Who Is The Alien Band In The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special?

At the beginning of James Gunn's "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special," Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is approached by a band of space aliens who claim to have been practicing on a set of new-fangled Earth instruments they had recently been gifted. They also know, in a vague sense, that it's the time of year that Earthlings typically celebrate an oblique holiday called Christmas and they have decided to write a song in honor of it. The aliens, however, only have a vague idea of how Christmas operates and get a lot of the details incorrect. Their tune is called "I Don't Know What Christmas Is (But Christmastime is Here)."

The credits reveal the alien band to be named Bzermikitokolok and the Knowheremen, with Bzermikitokolok played by Rhett Miller, Kortobookalia played by Murray Hammond, Sliyavastajoo played by Ken Bethea, and Phloko played by Philip Peeples. Fans of 1990s Texas-based alt-country music will recognized those performers as the members of the group Old 97's, Gunn's favorite band. He even made an Old 97's/Rhett Miller mix on Spotify you can listen to right now.

In an article in D Magazine, a publication devoted to life in Dallas, Texas, Bethea — a bit overwhelmed that he had been inducted into the Marvel Cinematic Universe — talked about meeting Gunn, and how the director was, throughout the 1990s, hyper-focused on three bands: Hanoi Rocks, The Replacements ... and Old 97's. It seems that this Holiday Special was finally the opportunity Genn needed to work with his favorite band.

Old 97's on film

When Gunn began making the first "Guardians of the Galaxy" movie back in 2014, he knew that he had access to a long musical roster and phoned up the Old 97's, hoping to work with them. Bethea recalled that Old 97's songs couldn't be included on the eclectic "Guardians" soundtrack, however, as they were beyond the mandated 1970s vintage that Star-Lord would be listening to. Eight years later, Gunn was given an organic opportunity to include them. It seems there was no connection between Rhett Miller or Old 97's beyond Gunn's affection for them.

Bethea reportedly had a wonderful time on set, although everything might have been a little too "share and share alike," as he described:

"During a break, I discovered an outdoor market that sold candy, soft drinks, jerky, and the like. Did I say sell? It was all free. Free candy! When I got back to the set, some thieving townsfolk had stolen my guitar picks."

This was the first time Old 97's had ever participated in a film project of this magnitude. More frequently, they will appear on film soundtracks or performing as themselves on stage. In Peyton Reed's 2006 film "The Break-Up," the central couple — played by Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston — have indeed broken up and have grown as a result of their separation. They still, however, have distant, lingering feelings that the Aniston character wants to explore. She invites Vaughn to an Old 97's concert, pointing out they bought the tickets long before their split. Will Vaughn join her to jam out to "Timebomb?" Vaughn must like the song, as it also appeared on the soundtrack to David Dobkin's 1998 crime comedy "Clay Pigeons," starring Vaughn.

The Scooby-Doo connection

Old 97s have popped up on movie soundtracks from time to time. They could be heard in "Hope Floats," as well as the thriller "Joy Ride." They played in the sex comedy "Out Cold," and the straight-to-video "American Psycho II: All American Girl." Most notably, Gunn included them in his directorial debut "Slither" in 2006.

Old 97's became a mainstay in the Los Angeles band scene through Miller's own interview podcast, called "Wheels Off," which he records at Largo at the Coronet. Miller usually interviews other musicians, but occasionally talks to comedians, or brushes up against celebrities who often drift through that venue. It doesn't take too much imagination to link Miller to a passing cast member of "Parks & Recreation," a TV series featuring Chris Pratt.

There is also a very strange connection between Old 97's and James Gunn beyond fandom. Murray Hammond, the band's bassist, was married to voice actor Grey DeLisle from 2002 until 2010. DeLisle, a singer in her own right, also played the voice of Daphne in the 2001 film "Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase" and would play the role in 31 additional straight-to-video Scooby-Doo movies up through the present. As it so happens, Gunn wrote the screenplay for the 2002 live-action "Scooby-Doo" movie and its 2004 sequel. It's a tenuous connection, but quite a coincidence that Gunn and the wife of the bassist of his favorite band were working on Scooby projects at the same time.

Another coincidence. Peyton Reed, who directed "The Break-Up," also directs the "Ant-Man" movies for the MCU. The franchise, it seems, has multiple Old 97's fans.

"The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" is now streaming on Disney+.