‘needanamebro’: why the UK’s next girl band stars don’t even have a name yet

The London R&B trio are building a fanbase through an intriguing mix of 90s hothousing, a 00s-style ‘journey’ and modern-day social media intimacy

Last week, two brand new UK girl bands spent some time with their respective fanbases. For Flo – the Brit-award-winning, BBC Sound of poll-topping, magazine-covering new hope – the fans were in Paris, waiting outside a star-studded Loewe fashion show in the hope of grabbing a selfie. In London, meanwhile, an R&B girl band so new that they have almost no music or even a name held a gathering at a branch of ice-cream parlour Creams to celebrate a year since completing their lineup. Billed on their social media accounts as “needanamebro”, teenagers Yssy, Amelia and Maddie have quickly gathered momentum, reaching nearly 250,000 followers and 11m likes on TikTok. Their path has been an intriguing, era-straddling mix of classic 90s girl band hothousing, letting fans share in a 2000s X Factor-style “journey” and a hefty dose of modern-day social media intimacy and world-building.

While the nascent girl band’s event had the feel of a typically ad hoc, ironic teenage hangout at a brightly lit sweet emporium, it was underscored by major label efficiency: they’re signed to Atlantic and managed by pop band star-maker Modest, former incubator of Little Mix and One Direction – both parties clearly keenly aware of the potential for a new girl group to fill a Little Mix-shaped hole in pop. A special needanamebro menu was created as a keepsake featuring different ice-cream specials for each member (Amelia’s teeth-rotting Amazing Kinder Bueno Waffle With Bueno Gelato, for example). Over the course of a sugar-rich 90 minutes, the London-based band hung out with a portion of their fanbase like best mates, immersing them in a world that’s still being constructed: their Soundcloud page has one song – a gorgeous, harmony-drenched cover of Drake’s Massive – while a playlist of favourite tracks (and obvious stylistic signposts) features the Sugababes, SZA and 90s US R&B trio Brownstone.

It’s a novel way to launch a new band. In the 90s, pop bands often spent a year or so in development behind closed doors, honing their skills while their managers and labels worked out where they fitted in the pop cosmos. By the time TV talent shows arrived at the turn of the millennium this process was truncated to 10 or so weeks on primetime television, with the public given a selective peek at pop’s machinations. Now, with talent shows more concerned with celebrities on ice, or singing while dressed as rhinos, carefully curated social media feeds do the job of showing how the sausage is made – and, more importantly, foster a relationship between fans and the band members.

Flo have been fairly open about the fact they were auditioned, and needanamebro have taken their followers on the journey from Yssy and Amelia being a duo to apparently meeting Maddie for the first time a year ago at Creams (hence the meet-up). (Atlantic confirmed that it signed the duo after finding them online, and then the girls met Maddie through social media.) Rather than hide their history, there are even tote bags in circulation featuring the band as just the original duo, which is both catnip for pop collectors and perhaps a suggestion that becoming a trio wasn’t always on the cards. But today, authenticity isn’t about how you met. Instead, it’s about that all-important chemistry – something that can be honed and shared via Instagram stories and playful TikToks.

needadamebro’s social media feeds are littered with sweaty rehearsal footage, impromptu outdoor dance routines to Beyoncé, and breezy a cappella performances while sitting on the floor. Their styling is casual, their tastes more Mahalia deep cuts than Pussycat Dolls bangers. The mood is dressed down and intimate – the antithesis of constructed and controlled, even if the wheels are furiously turning behind the scenes. At this super early stage, each post, each non-obvious song cover choice, each glimpse into the studio, is a puzzle piece for fans to use to work out who this band are and, ultimately, who they could be.

Perhaps needanamebro’s biggest trump card, however, is that name. Or lack thereof. It’s not unusual for a band to be put together without a name initially, or for that name to change: the Spice Girls were Touch, and then Spice; the Sugababes were the Sugababies, and even the X Factor-controlled launch of Little Mix started with a blip as they switched from being Rhythmix. But here it works as both an inbuilt gimmick (surely there’s a name!), a guarantee of investment and their calling card. Nearly all of needanamebro’s posts feature fans asking a variation of the same thing – “when are you deciding on a name?!” – to which the reply is always “soon”. If it hasn’t already been decided in secret, there’s the possibility that an early fan might supply the winning choice.

The hope, seemingly, is that in years to come fans will be able to say “I was a fan before they even had a name!” Shortly followed by: “I needed five fillings after that meet-up at Creams.”


Michael Cragg

The GuardianTramp

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