In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, people everywhere have been forced to confront America’s long and troubled history of racism and white supremacy. Some musicians have responded by acknowledging and modifying their problematic band names: popular country act Lady Antebellum did so last week, though their new updated moniker ended up having its own set of issues.
Now, following his own reflections on the current BLM movement, Drive-By Truckers frontman Patterson Hood has apologized for his band’s name. He also said he’s open to changing it in the future.
Hood made his comments in an op-ed for NPR. In it, he wrote that “our name was a drunken joke that was never intended to be in rotation and reckoned with two-and-a-half decades later,” adding, “I sincerely apologize for its stupidity and any negative stereotypes it has propagated.”
The frontman said the Southern rockers had originally intended the band name to be a tribute to hip-hop and country, “two forms of music I loved and revered.” He recalled his early days of discovering both genres, writing,
“As a teenager, I had fallen in love with punk rock, spending my lunch money (and, later, money from my job at a record store) on albums by The Clash, Richard Hell and The Voidoids, and The Jim Carroll Band. When I first heard “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, that love of punk grew to include, and at some times be eclipsed by, a devotion to hip-hop.
I loved punk for its energy and its emphasis on passion over chops. I loved hip-hop for its storytelling. I love both for their political relevance and humor.”
Hood said the group was “fun and rowdy and loud as hell” in the beginning of their careers and that their “irreverent” moniker “befit our style and sense of humor.” But he also importantly acknowledged that the Georgia-bred group had been living in some kind of bubble separate from the real America known by marginalized communities. “I had the privilege of being blissfully unaware,” he said.
“No one is blissfully unaware of much any more,” Hood continued, referencing America’s current reckoning with racism which has led companies like Quaker Oats to own up to their problematic products after all these years. “This can be painful and brain-numbing but it can also, hopefully, lead us to somewhere better.”
Towards the end of the op-ed feature, Hood stated that he is welcoming recommendations for new band names to replace Drive-By Truckers. “I’m not sure changing it now serves any higher purpose, but I’m certainly open to suggestions.”
Hood never explicitly explained the connotation associated with the Drive-By Truckers name, though drive-by shootings are often used amongst rival gangs. Ku Klux Klan members have also been known to target black communities using this form of violence.
Read the full op-ed over on NPR. In related news, a new op-ed published in Variety is calling for the Dixie Chicks to reconsider their name.
Drive-By Truckers released their latest album earlier this year with The Unraveling, which is available for purchase here. They spoke about the record in an episode of Kyle Meredith With…, which you can listen to below.
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