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IFC LIST MONTH: Best Vowel-less Groups in Music

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The idea for this list came to me after watching an episode of Wheel of Fortune where contestants were buying vowels at will. As Vanna White tapped the glowing letterboxes, I thought to myself, “What if vowels didn’t exist?”

(left: Wait, what? I’m not allowed to buy a vowel?)

How would society, or music for that matter, survive without the A,E,I,O, or U? Where would The Ramones be–whose signature hooks relied on long vowel sounds–without the freedom of using a few choice A, E, or O’s? Pronouncing band names like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, or Led Zeppelin, would sound like caveman grunts. AC/DC would almost survive, but groups like A.F.I. and M.I.A. would only be down to one-letter band names. Poor Afrika Bambaataa, he needs seven letter A’s to pronounce his legendary handle. Former American Idol winner, Carrie Underwood, would be in a world of hurt considering she’s one of the few artists who boasts every single vowel in her name.

If vowels were to disappear, believe it or not, some bands would be left standing. The following musical acts have done splendidly well in the careers, all without the presence of vowels in their musical monikers:

15. *NSYNC
There’s a good chance this will be the first and last time the group *NSYNC will be mentioned on the Indie Ear Blog. Shame on me for including them, while snubbing groups like D4, BT, M83, SR-71, and +44. But–I gotta give credit where credit’s due. How many acts–whose vowel-less group name beginning with an asterisk–sold millions and millions of albums and gave the world Justin Timberlake (my favorite guilty pleasure)?

14. !!!
Not only do arty-dance-punkers, !!!, not have any vowels in their band name, but they don’t have any consonants either. !!! get extra points, because even the pronunciation of their name “Chk Chk Chk” (the group had to come up with some type of pronunciation, otherwise how do you articulate three exclamation points?) is sans vowels.

13. CSS
Brazil’s greatest indie-electro-rock export is an acronym for “Cansei de ser sexy,” which is Portuguese for tired of being sexy. If they keep doing what they’ve been doing, there’s a chance they could top this list one day. CSS’s brand new album, Donkey, is coming out this month.

12. TLC
Other girl groups have tried to match the vowel-less exploits of TLC (SWV, 3LW), but none have come close to eclipsing their popularity or mainstream appeal. I’m not going to lie to you, I wasn’t a big fan of “Waterfalls,” but T-Boz, Chilli, and Left Eye still remain in heavy rotation on my iPod with their hits, “Creep,” “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg,” and “What About Your Friends.”

11. MGMT
These Brooklyn psychedelic rockers have a sweet record deal, a debut album, Oracular Spectacular, that will probably land on most critics’ end-of-the-year Top-10 lists, and had their catchy single “Time To Pretend” in a film that also opted out of using vowels, 21.

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10. MSTRKRFT
Talk about cross over appeal. After pulling the plug on his powerhouse punk duo, Death From Above 1979–and breaking many indie kids’ hearts–Jessie Keeler and his production partner Al-P, formed the consonant-heavy MSTRKRFT, and won over a legion of fanatic dance fans in the process.

(left: Jessie Keeler and Al-P of MSTRKRFT. You can pronounce the vowels, just make sure you don’t spell them.)

9. MxPx
This established punk-pop group started out with the band name Magnified Plaid, which was later shortened to M.P. While designing a flyer for the band, drummer Yuri Husted, wrote X’s in place of periods. MxPx stuck (it is kind of catchy, isn’t it?), and years later their revised moniker would qualify them as one of the best vowel-less groups in music.

8. 311
Just think, if 311 stuck with their original name, Fish Hippos, they wouldn’t have even made this list. In the 90’s, the group rose from college rock faves to mainstream darlings. Fortunately, their particular hybrid of rhymes-and-rock lacked the aggression and violence that many of their peers took to new lows in the late 90’s.

7. KMFDM
My industrial-rock buddies from college–the same ones who tried to convince me that the band’s name was an acronym for Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode–will argue that this group needs to be higher on the list. Instead of moving them up, I considered MDFMK (a temporary regrouping of certain members of KMFDM) for inclusion on the list. Because I thought it would confuse the hell out of people, I decided not to.

6. XTC
Coincidentally, after being turned down by a vowel-less record label (CBS), the Helium Kidz followed suit and changed their name to XTC. A record deal soon followed and the British pop band brought their ever-catchy sound to the masses. Not only did XTC not believe in using vowels for their band name, but after battling intense stage fright, frontman Andy Partridge, didn’t believe in touring either as XTC primarily became a studio band. Years after their heyday XTC inspired a legion of pop-loving indie acts, while Partridge in turn, became a huge fan of The Apples In Stereo.

5. B-52’s
How many acts with vowels in their band name can claim that they are new wave legends, boast a hit that you’ll hear at most wedding receptions, have teamed up with R.E.M. on a feel-good single, and inspired a young Kurt Cobain? Let us not forget about “Rock Lobster” and “Private Idaho” either.

4. X
When people speak of late 70’s California punk bands, one of the first names mentioned, well, one of the first letters mentioned is X. Dropping names like X’s John Doe and Exene Cervenka will still get you brownie points in many punk rock circles.

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3. MC5
What can we say about the MC5 (short for Motor City Five)? They are regarded as one of the most important hard rock bands of their era. Some younger music fans may recognize their song “Kick Out the Jams”, which has been covered by various bands (including Rage Against the Machine on Renegades). At the turn of the century, many media outlets started talking about the MC5 again, as like-minded garage bands, The Strokes and The White Stripes, began making a dent on mainstream rock.

(above: MC5, they didn’t need shirts and they didn’t need vowels.)

2. Styx
The first band, vowel bands included, to have four consecutive albums certified platinum. They’ve got a boatload (or I should say, spaceship-load) of hits, brought a whole new level of theatrics to rock music, and are the creators of “Mr. Roboto,” the greatest robot song in the history of music (sorry Daft Punk).

1. Lynyrd Skynyrd
Three words for you “Sweet Home Alabama”–hands down, the greatest Southern rock anthem ever created. It’s no secret that the classic tune is a battle track aimed at Neil Young: “Well, I hope Neil Young will remember that a Southern man don’t need him around anyhow.” Apparently, Young made light of the fact that Lynyrd Skynyrd had no vowels in their band name. To further escalate the situation, Young also bragged that his previous group, Buffalo Springfield, had every vowel represented in the title of their band. Little did he know that Lynyrd Skynyrd–many years later–would top a list for doing the exact opposite.

This list marks day 7 of IFC’s List Month — check back here for a new list every weekday!

< — Back to day 4 -- Ten Bittersweet Patriotic Films.
Forward to day 8 — Best Bald People in Music — >

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

via GIPHY

IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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