While Alissa White-Gluz fronts the metal band Arch Enemy, the band is often referred to in metal press and online as a Swedish band, even though she’s from Canada. (The same went for previous singer, Angela Gossow, who comes from Germany.) The band is based in Sweden, even though one of its members comes from a different country. One of my current favorite non-metal bands, SKIP&DIE (signed to one of my favorite record labels, the Belgium-based Crammed Discs), is often referred to as a South African/Dutch band. Yet only the singer is from South Africa, while the rest of the band is from the Netherlands. Why is there a difference between the two?
Marketing could take a big role, of course. Crammed Discs signs artists from around to the world to start with, and they may wish to accentuate the multi-cultural perspectives within one of its bands. On the other hand, Sweden and Germany aren’t that exotic from each other. Besides, in the metal world where you’re from isn’t as important as how good you are, unless you fall under the “folk metal” sub-genre.
This led me to think about where I consider a band that I’m to be from. The other member of Popkin-Salvador lives in Seattle, Washington while I live in Kittery, Maine. We never really had to worry about it as we aren’t signed anywhere or receive any press, but I do wonder what we would say if the need arises. Do we say a Seattle/Kittery band? How about Washington/Maine? We could just say we’re an American band, but that doesn’t sit well with me. When a lot of our lyrics deal with disillusionment I don’t like to attach a patriotic tone to our marketing.
It would be obvious to say that Shadows of Immurement is based in Kittery, as I’m the sole official member. However, the music I produce under that band name comes from such a personal place I have a hard time thinking of it coming from a geographical location. My cultural upbringing is only a part of who I am. I wouldn’t say something stupid, though, like “the darkest reaches of my soul.” If pushed, I would say that Shadows of Immurement is based in Kittery, Maine. But don’t expect any songs about lobsters, naval shipyards or outlet malls.
I want to say that because I’m not interested in labeling bands by genre I’m also not interested in where they’re from. I only care if I like what they’re doing or not. But if I get interested in a band I want to find out more about them. Cultural backgrounds aren’t so easy to ignore. But if I do try to find bands by where they’re from, I should do a little bit of research not only into location but why they say where they’re from.