What's in a Name?

When rock band the Poppies met pop band the Poppies, the result was anything but harmony

Jul 5, 2000 at 4:00 am
Received May 28 from the Poppies: "We wanted to ask that you correct your advertisement. The Poppies are incorrectly listed in the RFT as playing @ the Firehouse on Friday, June 23, when actually we are performing @ the Galaxy on Friday, June 23. We are asking the advertisement be corrected because we do not want to cause confusion to our fans."

Too late. The fans are confused. The Poppies did play at the Firehouse that night. They also played the Galaxy. At the same time. One of the bands consisted of three dudes banging out the modern hard rock. They were at the Galaxy. The other consisted of a lady and three gentlemen strumming, singing and banging out a more primal version of rock. They played the Firehouse.

Right now there are two bands named the Poppies, each St. Louis-based, each playing the club circuit, each pissed at the other band, each stubbornly refusing to change the name, each claiming rightful ownership of it, one on legal grounds (they have trademarked the name "the Poppies,"), the other on common-law grounds (they had the name first). For the sake of ease, let's make a distinction: The three-piece-rocker, all-guy modern-rock Poppies (consisting of Craig Gardner, Kevin Simon and Randy LaBrott) will be called the Modern Poppies; they claim to own the name. The four-piece, lady-led band (consisting of Megan Purcell, Sean Garcia, Steve Nowels and Merv Schrock) will be called the Primal Poppies; they had the name first.

It's a long, boring story, so we'll spare you all but the necessities: The Modern Poppies, until a few months back, were called Nan's Curtain. A cover band, they peppered their sets with originals. But, says the Modern Poppies' LaBrott, "We couldn't get anybody's attention. Everyone thought we were this metal, speed-thrashy band because of our name." LaBrott says the band did some research on the Internet, called local clubs, made every possible effort to determine whether the name was taken. He says they uncovered no other band called the Poppies.

The problem was, there is one, fronted by Purcell, that has been gigging around St. Louis since 1998. That the Modern Poppies uncovered no band with the name was the result of hiatus necessitated by a health crisis in a band member's family. Continues Purcell: "At that time, when all of this starting happening, we weren't booking shows. It was just a really hard time."

So. The Modern Poppies, ignorant of the Primal Poppies, started gigging, designed a logo, printed T-shirts. But then, says the Modern Poppies' LaBrott: "After we got full-scale into our promotion and people started hearing about us, we got this phone call. We just said, 'Well, we're really sorry this is affecting you, and we mean no harm, but we just didn't know you existed.' And it was really that simple. But they evidently didn't believe that."

No, they didn't. Counters Purcell: "(Modern Poppies manager) Patti LaBrott called me and left this long message: 'I know that you were -- you were -- called the Poppies, but we trademarked the name, spent a lot of money on it, yadda, yadda, made T-shirts, whatever."

The Modern Poppies' LaBrott claims that the Primal Poppies are nothing more than a side project, whereas his band is an ongoing concern; this, he says, gives his group the right to the name: "The way it looks to me is, they had this project, and she did it as a hobby, basically every once in a while. That's how it looks to me. And she got her feelings hurt, and she got mad, and we have to deal with it."

But what of intent? Does the Modern Poppies' claim to be a more legitimate, ongoing concern eclipse the simple fact that in their search they simply overlooked the Primal Poppies?

Neither band is backing down. Randy LaBrott: "We're known as the Poppies. I'll tell you that right now. We're known as the Poppies. We're not changing our name. We're way into this thing.... The way we feel is, like, 'If this is so important to you, why didn't you do something to let somebody know, or protect it?'"

Megan Purcell: "I do not want to change the name. I don't think I should have to. This is so stupid, and I don't think that just because you have money -- I can't imagine, in a town like St. Louis, getting away with that. I think it's immoral. It's such a small town, and if you can't be original enough to come up with a band name -- I know it's a good band name. When people describe pop music, they say it's poppy. And I don't like backing down to bullies, anyway."

Our Judge Judy solution: a knock-down, drag-out "Battle of the Poppies." One night, one club, both bands performing. Let the crowd decide which band deserves the name (which, we must add, is a bit too obvious a band name in the first place); have both bands agree beforehand on some rules, then get down to business.

We're withholding our golden judgment on which bunch of Poppies we prefer, so as not to sway opinion. Nor are we interested in mediating any such event. We will, however, offer a little nudge to the parties concerned: The Primal Poppies' e-mail address is [email protected]. The Modern Poppies' e-mail is [email protected], and their Web site is www.thepoppiesmusic.com.