Band names are a slippery slope. Coming up with a quality band name is damn near impossible. Few have done it, thousands have tried. You want to sound cool, which is a tall task. But you don’t want to sound like you’re trying to be cool. Ultimately, you want something that will look good on a club’s marque, looks dope as a sticker and isn’t super regrettable down the road. Well, if you’re band makes it that far, which is also damn near impossible.
My cousin was in a band once that was called Free Weed. Stupid name? Yes. Good band name? Totally. A band name should be memorable and stand out; grab people’s attention. It should give people an idea of what you’re about before they even hear your music. It should have a vibe, a feel, a look, and a bunch of other hard-to-pin-down qualities. Oh, and it needs to be one that hasn’t been used before or isn’t currently in use. That one is important. Like, super important.
I’ve lost track of how many band names I’ve come up with. Landing on each one was its own little death march through deliberation hell. My favorite names of bands I’ve been in are the Ho Down Warriors, B Side Prophets, and Sidecar Radio, the last one being my number one. I’m not particularly proud of being in a band called Juice but there’s nothing I can do about that now. What’s done is done.
Now my favorite band name, probably of all time, is Manifest Nexto Me. They were a hip-hop band from Burlington, Vermont in the early 2000’s. The name Manifest Nexto Me sums up everything that I feel makes for a good band name in that it’s memorable, cool, catchy, and interesting. It’s also clever as hell. I don’t think I’ll ever forget about the band because of how their name will always stick with me, which I think should be every band’s goal.
What are some other great band names?
A List of Great Band Names
Led Zeppelin – one of the toughest names out there
Beastie Boys – the Beasties were the kind of cool almost every band strives for
Guns N’ Roses – in any one else’s hands, it would be laughable
Sublime – sums up the band perfectly
Rage Against the Machine – ditto
Velvet Underground – a great phrase
Gang Starr – my favorite hip-hop duo/band name
The Black Keys – classic sounding
De La Soul – my second favorite hip-hop duo/band name
The Roots – they could be called by no other name
The Delfonics – legend award
Dispatch – how had no one thought of this before?
The Temptations – also classic sounding
Morphine – perfect, just perfect…for them, not me or you
Grateful Dead – in the Great Phrase category
The Rolling Stones – also in the Great Phrase category
The Hold Steady – ditto
Buena Vista Social Club – it sounds like a great place to hang out, drink sangria and play bocce
Rogue Wave – great use of the singer’s name (Zach Rogue)
Run The Jewels – PHRASE!
Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra – they’ve shortened it to Antibalas, but it’s still a great-sounding name
Jimi Hendrix Experience – all-time winner for the best name of a musician and his backing band
Local Natives – like Dispatch, how had no one thought of this before?
Talking Heads – it’s a common phrase now but it probably wasn’t then, which makes sense
Outkast – simple and perfect
Nirvana – they also couldn’t be called anything else
A Tribe Called Quest – super cool
Smashing Pumpkins – we all did it or at least thought about doing it
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – a tough version of the Buena Vista Social Club
The Allman Brothers Band – best “brothers” band name
Creedence Clearwater Revival – this could be so many things
Widespread Panic – in the Great Phrase club
Black Flag – menacingly tough
Black Pumas – accurate and cool; a twofer
Jurassic 5 – smooth as butter
The California Honeydrops – it sounds as delightful as the band’s music!
The Mars Volta – what is a Mars Volta? More like what isn’t a Mars Volta, kid.
Rocket From The Crypt – another one in the GREAT PHRASE category
Silk Sonic – whoever came up with that one deserves an award of some kind
A List of Great and the Band Names
Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit
Bob Marley and the Wailers
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
Elvis Costello and the Attractions
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears
Michael Franti & Spearhead
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals
Ryan harbors a constant fear of losing his keys, prefers flip flops, and will always choose cereal if it’s an option. He maintains his own blog, Giddy Up America, and has previously contributed work to UPROXX & Heavy. Ryan is on Twitter: @ryanoconnell79