The Fine Art Of Band Names and All The Rest

What is in a name?

Everything. Band names count big time. Don’t get me wrong, having a cool name isn’t going to make people like your music. Well…actually it might. But rest assured having a dumb one will definitely make people not want to give your music a chance.

Sounds kind of shallow right? I mean, who would judge a band by their name alone?

Let me ask you a question. When you go to rent a movie, how do you decide which movie to pick up and look at? Most people just look for something with a cool box and then read the back of it to see if it’s something they might like.

Your band's name is that box. You want people to pick you up and take a look.

Okay cool, so we know the name is important now. How do you come up with something good? How do you get four or five band mates to agree that the same name is the coolest thing since sliced bread? It’s a much debated subject (well it should be, anyway).

I have always believed that an element of reality can go a long way. I mean something from your life or something with significance. The street you grew up on, a girl that broke your heart, the car you totaled and almost died in 5 years ago. Whatever, something important. That’s the first thing.

The second thing is that it needs to be sexy, and by sexy I mean cool. It needs to kind of roll off the tongue, or have a charm to it in some way. The thing is you want people to look at or hear your band name and think, “wow interesting name I wonder what they sound like?” If your name does that then you win the band name challenge and your life as a band just got a little easier. Trust me.

There is a band from Austin, Texas called:

I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness

I always liked that band name. It makes you think, “wow man what the heck do they sound like?” Kind of dark, kind of funny, kind of strange. But the point is it does make you wonder. So it has a charm to it.

I have always been a fan of a legendary Seattle band called:

Big Black

It rolls off the tongue. Simple and effective. I wanted to like that band before I ever heard them just because I liked their name. That’s a good position to be in if you’re a band. People wanting to like you because you have a neat name. Stupid right? But that’s world for you, and we all do it. I’m not saying they are going to like you. You still have to sell it. You still have to play music that people dig. The point is now they are listening with a non bias that they would not have possessed if your name was something like:


I used “Live” as an example because I like the band, but think about that name. It means nothing. It’s just a generic word that everybody already understands and has a meaning for. So a lot of people see that word and just kind of overlook it. In the case of the band “Live”, they had a lot going for them, and that name was actually a last minute replacement for “Public Affection” which was a name they all decided they didn’t like. I can see why, it’s pretty bad. They probably didn’t win a lot of new fans on just their name alone.

Third thing: Don’t go one word unless you have a really cool word. Seriously, and then get a few opinions on your word if you do insist on going one word. Chances are it’s probably not too cool.

Fourth thing: Don’t use band names that are TOO obvious unless you want to produce obvious and in your face stereotypes of your band. Example: I was once in a band called Chyna White. Everybody thought we liked heroine. That was before they even laid eyes on us. It probably cost us some gigs.

For those keeping score, here’s where we are at:


1. An element of reality (something personal)
2. An element of cool (charm, alliteration, something)
3. Unless it’s really cool, don’t use one word
4. Don’t be too OBVIOUS, unless you want the stereotypes it produces

Here are a few methods you can use to help get the ball rolling coming up with some good band names that might work for you:


Tell everyone in your band to go home and come up with no less than 10 band names. Write them down and bring them to the next practice. That should give you guys about 40 or 50 names to look at. At the end of the next practice you sit down and narrow it down to a top 10. Everybody take those names home and hash them over. Come back to the following practice and figure it out.


Okay, so with this one you pick out 10 nouns that you like. They can be places, people, things, whatever. Then pick out 10 nouns that you dislike. Write each noun down on a slip of paper and put them all in a bag. Repeat this process for verbs, adverbs and adjectives.

Now you have 4 grab bags. Each bag has 20 words in it. Shake them up and pull out a word from each bag. An example would be something like:

Seriously Seeing Pants Baggy

Move them around, use variations of them, add a THE to the beginning. Whatever works just try to get the creative juices flowing.

I pulled those words out and the first thing I thought of was

Seriously See

To me that’s kind of interesting. I can’t stereotype that band name. I sort of wonder what they might sound like. It all really depends on what strikes you as interesting. There is no right and wrong to this, only cool and not cool. Interesting and contrived. Just go for something interesting.


I remember someone once telling me if you want to find your stripper name just take the name of your first pet and add it to the name of the street you live on. Mine ended up being:

CJ Kingswood

That’s kind of funny. I could see how a similar approach might yield some interesting band names. You could change things up just to make it interesting. You could replace the name of your first pet with the name of your first car and replace the street you live on with your home state or hometown. For me that’s a 1976 Chevy Nova and Ohio.

Nova Ohio
Nova OH
OH Nova
Ohio Nova

You could go a few ways with that one. None of them sound particularly cool to me. That okay though because it gets you thinking in a productive way and working towards the end goal of coming up with a kick ass band name...


This works well if you’re hanging out at the library.

Get a big dictionary. Not the crappy paperback flip kind that you bought at CVS. I’m talking about unabridged not to be messed with bad boy dictionary. That’s the D. Get an encyclopedia volume. Any letter will do, pick your favorite. That’s the E. Get a book of baby names. The kind that couples get when they are expecting a baby. That’s the B. Then top it all off with a thesaurus. That’s the T. You will also need a tablet and a pen.

Now you have four serious books in front of you. They all were designed for a purpose. You are about to twist that purpose to your own evil designs.

Start flipping through the Encyclopedia. Whenever you see something interesting, write it down. Names, places, words, events, anything.

Now try to cross reference those things with your thesaurus and dictionary and baby book of names. See what you find. Interesting definitions, strange name meanings, cool synonyms. Anything. This can be a really fun method if you got an hour or two to kill.

Okay so those are just a few methods that you can try when you’re coming up with great band names for your projects. The main thing is try to focus on something that is interesting in some way to people. Eye catching in an interesting way. Charming perhaps. A little alliteration can go a long way sometimes (i.e. Three Doors Down). It rolls off your tongue because Doors and Down both start with a D. That’s a cheap trick but sometimes it can be effective, especially if you combine it with something that’s a little meaningful to you or your band.

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