How to come up with a band name
by Magda Knight
Check out the Mooky guide to thinking up a name for your band WITHOUT the aid of a band name generator. From general guidelines to showing how a 1 or 2 (or 3) word band name could affect your band's entire identity, it's all here...
Here at Mookychick we love coming up with band name generators (see our goth band name generator). We think they're a really useful tool for sparking your own creativity...
Nothing beats coming up with your own name for your own band.
Whether you're into hardcore, indie or goth, these tips on how to create a band name will steer you on the right path to having a band people will remember.
How to name your band - general rules
Don't be too whacky
Don't EVER go for humour in your band title name. It makes you sound like a student band, and even if you are a student band, you want to be bigger and more unforgettable than that. Don't be funny with your band name. Be resplendent and timeless.
Example: Jelly Bean might work in the right circumstances. Jelly Bean Custard Stampede just sounds shit. Spot the difference!
An exception to this rule is the pun. Puns are okay. Bacardiac Arrest have a pun in their name and they're nice, and they've pushed it by having a pun in their album title too: Band on the Rum, which is semi-obviously a pun on Band on the Run, an album by Wings featuring Paul McCartney and that woman who couldn't sing. Bacardiac Arrest get away with it because most people think alcohol is funny. On the whole, though, avoid humour at all costs.
Let your band name have an impact
Even if you're a goth band, don't be so wispy and dreamy that your band name just sounds kind of... blah. Keep it strong. Keep it powerful.
Your band title should mean something to you all. If it doesn't, the words should at least evoke the spirit of your band.
How many words should be in your band's name?
Let's break it down, and use examples to explain what effect a one, two, three or four word band name will achieve, and whether that is the spirit you want to represent your band.
Examples: Muse, Oasis, Tool, Hole, L7, Bjork
The ultimate ego-stroke name!
If you have just one word for your band title, you have a huge ego and seriously think you're going to be bigger than big. This attitude will probably work in your favour, so give it a go.
Two-word band names are currently really in vogue. A lot of bands nowadays are going for this naming style. The Killers, The Strokes, The Vines. This band name has a good clean retro feel to it, it can be indie or rocky or kitsch - whatever you want. However, 'The Something' band names are beginning to sound a bit samey, so you might want to steer clear.
You can have a 2 word title which is either adjective/noun or 'the'/noun, and they have slightly different effects.
Examples: Modest Mouse, Massive Attack, Smashing Pumpkins
It's short and catchy. It can be cute, or dark... whatever you want. Two name bands work well. And don't forget numbers, like Front 242, Blink 186 or East 17!
Okay, maybe the 'smashing' in Smashing Pumpkins is a verb. Same effect, also cool.
Examples: The Beatles, The Smiths
Tried and tested. You can't go wrong with 'The Somethings'... then again, though, maybe you'd like to name your band a little more unconventionally?
Examples: My Bloody Valentine, The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground, The Fairport Convention, The Go Team
Three-word band names work okay. It's a risky card to play though - your band name might sound a bit of a mouthful and lacking in impact. If you've got an intellectual band that's all about the lyrics, a three-word band name might work for you. But be careful - here be dragons...
4 OR MORE WORDS - ALSO KNOWN AS 'TAKE THE RULES AND BREAK THEM!'
Examples: The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Jesus and Mary Chain
See, you should never have a band name with four or more words in the title. No-one will remember them all. But sometimes, if you buck the trend, that means you will stand out from the crowd. Maybe a music journalist will see your 4-word band name on a gig poster and be so intrigued they'll just have to check it out. You never know.
On the whole, we'd say keep your band names short and sweet. But then... The Yeah Yeah Yeahs went for a naming convention along the lines of 'The Somethings' but just kept on going! Four words for a band They are too cool! Of course, they got away with it because they knew their music was ass-breakingly fine... If you have the balls, and they'd better be huge, then maybe you can get away with a 4-word band name, too.
Really stuck for ideas?
Take a phrase and break it
Examples: Run Mouse Run, The Breakfast Club
Think of nursery rhymes, or phrases you love, and play with them. If you're looking for something short and snappy and strange, this might work for you.
'Singer' and 'The Others'
Examples: Alice and The Enemies
This is a cool way of naming your band. You basically take the name of the lead singer and group everyone else together as 'the Somethings'. Naming your band in this way has a beautifully kitsch retro feel. The only downside is that the band needs to be clear who's boss, who's the alpha girl or alpha guy - otherwise there'll be band fall-out on a nuclear scale.
Eponymous band name
Examples: PJ Harvey, Blondie, Prince
This is where the whole band - and, yes, it is a proper functioning band with loads of musicians in it and everything - is named after the lead singer. This only works if the 'band' is actually a lead singer and session musicians who come and go, OR (and this is a much more classy option) a band of really tight musicians who care about each other and the music, so no-one in the band cares if it's the lead singer who gets all the attention, because in their secret hearts they know that band couldn't exist without a single one of the players - they're a harmonised whole, working as a team to make music alchemy. This is one of the coolest band-naming options. Just so long as conflicting egos don't batter the band into the ground.
Go for an obscure line/character from a book
Examples: The Soup Dragons, Do the Moog
This naming stance is popular with the shoe-gazing crowd. Characters from kids' books or television shows make good band names because everyone relates, and people will know the band take drugs because those early kids' programmes were unbelievably trippy.
Go for Irony
Examples: Coronation Street
Coronation Street is a non-existent band, but it should exist, because its name (the title of a British long-running soap) is so good.
If you want an ironic band title, think of something schlocky and loved by the masses (Big Brother, etc.) and turn it into a band title so that your band's name represents everything you DON'T stand for.
Irony is often based on cultural significance, so a band called 'Monster Truck' would work in America, but in England everything's so tiny we think our little minis are pretty damn close to being monster trucks, so we might not get the reference.
So... any band called Coronation Street would immediately go to number one in England. But one risks the faultless combination of irony and cultural significance being somewhat lost when embarking upon one's first tour of the States. But who cares by then you'll be so big it doesn't matter... and if the Arctic Monkeys can get americans googling Frank Spencer then anything's possible.
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@MagdaKnight is an author and the Co-Founder / Editor of Mookychick. Her YA and cross-genre fiction has been published in anthologies and in 2000AD. She likes you already, you know. It must be the jaunty angle of your hat. You can email her and visit her blog.