Most of us aren't lucky enough to choose the names that follow us for life. And some people -- that Office Space character named Michael Bolton, anyone with the last name Butkus -- should get an automatic do-over based on the teasing they endure.
Of course there are other reasons for a name do-over, too: witness-protection sorts of reasons, reasons involving fame and fortune, and reasons that simply involve breaking a nasty old habit. Local jazz-pop five-piece The LeeDing Zeros has even written a song about this last reason, appropriately titled "Names," for their debut album, Ear Candy.
As the owners of a rather unusual band name -- a play on the term "leading zeroes," math nerd lingo for any zeroes that precede the first nonzero integer of a number, such as those in James Bond's 007 tag -- they've got some street cred when it comes to this issue. Add to that some unsavory memories of ex-girlfriends, ex-boyfriends and ex-jobs, and they're pretty much experts on the topic.
Lynda Higgins, the band's singer says the song hearkens back to the way kids yell "do-over!" when a game or some other adventure doesn't quite turn out right. But it's definitely a piece about ugly, grown-up kinds of struggles.
"Do-overs in adult life are a lot more complicated," she says. "We often stay put in bad situations that beg for a do-over, slowly being eaten alive. So 'Names' is about shedding that person or thing that is draining the life out of you."
While the song's lyrics may be about shedding, the music itself seems to be about building. Starting with just a touch of cymbals, guitar and saxophone, plus a slow, steady beat, it soon busts into a funky, piano-driven groove, with Higgins teaching -- or preaching -- a lesson about transformation to whoever may be listening.
Musically, it's a collection of minor notes and half-steps designed to bring out the lyrics' sass and sauce while recalling one of most prim and proper vocalists of musical theater.
"The bridge offers a melodic throwback to Julie Andrews, which Lynda nailed with ease. She is such a showboat," says drummer Greg Burt.
Meanwhile, the sax lines lend an '80s pop feel, plus a bit of imperfection that actually adds to the song.
Burt says that though the sax solo at the very end of the track has a very difficult interval, plus a squeak, it had to stay in the recording because it made the other layers of the song fit together. "It was a moment where the unintentional became the perfect fit," he says.
The same could be said of names themselves -- some of the best ones, anyway.
An MP3 of "Names" is available in the related downloads section at right. More music by The LeeDing Zeros is available on its MySpace page. Catch the group when it plays live in the next free Concert in the Park at Dream Park in Monona on Tuesday, July 14.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.