instrumentalist Tom Peloso.
In March 2003, Green quit the band after suffering a nervous breakdown; however the official word was that he was quitting to work with his side project, Vells. He was replaced with two new members, drummer Benjamin Weikel and guitarist Dann Gallucci (who has since left). Guitarist Jim Fairchild joined the band in February of 2009.
Modest Mouse was mentioned by name in the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of MGM v. Grokster. Justice David Souter wrote that on the Grokster P2P network, "Users seeking Top 40 songs, for example, or the latest release by Modest Mouse, are certain to be far more numerous than those seeking a free Decameron, and Grokster and StreamCast translated that demand into dollars."
R.E.M., Modest Mouse, Spoon, Death Cab for Cutie, Jarvis Cocker, The Flaming Lips, The Decemberists, Public Enemy, Rage Against the Machine, and Fleet Foxes are just a few of the artists whose handmade signs featured in Under the Radar's Protest Issue will be auctioned off beginning September 30, 2009 to benefit War Child International.
Mouse and the Traps Tidbits:
The band reformed briefly in 1972 but had a genuine reunion in 1986 with the original members during the Texas Sesquicentennial celebration. A videotape of the 1986 reunion concert is reportedly available.
Ronnie (Mouse) Weiss continues to tour and perform regularly, and often with his former bandmates; he is also a writer and is in demand as a session player.
Bugs Henderson has had a renowned career as an influential blues/rock guitarist with eight albums to his credit. His 2004 release on No Guru Records, Stormy Love includes a version of "Maid of Sugar, Maid of Spice, a regional hit for Mouse and the Traps.
Dave Stanley and Ken Murray, together with Larry Stanley founded the Lone Star Ramblers. They were featured performers at Dolly Parton's theme park, Dollywood from 1988 to 1996, and also appear annually at the Texas State Fair.
Jimmy Rabbitt has had a long and varied career as a rockabilly musician. He is also a celebrated Dallas and Los Angeles disc jockey who has had an internationally syndicated radio program, The Rabbitt Report since 1971.