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What's in a (Punk) Band Name?

Updated on July 3, 2015
Justin Zipprich profile image

I am a Blog, Short Story and Screenplay writer who lives in Southern California.

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Do you ever wonder how bands come up with their names? Like, what was the inspiration behind the name Bracket? Who is Billy Talent? What the hell is a Cancer Bat? Below are the explanations behind some of the more bizarre, intriguing, and just plain random band names from our beloved punk scene.

On the Spot

Sometimes the coolest of band names are those made up right on the spot, at the point of sheer panic when the MC has to introduce the band and they need a name.

For instance, alternative royalty Bayside got their name when the band was on their way to a New Found Glory show with the intention of giving the band a copy of their demo. With no idea of what to put on the CD, they happened to pass the bayside train station and the name stuck!

Thrice was in a similar moment of panic when they realized they needed a name before their first show. Again, out of desperation they went with Thrice, which was an inside joke among the band.

Meanwhile, American Steel was offered their first gig almost on the spot. When the promoter asked what to call them, the band peered up at a block-long sign for American Steel.

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Completely Random

Sometimes a band has little interest in coming up with the most mind blowing of names, sometimes they just pick them at random.

Big D and The Kids Table lead singer Dave McWane has said that the band actually got their name when a friend told him that if he ever started a band he should call it Big D and the Kids Table, so he did.

Rock legends Alkaline Trio have had a more random approach to their name. The three founding members in the band (Rob Doran, Matt Skiba, and Glenn Porter) constitute the “Trio” but the first part of the band name is completely arbitrary. Matt Skiba decided he needed to find a cool word to stick in front of the “Trio”, so he just picked up a dictionary and started flipping. He didn’t need to get much further than halfway through the “A”s before stumbling across “Alkaline”. He tried it out, thought it sounded pretty cool and a band name was born. Other options included Albatross Trio, Allergy Trio and Alligator Trio.

The guys in Bracket did even less when picking their band name when they literally pointed at a random word in the dictionary.

At least Canada’s Cancer Bats put a little more work into their random name. They decided that a combination of an illness and an animal would make the best name, and they even considered the name Pneumonia Hawk before settling on their current moniker. (Other possibilities could be Gonorrhea Trout or Restless Leg Syndrome Cat)

You Name the Band!

Which of these alternative Sickness-Animal band names would you give the Cancer Bats?

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From Their Inspirations

Many bands take their names from great bands that they admire. This method usually creates a cool name while also honoring those that came before them. Polar Bear Club for instance, got their name from a song of the same name by Silent Majority.

Jordan Pundik and Steve Klein made up the name New Found Glory half on their own, and half by taking some influence from "A Newfound Interest in Massachusetts" by the Get Up Kids."

According to our sources, The Ramones picked their name as a tribute to Paul McCartney who used the alias “Paul Ramone” when checking into hotels. As an added bonus, the name also acted as a parody of all the “family” music acts of the time like the Partridge Family, Jackson 5, the Osmonds, etc.

Finally, as many of you know, the Blink-182 song of the same name inspired Man Overboard’s band name.

“Dropkick” Murphy in action
“Dropkick” Murphy in action | Source

Meaningful Names

Sometimes a band’s name is based on more than just a random dictionary page, sometimes a band’s moniker comes from an idea or person that really means something to them. For example, the professional wrestler and sanatorium owner John E. “Dropkick” Murphy of the 1900’s inspired Dropkick Murphys. Although they have no personal connection to the man, they liked the name, thought he was cool and that was that.

Satanic Surfers picked their name based on references to two of their biggest influences: the Misfits and the Hard-ons. 'Satanic' is for Glenn Danzig and his so-called satanic bands and 'Surfers' pays tribute to the Hard-ons’ old school surf-punk attitude.

Black Flag’s name came from their logo: a stylized black flag represented as four black bars. Created by bandleader Greg Ginn’s brother, he believed that "if a white flag means surrender, a black flag represents anarchy." Their name also reminds us of the anarchist symbol, the insecticide of the same name, and the band Black Sabbath, one of Ginn's favorites. Check out more about the band...

Punk band Pridebowl’s name simply means to roll with your pride, no matter who or what tries to bring you down. Basically, “keep your chin up, the bad never lasts as long as the good and value yourself or no one else will.”

Finally, Operation Ivy was named after the code name of a 1952 American nuclear weapons testing program, and The Used chose their name after friends claimed that they felt "used" when contact with the group members waned as they became more engrossed in the band.

MCR singer Gerard Way
MCR singer Gerard Way | Source

Stripped from Pop Culture

Many of your favorite bands take their names straight out of popular books, movies and even cartoons.

Billy Talent, originally named Pezz were forced to change their name, which they did. Their new name is inspired by fictional guitarist "Billy Tallent", a character from the Michael Turner novel: "Hard Core Logo".

Now defunct rock group My Chemical Romance also got their name from literature. The name of the band was suggested by bass guitarist Mikey Way, younger brother of lead singer Gerard, who was working in a library when he was struck by the title of a book named “Ecstacy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance”. The phrase “Chemical Romance” resonated with him and another sweet band name was created.

Post-hardcore band Chidios took their name from the b-movie "Killer Klowns from Outer Space" [SEE BELOW], stating that they were: "watching Killer Klowns from Outer Space, which was produced by the Chiodo brothers. We had a talent show coming up that the band was going to play and we had to come up with a name. So I was watching the movie, looked at the back of the box, and saw the name Chiodo. I just added an S".

Bring me the Horizon’s name is derived from the final line of the film "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl", in which Captain Jack Sparrow says "Now, bring me that horizon."

Proving to everyone that their influences run deeper than most hardcore inflected post-hardcore/emo/punk bands, Hot Water Music turned to literature to cull their name. Author Charles Bukowski’s short story tome "Hot Water Music" was published in 1983 and according to Wikipedia it “deals largely with: drinking, women, gambling, and writing.” Bukowski is considered an influential author and is famous for his minimalist writing style and focus on poor, ordinary Americans as inspiration. Very Deep.

Last but not least, hardcore band 88 Fingers Louie’s name comes from a Flintstones character that sells Fred 'hot' dodgy pianos.

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