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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: A Band Naming Guide

Updated on January 13, 2015

Here are some tips when naming your band:

Don’t use punctuation!!! Yes, there is a band named “!!!” Starting a band name with “And” is bad enough, but an ellipsis too? ...And the Earth Swarmed With Them is also too long.

Keep it short:
You may not love U2, but I once read that they chose their name because “It would fit well on an album cover.” Whether true or not, it’s a well chosen name. The names Yes, L7, Muse, Devo, and The Who, also fit well on album covers and some of them have multiple meanings. That’s a bonus for band names.

There is such a thing as being too offensive:
Some band names are just too universally offensive and off-putting. And I am not talking about “The Dead Kennedys.” While offensive, the DKs name at least fit their style, theme of music and mocked the cult of the Kennedys. I’m talking about names like “The Child Molesters” or “FistF…k”.

If you want to limit your audience to a few self-righteous jerks whose main goal in life is to piss of others, fine. If you want a wider audience, I suggest you lay off the swear words, scatology and graphic descriptions of sexual acts for your band name. Put those in your song lyrics if you want, not the name.

Too offensive?
Too offensive?

Don’t make the name an inside joke, story. For example: Five Iron Frenzy. Really? Mr. Mister is also an inside joke, according to the band. Moreover, Mr. Mister is a name listed near the top of most worst name lists, but at least it’s so bad that we remember it. How about the name Tapioca and the Flea? Yes, that too was an inside joke. Apparently, they don’t care if audiences get the joke at all.

Tapioca and the Flea also uses the terrible technique of animal with unrelated adjective for a band name such as White Snake, Fleet Foxes, and Def Leopard (misspellings are also usually a no-no). One clever band caught on to this and call themselves Adjective Animal, a unique take on this band naming convention.

The name should reflect the tone of the band if possible. I always thought “The Pixies” and “10,000 Maniacs” should have swapped names to better match their musical stye, one band being clearly more maniacal than the other. Bands that got the name-tone right include Rage Against the Machine, NWA, and The Beach Boys.

Stop with the incoherent noun/adjective/noun artsy names (a cousin of the adjective-animal technique); don’t use inane three word combinations such as Aggressive Snail Attack, Airborne Toxic Event, Toad the Wet Sprocket or Spiky Radar Sparrow. Yes, I made that last one up. Pretty good, huh?

Don’t make it hard to remember. There was a local band I liked, Mr. T and the Satellite Freakout, but I could never remember their name. That’s not a good promotional strategy. Another band I like is Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. Do they really want to be remembered? I hope it means something to them.

Related: Don’t make it too long. And you Will Know us By the Trail of Dead is a prime example of too much of a bad thing. Was “Trail of Dead” taken? Okay, how about “Death Highway”?

Don’t use made up or slang words that few people understand and sound like a toddler’s wordplay. Hoobastank, Kaja Goo Goo, and Chumbawamba are prime examples of this.

Daddy, chumbawamaba, CHUMBAWAMBA!!
Daddy, chumbawamaba, CHUMBAWAMBA!!

Unless you want to play music for the douche-bag crowd, I suggest you lay off these types of names. Certainly, Metalicca and The Beatles use made up words in their names, but they are based on actual words. Metalicca is a metal band. And let’s face it, The Beatles were a dance hall, beat band until they quit the road, got into the studio with Martin and Epstein, smoked some pot, and played the sitar.

Political names (Anti-Flag), names of fictional characters (Uriah Heep), names of cities (Boston, Chicago), and geographic names (Mountain) are usually fine. Although, I would stay away from the names The Ron Weasley Experience, Fresno and Pillow Lava.

It’s not hard to come up with decent band names. Just don’t pick the first thing that comes into your head and you will be alright. Moreover, choose a name you can live with for more than one night. For example, I just thought of the name Vomit Patrol. Would you want to live with that name for more than one gig? On the other hand, if “vomit” describes your music, feel free to use it.

You can also try the Savage page for a band name

Tex Shelters


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