When I decided that I was going to make this album and release it, I had to decide if I wanted to release it under my own name, or come up with a “band” name…even though it’s just me. My last name, Kotrla, is Czech, and therefore lacks what most people would consider the actual vowels necessary to pronounce it correctly. It is pronouced “Ka-troll-ah,” which isn’t so hard to say, but the pronunciation doesn’t immediately leap out at you. My first name has been confused with Lance, Chance, Jance (really? Jance?), and, surprisingly, Matt.
A lifetime of this prompted me to go with a band name. I also like that it leaves the door open for Sci-Fi Romance to not be just me one of these days (yes, I’m accepting applications…). There’s certainly a precedent in the genre: Iron & Wine (Sam Beam), Bon Iver (Justin Vernon), and I guess even Five for Fighting (John Ondrasik). I worry that it sounds pretentious, but at least people can pronounce it.
But why Sci-Fi Romance for acoustic guitar-based folk music? When I was trying to decide on a name, I read a best-movies-of-the-decade list that referred to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as a sci-fi romance. I love the movie, and the phrase made sense. I’d written a song based on one of the hallmarks of classic science fiction (“Gulliver Foyle,” named after the main character in Alfred Bester’s Stars My Destination), another about Mary Shelley’s much-harassed Doctor Victor Frankenstein, and I wove Surrealist imagery or phrases into the lyrics of several other songs. I read the phrase, and it made sense as a name.
You should see my list of band names (which I still have somewhere) — it’s maybe a dozen and a half names that aren’t quite right, and then the last one is “Sci-Fi Romance.” I wrote it down and immediately knew it would stick. No need to keep brainstorming further.
I didn’t know what to even call this music. I picked up guitar gradually after playing extreme metal drums for years, and I know that certain aspects of my earlier musical journeys crept into the SFR songs, so to my ears it never felt like straightforward folk music. I guess both my inclination and musical agnosticism have been validated, since the word that surfaces most often to describe the music is “steamfolk,” riffing on the sci-fi subgenre of steampunk.
I love this. Steamfolk for life.
PS. A metal friend of mine described it half-jokingly as “folk-core,” which is also great, and I hope will land me a spot opening for the Dillinger Escape Plan.