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


You wrote a few great songs, got some bandmates altogether and now it’s time to choose a band name. Time to make it official but what do you call yourselves?

The eventual argument ensues about a name. Approaching a venue and saying “We’re just a squirrely bunch that knows some great tunes!” hasn’t gotten many people anywhere. Also, you’re probably coming from different perspectives about what collection of words would encapsulate what the group’s about.

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.

At Rivington Music we hear a lot of band names. While a definitive guide is nearly impossible, we at think there are at least some guiding principles. Musicians facing the choice of the right band name can use these 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. Think of it in terms of good advertising. Try choosing something catchy which can be beneficial in many ways. Will the name stand out on a bill, or linger in someone’s mind? How will it look on a shirt?

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. Think Blues Traveler,  the various influences which helped create their signature integrated bluesy sound. The name 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 and now it’s also the name of a band. Even “Toad the Wet Sprocket” comes from a fictional band name originating from Monty Python skit.

What about the just completely random, at times inane band names 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 and make an impactful snippet of sound that sticks in your mind. The band “Aha” had a very simple atmospheric sound which stood out.

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

Genre

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

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

Yet there are also outliers such as “Archers of Loaf.” The name doesn’t describe anything about the sound, except they are potentially 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, eccentric nature of band names these days, it’s applicable to throw names at a wall and see what sticks.

Most importantly, a proper band name—is that even a thing really?—should at least be something your members 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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