Calgary post-punk quartet Viet Cong are a really good band with a really stupid name. Back in March, a concert promoter at Oberlin College cancelled a Viet Cong show that he had booked due to their “grossly ignorant and deeply offensive” name and wrote a lengthy statement apologizing to the school’s Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American communities. This started up a whole controversy, with various people — including Andy Gill of fellow controversially-named post-punk band Gang Of Four — weighing in on the issues of cultural appropriation and racial squickiness that come with four Canadian white dudes naming their band “Viet Cong.” (Four Canadian white dudes really shouldn’t do that.) The band themselves made a joking reference to the debate during a live show, and then they released a full, serious, apologetic-without-actually-apologizing statement. Things quieted down after that, but the conversation reignited a couple of days ago when April Aliermo of Toronto bands Hooded Fang and Phèdre penned an article for Exclaim! about the whiteness of the Canadian indie rock scene and why the name is so offensive and unacceptable, which another very good Canadian post-punk band, Ought, shared on Facebook and discussed in a recent Reddit AMA. And now, Viet Cong have finally decided to change their name — or rather, they’ve already been planning on changing it for months, but now they’ve issued a new statement on the matter via the band’s official Facebook page. Here’s what they wrote:
Our band lives to play music. We don’t particularly like doing press, most of us are fairly private people and we have social media for the band only reluctantly. Most of us generally don’t follow online criticism. Over the last year we have essentially lived our lives in a tour van and in music venues, playing over 130 shows. In that time we’ve met many amazing people and had many great conversations with people in person.
Over this time we’ve been listening, talking and having lots of valuable conversations with the members of the Vietnamese community about the name. Through this dialogue and hearing about what the name means to so many people, we have decided we will be changing the name of our band.
Art and music are about creative expression. However, our band name is not our cause, and we are not going to fight for it. This is not what our band is about.
There are many individuals more eloquent than us who have recently had a lot to say about the topic of the name and our appropriation of the name Viet Cong. For more insights into the arguments we encourage you to read some of these. We are a band who want to make music and play our music for our fans. We are not here to cause pain or remind people of atrocities of the past.
The truth is, we’ve been planning to change the band name for the next record for months; it has not been an easy decision by any means. We are a band of four people with four individual voices; this debate has been long and difficult for us and it took time for everyone to settle on a plan of action.
We don’t know what the new name of our band will be, and we owe it to our fans to honour the concerts we have booked. We rushed into our last band name decision, we don’t plan to rush into this one, but know that will be rolling out a new name as soon as we agree upon one.
We realize this won’t satisfy everyone, but that’s certainly not the goal of this band. We never expected this kind of attention in the first place and just want to return to playing music, which is the only thing we (kinda) know how to do.
We’ve had an incredible amount of support from fans, and we have to thank everyone who has said supportive words to us as we struggle with this. As always, we welcome people talking to us in person.
– Matt, Mike, Monty & Danny.
Great. Now that they’re shedding their #problematic name, maybe we can get back to talking about them for their really good music. Because their music is really good.