What’s in a name? Quite a lot, if you ask Josh Homme and Scott Reeder. Nearly a decade ago, founding members of the legendary Stoner Rock act Kyuss reunited to form Kyuss Lives!—a sort of second act for the band that released seminal records like Blues for the Red Sun and Sky Valley. Homme and Reeder wouldn’t hear of it. A tense lawsuit ensued, leading to the creation of Vista Chino, the ultimate form of Kyuss Lives!
Today, we look back at the history behind one of Stoner Rock’s stickiest legal battles.
The Glory Years of Kyuss
The roots of the infamous Kyuss Lives! lawsuit actually sprouted back in the 1990s, when Kyuss was grabbing attention from the California deserts. Remember: The band members were still kids, forming the band in high school and cutting their first significant record deals while most of the members were in their teenage years.
The first sign of trouble came from guitarist Josh Homme (who famously went on to frontman Queens of the Stone Age) and drummer Brant Bjork. Both had shared responsibility for the band’s creative direction early on, but, according to Bjork, Homme got greedy.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Bjork gave a glimpse into the creative and financial tensions within the band:
In 1992, Josh discovered publishing, which is the financial revenue stream for songwriting. After that, he wanted to write all the songs. As a drummer, I couldn’t make him play my songs. I wasn’t going to compromise my heart and soul and play drums for Josh to make money in a band I started. So I left the band. I was a confused, angry, and sad 19-year-old idealist who sacrificed my love of my band for what I believed in. Two-and-a-half years later, Josh would break up the band after John [Garcia – the band’s vocalist] confronted him about the same thing: his need to control the band for personal gain.
Although the band members grew into sort of underground folk heroes, it wasn’t enough. After …And the Circus Leaves Town dropped in 1995, the band was done.
Forming Kyuss Lives!
It’s hard to keep great artists down, and each Kyuss musician went on to press a ton of records—and deals. Josh Homme gained national attention for forming Queens of the Stone Age (and Them Crooked Vultures and Eagles of Death Metal and other acts); John Garcia worked with Slo Burn, Hermano, Unida, numerous other acts, and released a few solo albums; Brant Bjork joined Fu Manchu for a few years, then recorded and toured relentlessly on his own projects; Nick Oliveri teamed up with Homme on Queen of the Stone Age, but he also worked on Mondo Generator and other projects; Scott Reeder bounced around to play with acts like Fireball Ministry, Tool, and the Obsessed.
The boys were active.
In 2010, John Garcia played Kyuss songs on his “John Garcia Plays Kyuss” tour across Europe. Later that year, he wound up on stage with Nick Oliveri and Brant Bjork, and the former band mates rocked out on a handful of Kyuss classics. It was enough to get the band back together: They formed Kyuss Lives! soon after.
According to Brant Bjork, the band mates invited Josh Homme to join them, but he turned them down.
Undeterred, Kyuss Lives! embarked on a world tour, traveling across Australia and New Zealand, Europe, North America, and South America.
Buoyed by their tour, the band signed a record deal in 2012 and got to work in the studio.
But then trouble erupted.
The Kyuss Lives! Lawsuit
“We signed the record deal and I’d gone to work writing in my studio,” Brant Bjork told Stereogum back in 2013. “Literally a week later, the lawsuit happened.”
The lawsuit was pushed by Josh Homme and bassist Scott Reeder over the use of the Kyuss name, citing trademark infringement and consumer fraud.
The musicians entered a costly legal battle. John Garcia, Brant Bjork—they were successful musicians, but Josh Homme was practically a household name at this point. He had money to burn.
According to Brant Bjork and John Garcia, the lawsuit was as emotionally draining as it was financially draining. The lawsuit placed a significant strain on their families, and for Bjork, it felt like having an identity stripped away.
“I was fighting to just be Kyuss,” he said in the same Stereogum interview. “I didn’t really know what else to call it. When John asked me to put the band back together, it felt like Kyuss. I understand everyone has their opinion, but to me it was a no-brainer. So, it was difficult — like if you had a child named Mike and you’d had to change the name to Jeff 20 years later.”
Eventually, the Kyuss Lives! members ran out of resources.
The Kyuss Lives! Ruling
By August of 2012, they had a ruling. A district court judge ruled that the band couldn’t record under the name Kyuss Lives! They could, however, use the name and logo for performances and promo materials as long as the two words were printed in equal size and lettering.
The band wasn’t sold on the idea. Instead, they decided to go with a name change.
The Origins of Vista Chino
Vista Chino was the original name of their 2013 album Peace, but the band decided to swap it in for their name. Vista Chino is a reference to a street in Palm Springs, CA. “Vista Chino” means “Chino View,” which is a nod to the view of the Chino Valley from the street.
It’s a fitting name for a band that’s proud of its roots. “I’m proud of the desert,” John Garcia told local newspaper Coachella Valley Weekly back in 2018. “I call it my desert. I love this place. Kyuss was proud of it as well as Vista Chino. We named the band after the street that goes from Palm Springs to Cathedral City.”