58: Rebranding, or not
Hello. Welcome to Border Crossing issue #58.
I hope you’re well and enjoying the warm weather, if it’s warm near you.
For this one I’ll write about my recent derailed plan to rebrand my business. God, I’m terrible at branding.
Jim Bob has released four new songs as the Beach Ready EP. It’s a digital release and, as usual, I played piano and did some singing. This time I also made the video for lead song ‘Beach Ready Boys’ though actually my favourite song is closing track, the huge, furious ‘If God Was A CCTV Control Room Operator Called Steve’. Check them out.
I’m hugely enjoying Dana Stevens’ new book Camera Man, about Buster Keaton and his place and role in the development of early cinema. It’s broader than just a biography, more of a critical essay capturing the shaping of Hollywood in the first half of the 20th century. You can’t get it in the UK as a physical book yet (I think it comes out in the UK in June) but I bought the audiobook, which Stevens reads herself. She’s already a familiar voice to me as a co-host of Slate’s Culture Gabfest, one of my longest running ‘always listen’ podcasts.
The latest episode of Partners podcast (made by Hrishi Hirway of SongExploder fame) is one of the most romantic, sexiest stories I’ve heard for a while, about how Debbie Milman and Roxanne Gay got together.
One of my favourite living poets, John McCullough, has a new collection called Panic Response. Reading John’s work was a key instigator for me to attempt writing poems. It’s out now via Penned In The Margins.
Mark Cousins’ 2020 doc The Story of Film: A New Generation is rentable on the BFI Player for about £4 (alongside last year’s The Story Of Looking, which I haven’t seen yet). The film updates his 2011 landmark fifteen-hour cinema history series The Story of Film: An Odyssey. This time, Mark is ruminating on how filmmaking has morphed and expanded in the 21st century. His globalism, breadth of knowledge and ability to draw unlikely connections make it rich food, plus it’s nice to hear Mark’s own Northern Irish narrative voice back, after his previous work Women Make Film recruited different (women) narrators.
I didn’t think anything potato-related could be worse than last month’s UK launch to supermarkets of potato milk but they’ve managed it.
Finally technology has created forms of potato I’m not going anywhere near.
My stupidest business decision yet
A few weeks ago I decided to rebrand Lo Fi Arts, my little production and consultancy studio. It’s coming up to ten years now, running this tiny (chaotic but productive) sort-of-business, which grew to be the lion’s share of my income as soon as I quit making and touring Chris T-T music. Lo Fi Arts has never become a limited company (my ideological issues with the notion of ‘limited liability’ prevent that) and it has remained small enough that a lot of the projects are literally just me on this laptop. But it has grown into a consistent, sustainable umbrella for my work. Therefore, inevitably, I got bored with it.
My brilliant idea for a replacement brand name was… oh god… ‘Honky Horn’. Yeah, I know you’re impressed. Honestly, for the past three months, up until literally Easter weekend, I was 100% sold on this brand name. I love the playfulness of it and the sense of making a noise for itself. It felt more confident, less apologetic than ‘Lo Fi Arts’.
The name was inspired by the antique car horn I picked up in Saltaire last November, when we stayed there for a couple of nights on tour. I’m devoted to that car horn. It now lives proudly on a bookshelf in our living room, like a Grayson Perry pot or a sculpture or something. If a house guest says or does something particularly spectacular, they may — just very occasionally — earn themselves a honk. From my point-of-view a honk is always a positive thing, a celebration, or a mark of respect. I’m not sure how it is received.
Anyway, Honky Horn was a perfect name. No hesitancy, no self-doubt. Before telling anyone, I’d even started organically shifting over to this new branding, obviously without bothering with nonsense such as due diligence, or even checking the usual stuff, like if the social media platforms already have people who exist with that same name. I didn’t care. I was on a mission.
A couple of weeks ago, when I edited Jim Bob’s video for his new single ‘Beach Ready Boys’, I created a snazzy new visual ident at the end, for Honky Horn, instead of for Lo Fi Arts. You can see it on the video.
But then for Easter Sunday, me and Rifa and Ben Murray went for posh cocktails and Thai food up in Seven Dials. In L’atelier Du Vin, a gorgeous little prohibition-era styled place, over a delicious Mary Pickford cocktail, I excitedly told them about the name change and the plan to consolidate everything as Honky Horn.
They were aghast. Well, I mean, what the fuck do they know?
For a start, they’ve both had to live with the actual honky horn in their actual lives more than perhaps they’d honestly prefer. But I admit, I hadn’t even begun to consider the other various meanings of the two words, neither sexual connotations, nor the implications of a phrase — “honky horn” — that I suddenly realise can be loosely translated to ‘white man shouting’.
So I’ve abandoned ship. I still love that car horn. I still love the idea. But I’ve been successfully talked down by the good sense of my friends, who know an idiot’s idea of branding when they hear it. Not one friend argued in favour.
Reminds me of that time a few years ago, when I wrote and demoed a whole mini-album about Jeremy Clarkson and the band refused to even consider recording it. They were right then, too. Anyway, I’m already less annoyed than last week. Honky Horn is dead. Lo Fi Arts will have to stick around for a bit, until I think of another brand name that I enjoy as much — but that doesn’t annoy the shit out of everyone else. If you have any ideas for a brand name, they’re most welcome but as you can tell, my taste in that stuff is, well, idiosyncratic.
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All my love and all good things, as always.