A Word or Several on Band Names

The old folk have seemingly been grumbling about wacky rock ‘n’ roll band names since young Charles Edward Anderson Berry shortened his name to Chuck.

The Beatles. (That’s not even a word!) Nine Inch Nails? (Does that mean what we think it does?) The Flaming Lips! (Not until you’re 18!)

Budding young artists – while more amused than bemused – are constantly afraid that the coffer will run out before they manage to start their first band. This might be one reason I began playing a little game I learned from very famous columnist and English major Dave Barry: basically making my friends shake their heads and chuckle (I get that a lot) by saying “That would be an excellent name for a band,” after random strange turns of phrase.

Eventually this lead me to a list now several pages long with word combinations that would actually make terrible names for bands.

REM frontman Michael Stipe explained many a time how they got the name by flipping through a dictionary until they landed on something that would not pigeonhole them – something unlike (my own guess) The Pigeon Blender Manifesto.

But this is tough, right? Even REM makes you think of something. Our weird, wandering minds don’t attach nothing to very much. Your band better be pretty damn good if you want it to be the first thing I think of every time I say the word Monkey (sorry Davy, Peter, guys – you’re sorta slipping there) or Turtle (not even close, bros).

Pink Floyd? The Rolling Stones? That works. The Doors? 50/50. (And they took on DOORS!)

And even as combinations of words likely won’t run out, the ones that make the most sense are probably dwindling – Radiohead and Soundgarden are great names for bands that have already been taken. People won’t soon forget about those dudes. And it’ll definitely be another century or so until young Cher Jones or Madonna Finkelstein can shorten to just their first names.

On the bright side, there's always new technology. Fifteen years ago LMFAO! wouldn’t have made much sense as a band name. You could have used it… but, uh.

The last band I was in – or the last band we thought deserved to become a named entity – was quickly named in one evening as the guitarist and I sat around drunkenly looking at the posters adorning my dorm bedroom walls. There was a large picture of an alien escaping from a television, shouting “Do Not Adjust Your Set!” (where did that ever go?..), which I suggested. Old Booze smartly shortened it to Adjust and our work was done.

Now, whether the word “Adjust” really aptly described a band that had a setlist opening with “Miserlou,” and running through various blues solos, Sublime covers and finishing with “Put the Lime in the Coconut,” we didn’t really consider. We were happy enough just to be in a band. It could have been named Shit Giggle (gotta write that down..).

Next time around I plan on being more prepared (or at least more sober).

Then again, here are a few choice selections from my list (of five pages… with probably five viable band names (these aren’t them)):

Mammoth Russian Sunflowers (taken from a packet of seeds. Kinda scary, right?).

Fork Drawer (because… it kinda rhymes??).

Performance Enhancing Thugs (we actually used that in The Heckler).

Sober Octagon (the opposite of a drunk square).

Smelly Manila (because it kinda does).

Aggressive Squirrel (they’re in my backyard and hate my cats).

And the possibly related..

Violent Cottonball (because that’s what thunderclouds look like).

You can go ahead and keep those for your own future bands.

I’m gonna keep trying.



Leave a comment
  • I personally thought Tool was a genius pick for a band name. I just hope bands don't start naming themselves after household brand names. Talk about endorsement.

  • Ok, I can't stop thinking about all the interesting band names out there. It made me think of when I used to get mixed up when reading news about Rise against. First thought was Rage against the machine. I kept sparking interest thinking RATM was coming out with new stuff til I realized it wasn't them.
    The band, Against me, is close in resemblance but it'll work for me because I love that band.
    Great article.

  • In reply to lila8517:

    LOL... You rule. Rage, Rise... When you think about it in terms of simply adding verbs to nouns, adverb/jectives or groups of the like, it does make the list of openings seem more endless. Run Amidst Endless Ants, my friend!

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