Choosing a Band Name: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


You’ve got your bandmates altogether. After writing a few great songs, you’ve decided you want to make it official with a band name.

The eventual argument ensues about what to call yourselves—approaching a venue and saying “We’re just a squirrely bunch that knows some great tunes!” hasn’t gotten very many people anywhere. Also, you and your band are probably coming from different perspectives about what collection of words would encapsulate the true meaning of your group.

This is an age-honored struggle for new and upcoming bands. A name is an identifier, first and foremost. Often a completely subjective concept, choosing a band name can be a tense process for you and your bandmates.

While a definitive guide is nearly impossible, we at Rivington think there are at least some guiding principles every musician facing the choice of the right band name can think of to help that process along.

Do you have a story of how your band name came along? Shoot us an email—we love a good story!

What is Your Goal?

A band name can achieve many things. In terms of good advertising, choosing something that is catchy is in many ways beneficial—will the name stick out on a bill, or linger in someone’s mind?

In some cases, choosing a band name is a way to align yourself with a group or genre. “The Ramones” sounds awfully similar to “The Clash” or “The Descendents,” doesn’t it?

Or, you could choose to stand out with your band name. “Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention” almost begs the question, “What did they invent?”

Other times, a band name encompasses the identity of the group. If you think about the various influences that Blues Traveler draws from—creating their signature integrated bluesy sound—it almost makes too much sense.

Random or Sensible?

Some bands have names which connect them to other bands, or other media. “Panda Bear” for example is a side project of one of Animal Collective’s band members—rather sensible in content for sure. “Titus Andronicus” is the name of a famous Shakespeare play, which the band with this name drew it from. Hell, even “Toad the Wet Sprocket” comes from a fictional band name originating in a Monty Python skit.

Then, you have just completely random, at times inane band names that are impactful simply by their weirdness. “Hoobastank,” for example, was a mispronunciation of a street in Germany called “Hooba Street.” There’s really no rhyme or reason for the name—it simply stuck.

Minimal or Expansive?

Some band names are incredibly short, making an impactful snippet of sound that just sticks in your mind. “Air” is a band that has a very atmospheric sound, thus making such a simple name make, by some accounts, a lot of sense.

Then there’s ones that seem to roll off the tongue endlessly. “King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard” is a newly-popular psychedelic rock band whose name almost trips out of your mouth, making the best use possible of alliteration.

Genre

Genre is one consideration that some groups consider, though increasingly this is becoming irrelevant.

When it comes to metal, a lot of groups take their sound to heart. “Metallica” and “Megadeth” come to mind immediately—tons of bands want to position themselves as coming from this aggressive or dark aesthetic.

Yet, there are also outliers. “Archers of Loaf” is one that doesn’t really describe anything about the sound, except potentially that they are as far-out as their name.

Make It Yours

In the end, advice on how to choose your band name is almost a moot point. Given the creative and often eccentric nature of band names these days, it can be most applicable to just throw some names at a wall and see what sticks.

Most importantly, a proper band name—is that even a thing really?—at least should be something your members can stand behind. Who wants to be embarrassed when they say their name is “Reticular Paper Cup”?

Or, maybe we just found your next name! That one’s on the house.

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