Over the last six or seven years, Chris Chu and the morning benders have managed the relatively rare feat of making a name for themselves as an original music outfit, most notably with 2010′s winning, updated-Spector-pop set piece Big Echo. And as of today, they are throwing all of that to the wind and disowning their band name. Bold! Now, they aren’t disbanding; in fact, there’s a full album on the way, preceded by an 11-track free mixtape available today, for free download at their new site popetcetera.com. All of these wares come under the POP ETC umbrella, the new name for the brothers Chu (Chris and Jonathan) and drummer Julian Harmon.
The mixtape presents a band that’s shifted considerably from the dusty harmonies, psychedelic flourishes, and crackling vinyl interludes of Big Echo, in favor of a form of writing, theme, and production more in line with the Dr. Luke/Max Martin/The-Dream trinity of contemporary pop. (To wit: Download the mixtape and dial up the POP ETC originals “Everything Is Gone,” or “Halfway To Heaven,” or their auto-tuned out take on Björk’s intimage megajam “Unravel.”) Incidentally, it’s a style the band first tested out on their cover of “Last Nite” for our Is This It tribute comp, Stroked. So the POP ETC name comes at a good time
Although the name comes at an appropriate juncture in the band’s stylistic evolution, their reason for the change goes deeper, and has been a longer time coming. Essentially, in the States “the morning benders” could mean “many times of getting wasted in the morning,” or thereabouts; but abroad, “benders” has a more homophobic, hateful connotation, a connotation which the band was ignorant of at the outset, and one the band could no longer abide. This, by the way, is an excellent reason to change a band name.
You can read their full statement of explanation and intent below.
March 25 2012
When we started this band in 2005 we had no expectations. From an early age I had a deep love for music and its power to bring people together, but the truth is, in 2005 I had just finished writing my first songs and all I wanted to do was start a band as soon as possible. That same year I had moved to Berkeley to attend college, and of the first 5 people I met, 1 of them happened to be a drummer, and 1 happened to be a guitarist. It was kismet; we started a band. It wasn’t long before we got offered our first show on Lower Sproul (Berkeley’s school quad). Now all we needed was a band name. We came up with two options: “The Beatles 2″ and “The Morning Benders.” We went with The Morning Benders.
Fast forward to 2010, many a dive bar, school quad, house party, county fair, pizza parlor later. We had just released Big Echo, and for the first time we were preparing for a world tour. We had toured a fair amount leading up to Big Echo, but never overseas, so when it came time to tour the UK and Europe we were quite excited. The touring went well, and we had an amazing time, but also something happened that we hadn’t anticipated. As soon as we had landed in London people started asking us about our band name. “What does ’Bender’ mean to you?” people would ask. “Are you seriously called ’The Morning Benders’ ?” was a common question. For those of you reading from America, you may still be confused. Well, it turns out that the word ’bender’ in the UK and many parts of Europe is a slang term for ’homosexual.’ We were told our band name was the equivalent of ’The Morning Fags’ in America. We had been called The Morning Benders for 5 years, and we were just finding this out now? It was shocking. And quite sad, to say the least. We had spent those years touring night and day, championing our name everywhere we could, only to find out that the name had an alternate meaning- one that made us look hateful, or at best, ignorant.
At the time we didn’t really have many options; we had already booked several tours as The Morning Benders and had just released our new album. We couldn’t very well change the name right then and there. We had unwittingly gotten ourselves into a problem with no immediate solution, it was extremely disappointing. But that’s all said and done. Now it’s 2012. We are at the tail end of making our third album, and we have been given the opportunity to change our band name. We’ve decided to seize that opportunity, and here’s why–
1. We simply cannot go on using a name that is demeaning to the gay community. The reason we are making music is to reach and unite as many different kinds of people as possible, and the idea that our name may be hateful towards anyone makes us sick.
2. In the UK and many parts of Europe the name has simply become too distracting. The MUSIC has always been our number one focus, and we want to present that to people in as pure a way as possible
I know that many people around the world have grown to love the name “The Morning Benders,” and understandably have memories and experiences associated with it. Obviously we can understand this, we’ve lived and breathed this band for 7 years. However, for those of you that know and follow us, you also know that we are committed to change. We’ve always promised our fans that we will never settle into a place that feels safe and easy, because that leads to boring art. It is true that we didn’t anticipate this specific twist in the road when we set out on this musical journey, but we still like to think of this as merely a further embodiment of our commitment to change. We believe that it will only lead to new growth and excitement.
Thank you for your attention, your love, and your support.
From henceforth we shall be known as POP ETC
Much love and respect,
on behalf of POP ETC – Christopher Chu | Jonathan Chu | Julian Harmon
Also, editors take note: Where this band’s name used to have no caps, it now has nothing but caps. Clearly it’s all or nothing with these guys, as always.