How does one come up with a band name that doesn't sound forced, fake, or generic?
May 5, 2004 7:18 PM   Subscribe

How does one come up with a band name that doesn't sound forced, fake, or generic? [more]

A friend of mine is planning on starting a band, and he can't come up with any good names. Some of his ideas thus far include: Jump Start, Guess Again, Polaroid, Near to you, Safe Bet... The list goes on, but none of them are any good. So, if you were naming a band right now, what would you choose?
posted by gwyn to Society & Culture (85 answers total)
What type of music do they play?
posted by BlueTrain at 7:22 PM on May 5, 2004

Oh, and I consider a band name to be like an introduction or title of an academic paper...have the whole thing written and edited before naming the paper or creating an introduction. It gives you a better perspective and allows all the material, or music, to soak into you.
posted by BlueTrain at 7:25 PM on May 5, 2004

I think they're going for pop-punk.
posted by gwyn at 7:25 PM on May 5, 2004

Try found names-- street signs, signs in bars, advertising slogans, words from poems.
posted by Kwantsar at 7:25 PM on May 5, 2004

Hold up. I have it on good authority that "they play pop-punk/ emoish/ indie." And I did try to tell him that a good name just needs to come to you. But he's impatient for a name. :/
posted by gwyn at 7:27 PM on May 5, 2004

Good Authority.
posted by cohappy at 7:30 PM on May 5, 2004

Just call the band "Punk Indie Emoish" with PIE as the acronym :)
posted by riffola at 7:31 PM on May 5, 2004

Just come up with a random string of cusswords. The kids'll love it.
posted by cmonkey at 7:33 PM on May 5, 2004

Almost all possible bandnames have a certain element of tackyness, forcedness, or "we picked random letters from the dictionary"ness. There's some do's and don'ts obviously (umlauting random letters is probably bad, though it worked for some people), but in general, just pick something you like the sound of. If the band's good, people will associate "coolness" with the band's name anyway.

Looking through my music collection: Think about the following names and realise how tacky they really are; It's just the good things people associate with them because they like the music:
  • Radiohead
  • U2
  • Garbage
  • Nirvana
  • REM
  • Live
  • Moody Blues
  • the Who

posted by fvw at 7:34 PM on May 5, 2004

Don't make it a The band. The Hives, The Have, The What.

The best band name, Elemeno P, is already taken, sorry.

But DubbelU is available, and HeadTag, and Blonde Eyes, Blue Hair.
posted by holloway at 7:51 PM on May 5, 2004

The ____s. Fill in the blank with a noun of your choice, maybe an animal. Simple isn't necessarily generic. How about "the Generics"?
posted by kmel at 7:55 PM on May 5, 2004

Three Days Notice

The best band-naming sessions in which I ever participated were late at night with the rest of the band members. We tossed them out as fast as they came to us and left the list for a few days before vetoing. Good band names cannot be forced.
posted by rhapsodie at 7:55 PM on May 5, 2004

I've been holding a good band name in reserve for a while, but gwyn, I want you to have it instead:

The Lawn Torpedoes

Or possibly The Yard Torpedoes.

I don't remember, I was drunk.

Oh, but your question was how to come up with a band name. Well, coming up with band names is one of my favorite games to play. You can't force it -- you have to just sort of create a program in your brain that runs in system memory and scans everything you see and hear for its potential utility. Wait, bide your time.

The suggestion to write and practice some music first is totally bogus, and completely against the rock and roll ethos. Then again, this is for "pop punk", so there may be different rules. Anyway, I advise a hiatus, just wait until the Gods of Rock Pop Punk give you a sign. You will know it when you feel it.
posted by Hildago at 7:59 PM on May 5, 2004

Don't want one forced? Get a randomly generated one.
posted by ALongDecember at 8:00 PM on May 5, 2004

Dave Barry always has good suggestions. Also (self-link) a collection of medical school terms that, IMHO, would make great band names. See the comments, too.
posted by gramcracker at 8:06 PM on May 5, 2004

It was said best by Principal Skinner in the Simpson's episode about the "Be Sharps", Homer's Grammy winning barbershop band: "We need a name that's witty at first, but that seems less funny each time you hear it."
posted by ColdChef at 8:08 PM on May 5, 2004

The best band name, Elemeno P, is already taken, sorry.

LMNOP was a new wave band in Atlanta in the 80s. I remember they used to staple 5 flyers, one with each letter, to phone poles. I did not know they had a phonetic cousin.

I agree with fvw, actually - the more you think about it, the sillier the whole business seems. Odd trends come and go. In the 90's you had your gourd-based names (Smashing Pumkins, Blind Melon). Now we have long phrase names (Godspeed You Black Emporer, And You Shall Know Us by Our Trail of Dead)

Rather than try to find a great name, maybe it is better to focus on avoiding a bad name. I agree that none of the examples are any good. Jump Start, Polaroid, Near To You etc. sound to me like names of college aged bands who play classic rock covers on the weekends, FWIW.If your friends plan on "making it" (heh) they also might want to do a trademark search before falling in love with a name. Now that's rock'n'roll!

I'm sorry, but all I can think of right now are cheesy metal band names (e.g. Truncheon, Blunderbuss).
posted by crunchburger at 8:09 PM on May 5, 2004

'Forced' sounds like a good band name.
posted by dgaicun at 8:16 PM on May 5, 2004

Or 'Generic'. Or 'Fake'. If you don't like those, take one from The List.
posted by punishinglemur at 8:24 PM on May 5, 2004

LMNOP was a new wave band in Atlanta in the 80s.
Hah, I thought it was too clever to be original! This is what Elemeno P sound like.
posted by holloway at 8:35 PM on May 5, 2004

The inimitable Lore Sjöberg once answered a letter asking for band names (scroll down about 1/3 of the way, to the entry for 18 Sep 1999.) The "Rucker's Law" idea he mentions there is probably worthwhile.

Oh, and tell your friend that if he uses "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Band", I swear that I will buy each and every one of his CDs.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:56 PM on May 5, 2004

My technique is to think of the longest band name you can, then edit. My last band was, for a short time, called Professor James John Corbett And His Slightly-Baited Badger Appreciation Society.

Boringly, it ended up being Professor James, I liked Slightly-Baited.
posted by cogat at 9:04 PM on May 5, 2004

Take Jello Biafra's advice and call them MONDALE!

Or... Flaccid Crackas has a nice ring to it. How about Bukkake Barnyard? Snatch Factor? Here's the Rub? And God Spoke?

p.s. whatever they do, don't use polaroid as it's a registered trademark (didn't work for panasonic, for instance).
posted by dobbs at 9:15 PM on May 5, 2004

Reliable Underpants.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:22 PM on May 5, 2004

I'm fond of thumbing through the phone book. One approach that has worked well in the past is to open the yellow pages and white pages each to a random page and pick one word from each. My ex-electronica band Amerimax Kuzma was named thusly, and it's been my favorite band name to date... it was certainly better than the punk band I was in in college that was briefly called the "Cum Guzzling Gutter Sluts" for lack of anything better.

A few random samples, for your edification, and because I love found-anything:

Ranger Kimberly
Craven Meridian
Shamrock Lopez
Wansley Crump

Random, and some suck, but it's better than "The The" ;)
posted by jammer at 9:55 PM on May 5, 2004

I was going to suggest "Sticky Wicket" until I looked it up on Google and saw that there was already a Sticky Wicket playing at Humpy's Great Alaskan Alehouse. So I guess now I'd suggest Humpy's Great Alaskan Alehouse as a name.
posted by MegoSteve at 10:09 PM on May 5, 2004

posted by _sirmissalot_ at 10:10 PM on May 5, 2004

I've been keeping a list of potential band names for about two years now, on the hopes that I might one day start a band, and therefore need one.

So start a notebook and think of interesting phrases while you sit on the bus or ride your bicycle. Something will quickly emerge.
posted by kaibutsu at 10:49 PM on May 5, 2004

Strong Bad has some ideas for you.
posted by PrinceValium at 11:02 PM on May 5, 2004

My vote is for "Forced, Fake, and Generic" as the name of your first album.
posted by oissubke at 11:56 PM on May 5, 2004

My favorite new idea for a punk band name is ""
posted by inksyndicate at 12:17 AM on May 6, 2004

Band name styles come in and out of fashion. 10 years ago, and it was all about single word band names. Blur, Oasis, Pulp, etc. Now it's "The ______". The White Stripes, The Darkness, etc.

I'm confidently predicting a return to the format "Name and his/her _________ _________". Use it wisely and early, and remember that "Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band" was taken years ago.
posted by seanyboy at 12:20 AM on May 6, 2004

Rather than just a name that sounds good, I think they should find a name that means something to them. If they do make it big, they'll need a nice story about how they came up with it, not just "we picked some random words and they sounded okay."

I see band names everywhere. Here's one for free: the headline of an article about net worms in the Washington Post: Worms on Speed.
posted by mmoncur at 1:00 AM on May 6, 2004

Bingo Jesus. Although there may be a band in Manchester (UK) called that already as its a famous landmark.
posted by davehat at 2:46 AM on May 6, 2004

pick a random word then tack on a number.
posted by eastlakestandard at 9:31 AM on May 6, 2004

Jesus has been overused - Liquid Jesus, Jesus Jones, Jesus Lizard etc.

How bout Buddha? Stick an "-ing" in front of it and you're golden. Quaking Buddha?

Or, to link the band irretrievably to these complex modern times, Mohammed?

Finding a good band name is one of the hardest linguistic challenges in the world. I should know, I was in one called Frisbee Dog. And that took weeks.

Also, think alliteration. And Shakespeare.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:33 AM on May 6, 2004

And eastlakestandard, numbers do seem to be all the rage these days - Blink 182, Maroon 5, Seven Mary Three (which is still cool), Zero 7, Zuco 103, etc etc.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:34 AM on May 6, 2004

You could also use the mid 90s technique of combining two pop culture references...

For example:

Super Mario Lopez.

or they should just call the band


with double dots over the u.
posted by drezdn at 9:38 AM on May 6, 2004

Forced, Fake, and Generic -- isn't that a law firm in a Three Stooges short?
posted by Guy Smiley at 9:41 AM on May 6, 2004

Adding a number to a name is a good idea, because it reduces the odds that you'll be using someone else's pre-existing band name. I have a friend in what may be the most-renamed band in history--each name they chose was already in use by someone else.
posted by adamrice at 9:45 AM on May 6, 2004

Nostalgia is always good. what's the bands favorite 80s movie? The more obscure the reference, the better. my band and I were once going to name ourselves "Chester Copperpot" till we found out it was already taken.
posted by GeekAnimator at 9:49 AM on May 6, 2004

I've got a really long list of names I've come up with here. Most of them have been verified untaken.
posted by me3dia at 9:59 AM on May 6, 2004

band names are all dreadful (as fvw pointed out), but kaibatsu has a good suggestion. start writing ideas down. read through them periodically, tossing those that start to stand stupid quickly. have friends read through the list, too, and toss out those that they react derisively toward.

make mock posters and see which ones look good in print, on a sign. eliminate those which are awkward in a sentence (no-one is going to feel cool saying "hey, aqua pedestrian's at the metro tonight! let's go!").

don't pick one too early.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:00 AM on May 6, 2004

I always wanted to be in a band called Neon John and the Noble Gases.
Or Laxative Max and the Shits.
Or Flatulent Jim and the Windbreakers.
posted by armoured-ant at 10:04 AM on May 6, 2004

Slow Children Playing

Those signs have always bugged me. Can't they use some punctuation, make it clear that the cars are supposed to slow down, and that they're not talking about a bunch of retarded toddlers?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:05 AM on May 6, 2004

My fav technique is using a song from a band whose influence on the band is clear, thus making an easy association. Allmusic is great for this.
posted by Quartermass at 10:09 AM on May 6, 2004


I want you to have it, because I couldn't make my own bandmates see the light and beauty and truth of it.

Honest opinion, here: Bella is a Cat

In truth, I just said "yes" because we'd been arguing over bandnames for five months and we were drinking some good beer and resolution sounded like a good thing. All my friends hate it.

And then: if we get famous, it stops mattering.
posted by cortex at 10:21 AM on May 6, 2004

Quartermass' suggestion has been frequently used to good effect -- Blonde Redhead took their name from a DNA song; Eric's Trip from a Sonic Youth song; Versus from a Mission of Burma album. Though there's always the chance that if you make it super-obvious, people will think you're too derivative. (So, a pop-punk band might want to avoid Singles Going Steady, though Autonomy is good. Love Battery has been taken.)

Also, a while ago the phrase Spatula Fright came to me in a dream. Rest assured I'm not using it for anything.
posted by lisa g at 10:37 AM on May 6, 2004

I'm confidently predicting a return to the format "Name and his/her _________ _________".

You mean, like "Mars Saxman and the Furious Angels"? Yay, I get to be a trendsetter.

And yes, I came up with it via Quartermass' technique, as any Rob Dougan fan will instantly recognize. Not sure yet whether any Rob Dougan fans will actually like the music, though...
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:41 AM on May 6, 2004

Whatever you/they do, don't use numbers, punctuation, or misspelled words. So hackneyed. I think some of the coolest potential names ever are some of the usernames right here at metafilter.
posted by iconomy at 11:07 AM on May 6, 2004

It's like websites, I think. The name will sound dorky at first when you only have a basic structure and no songs (posts). But if you're good, and you spread the word, your brand of music (web content) will soon be associated with what you previously thought was dorky.
posted by jragon at 11:33 AM on May 6, 2004

I was in a band in high school named Firetruck 1789. We were terrible -- I think we spent more time on the logo than we did practicing -- but we were never short of gigs because of the "cool" name (match the numbers to the letters). As the last surviving/caring member of the band, I hereby donate the name to the music world.
posted by joaquim at 11:40 AM on May 6, 2004


You don't like?

Ok, well, I was saving this one for personal use, but you can have it. You know that Conan O'Brien bit where they wheel out a tv with a picture of a celebrity on it and blue-screen out the mouth?

A good long while ago, they did that with Al Gore. At the end of the show, there was a credit:
Lips Of Gore
posted by Capn at 11:53 AM on May 6, 2004

Not too long ago I came across an article with the byline Pagan Kennedy, which I immediately fell in love with as my all-time favorite "if I ever start a band" name.
posted by vignettist at 11:58 AM on May 6, 2004

So many to choose from, but here are some of my favorites:


404 DJ Not Found

An Athame to Grind

Christ Crispies

Jehovah's Whiteness
posted by sequential at 12:16 PM on May 6, 2004

I like the "____ing Buddha" one myself. "Punching Buddha" has the bonus of making folks wonder if Buddha's being hit or if he's just in a really surly mood. The band logo would be pretty cool, too.

Stay away from Adjective Noun band names. Or just go with "Adjective Noun."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:23 PM on May 6, 2004

No Duty to Aid
Res Ipsa Rocket
Rules of Exclusion

{/goes back to studying for law school}

Bonus: Oolong and the Head Cakes
posted by thewittyname at 12:32 PM on May 6, 2004

I was in a band in high school named Firetruck 1789. We were terrible -- I think we spent more time on the logo than we did practicing -- but we were never short of gigs because of the "cool" name (match the numbers to the letters).

I don't get it.
posted by jragon at 1:16 PM on May 6, 2004


posted by five fresh fish at 1:25 PM on May 6, 2004

Firretruck 1789

Sounds very Steampunk.

Looking over the mefi username list...

How about the Low Key Vikings, or something to that effect? (Pagans?) (Get it? Low Key/ Loki?)
posted by kaibutsu at 1:35 PM on May 6, 2004

Rod Torfelson's Armada featuring Herman Menderchuk.
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:43 PM on May 6, 2004


as in the milk.
posted by Frasermoo at 2:10 PM on May 6, 2004

"a room with a moose"
It's a zim episode, but it really does have a ring to it.
oh, "angry monkey show" (audio file) is kinda fun too.
or, perhaps the reference is too juvenile. It's just what popped into my head.
posted by milovoo at 2:46 PM on May 6, 2004

In honour of five fresh fish how about Retarded Toddlers?

Random names I've come across on the internet that would make good band names:

Punch in the uterus
Bag o' hell

and my fave: SlapDash!
posted by haqspan at 3:52 PM on May 6, 2004

Or just go with "Adjective Noun."

Love it!
posted by iconomy at 4:30 PM on May 6, 2004

I read that as Adjective Nun.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:03 PM on May 6, 2004

Buffered Turkey Load

(I saw this on a box of shotgun shells)
posted by yalestar at 7:38 PM on May 6, 2004

Stark Raving Naked?

Someone told me it sounded good for a punk band...
posted by armage at 7:56 PM on May 6, 2004

Stark Raving Nad?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:48 PM on May 6, 2004

Chocolate Dog : >
posted by amberglow at 10:13 PM on May 6, 2004

Radiohead were originally called "On a Friday."

Thom was before that in a band called "Headless Chickens," (single "I Don't Wanna Go to Woodstock"), which is definitely worse ;)
posted by abcde at 10:37 PM on May 6, 2004

My band is called Slightly Evil Legion of Canadian Schoolgirls Deux. Not my idea, though, sadly. "Oversized Novelty Orchestra" has also been considered.
posted by abcde at 10:41 PM on May 6, 2004

posted by crunchburger at 11:15 PM on May 6, 2004

posted by crunchburger at 11:16 PM on May 6, 2004

posted by crunchburger at 11:16 PM on May 6, 2004

posted by crunchburger at 11:17 PM on May 6, 2004

my friends and I drink alot and come up with band names all the time. some from tonight:

tarantula infested dog shit
merkin caulk
posted by headless at 11:21 PM on May 6, 2004

Inspired by Cortex:
Bell the Cat

Re: Slow Children Playing
a friend once asked me, "What happened to the fast children?" Perhaps "Fast Children" would be a good name.



Rotten Stone

Brass Knockers


Wayne Kerr and the Ejectiles
posted by Goofyy at 1:17 AM on May 7, 2004

Mercury Chasers

(what not drink with absinthe)
posted by bendy at 1:55 AM on May 7, 2004

Also, re: medical terms... (The) Xyphoid Process
posted by bendy at 1:57 AM on May 7, 2004

Man, I agree with iconomy - the names around here are incredible. I just saw a post upscreen by "evilbeck" - how cool would that be as a band name?

Anyway, if there is any particular software that the band uses they might be able to pull something from there. I once saw my husband doing something in "Cool Edit" and decided that "Pink Spatial Stereo" would be a great band name. Or if they share any favorite authors, directors, or artists, they could start looking for groovy names in the obscure details of books, films, or biographies. I think that the key is in narrowing down the field a bit, and if the exploration is focused on something that all the members have in common, then the result should have some meaning and resonance.
posted by taz at 2:29 AM on May 7, 2004

What a great wake-me-up. (I hope all of these "bands" are at least half as entertaining.)

A friend had a band in Philly some time back that might have been called "Filthy Meathooks". Or was it "Meaty Filthhooks"?
posted by Dick Paris at 3:15 AM on May 7, 2004

The Miguels.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:26 AM on May 7, 2004

I've been giggling for six minutes over "Buffered Turkey Load". {NB - I'm easily amused}
posted by dgaicun at 6:30 PM on May 7, 2004

what's the bands favorite 80s movie?

"Pretty in Pink" has a certain ring to it...
posted by deborah at 11:13 PM on May 13, 2004

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