You’d be forgiven for missing headliners King Starf, Bonez of Friends, and The Electropical Houses at SXSW this week. That’s in part because tickets are rather expensive, but mostly because none of those bands actually exist.
They sound uncannily similar to contemporary band names, which is because they were actually dreamt up by artificial intelligence. Using machine learning techniques, research scientist Janelle Shane created a list of fake band names likely to be seen at SXSW based on past performers. BBC gave her a list of all 6,509 bands that have played at SXSW since 2015, and Shane trained a neural network to come up with new additions to the Austin festival.
The results can be found on Shane’s blog, AI Weirdness, and you can also take a quiz to see how adept you are at recognizing fictitious band names. Which band name is fake: Aleman, John Car Fart, Sad Baxter, or The Gary?
Some of the names created by the neural network were a bit too NSFW for Shane to include in the quiz, such as The Mill Erectus and The Kumfockers. You can see the rest by signing up for Shane’s newsletter here.
The neural network used by Shane is relatively simple. Basically, she feeds the network a large body of text (known as a “corpus”), and the neural network picks out patterns from the data. Then, the network outputs an invented dataset that emulates the real band names. The network operates at a character level, meaning that it’s just doing really sophisticated symbol manipulation. The result? Stylized gibberish, like Boing Wall, Goboth Bird Strangers, and Manky Root.
Shane has been experimenting with generative neural networks for a while. In the past, she has employed artificial intelligence to come up with pick-up lines, Pokemon names, and candy heart messages for Valentine’s Day.
And this isn’t the first time researchers have enlisted artificial intelligence to make up rad band names. In January, for example, comedic coding collective Botnik Studios created a faux poster for Coachella, featuring gems like Billions of Mario, Hoop of Gomb, and Smushy Twin.