What's In A Band Name?

Four band members struggle to come up with a succinct way to describe their group and the music they play.

What's In A Band Name?
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Somewhere among the bongos and steel guitars and Van Halen posters and Iggy Pop records, perhaps beneath the abandoned love letters to Whitney Houston or behind the KISS lunchbox collection, or even in between the Stoli vodka bottle and the empty 12-pack of PBR, sits an identity crisis. It's collecting dust, much like the Third-Eye Blind cassette mix holding up the coffee table. Four different walks of life with four favorite bands, four favorite lead singers, and three favorite guitar solos (coincidentally, two share common ground in appreciation for Hendrix's underrated shredding on "Stone Free") have formed a group of their own. They've recorded two songs, mused up enough lyrics to fill a barn with 12-point Times New Roman font, and are nearing their first gig. But when they are called up to the stage to open for the Foreigner cover band - Feels Like The First Time... Again - how will they be announced to the crowd? With a name that describes an overly complex, pretentious clan of Thom Yorke devotees? Or maybe they'll come off as simpletons; hillbillies flailing their fingers in the hopes of creating noises resembling music? Or worse yet, with complete silence - only a finger point and "here are... Some musicians!" They are, as America would say, a horse with no name. The most optimistic voice in the group is also the most talkative, which makes sense. He is the lead vocalist, after all. When Allan (who will soon add a third 'L' to his name for extra sex appeal) is alone for too long, his throat habitually vibrates the theme songs to his favorite 80s sitcoms - though he can rarely make it all the way through "Growing Pains" without tearing up. "We're in your face! Ya know? Like, we're right there and we're not leaving, is the thing! We don't take 'no' for an answer because we didn't ask you a f--king question! We just tell you what we're going to do and then do it!" It's a rallying cry that has landed on deaf ears. Hours into the naming debate, defeat has sunk its claws deep into three of their hearts. But not Allan's. "So we should tell people that with our name!" Allan's iPod is a melodic rainbow: Green Day, Blue Oyster Cult, Pink Floyd, The Black Crowes, Silversun Pickups, Deep Purple, Sister Hazel, The White Stripes... And while he loves their music, he's never felt a connection to their names. Unimaginative and vague. There's too much wiggle room in a name like that. The best band names will stand out for their uniqueness and the punch behind them. What's unique about 'red'? Not a goddamn thing. "But we're deep, too, is the other thing. We're a bunch of guys who like to break strings and push shit over, but when it gets down to the core of us as a band, we've got sentimental souls, right? So let's tell 'em right up front that we're some emotional dudes." As much as Allan dislikes bands named after colors, he hates ones named for numbers even more. Blink-182? What the hell does that even mean? The B-52s have an outstanding body of work but should have spent a little less time dedicating songs to crustaceans and a little more time working out that name. Numbers got a big resurgence with that whole pop-punk trend from the nineties: Sum 41, 311, Eve 6, SR-71, 3rd Eye Blind. He really needs to start listening to that last Eve 6 record a lot more though, because it was surprisingly terrific. Maroon 5 f--ked themselves from the start, joining the worst of evils into one name. Never had a chance. And that's not going to happen for... For... Well, for whatever these guys end up calling themselves. "We're kind of a yin and yang balance, when you think about it. Like, we're hard as bullets but we're soft as crushed velvet..." "VELVET BULLETS!" Wayne is an idiot. That's why he's the drummer. "Velvet Bullets is too close to Velvet Revolver, which was already too close to Guns N Roses." Points for trying, though. It's about time someone else got in on the action. Too bad that someone has to be Wayne, though. Give him a pair of sticks and the guy's a genius. Give him a thought and he's a lost cause. Great band names are special and you know it right when you hear them. The best ones roll off the tongue and stick to your brain. Two words? Three at most, probably. On the other hand, a lot of them tend to sound kind of silly the first few times you hear them. The DJ says, "Here's the new track, 'Bullet With Butterfly Wings', from the Smashing Pumpkins!" And you think, what did he say? Isn't it July? Halloween is months away, guy. "It's got to be a declaration! Something that tells our fans that - " "Fan. Singular. Mitch Whitford. He's the only one registered on our PureVolume profile." "Fine. We need something that tells Mitch Whitford that we've got creative juices dripping down our legs and the name is just the start. Because I've got news, guys: no one's coming to a show to see Blank Gray Straw." Blank Gray Straw presents their breakthrough album "Dull Farm". It peaks at #9,790 album on the Billboard Hot 10,000. Allan knows that the name isn't really their biggest problem. The real issue here is that there's no sense of direction within the band. There's just too much going on to have any cohesion. What are they about? What do they sound like? To describe the band's sound in one word would be a nearly impossible task. "The Ballad Of The Toad In My Basement" is clearly goth pop/folk rock. But "Steel Pants" could get lumped in with early 70s blues rock. And what's "Hitched To My Molar?" Alternative hillbilly funk, maybe? "We're not getting anywhere just sitting here. Let's start throwing stuff against the wall and see what sticks! All right? Now, whatever our name is, it should provoke action!" "Developing Face Cancer." "It needs to be more optimistic than that." "Racing With The Wind?" "Manlier! It's got to have some balls, guys!" "F--ker Heart!" "Maybe a little less vulgar..." "Hammered Earth!" "Well, that's... That's not actually that bad. Ooh..." "Dead Livers Society! Practiced Evil! Smite With Breakfast!" "Wait, when did you get good at this game? Let's keep the magic rolling..." "Muffin Box Frenzy!" "Oh, okay. You're done." Allan and Boris, the bassist, have always been just a page apart musically. For instance, Boris thinks Def Leppard's "Pyromania" was the greatest record to come out of the hair metal era, while Allan thinks it's "Hysteria". Same ground, different type of dirt. So if Wayne has CCR's "Greatest Hits" on loop for too long or if Tommy (the lead guitarist) starts lecturing about the purity of the Prince discography, Allan and Boris give each other knowing glances and wander off to share headphones full of Jimmy Eat World. Names now fly around the room at a mile a minute, prompting Tommy to suggest Miles Per Minute as a possible band name. It's thrown out in jest, really - he's secluded himself from the discussion by making animal shapes out of his shoe laces, so the suggestion is covered in sarcasm (and the smell of sweaty tennis shoes). But it lingers in the air long enough for it to sink into everyone's subconsciousness. And silently, each person - even Tommy - allows themselves to fantasize about the moniker; the first album cover, the cheering crowd demanding an encore, their faces on the cover of Rolling Stone. And it's not perfect, but it's them. Besides, what is perfect anyways? Perfect is boring, especially perfect music. No, Miles Per Minute is something better than perfect - it's sporadic. It celebrates their aggression, surely, as well as the way they operate on an emotional level. For them, it's balance. Most importantly, though, it's something they can all agree on. A phrase to unite four separate beings. And a f--king killer logo to put on t-shirts.

39 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    N-D
    Yeah, this is great, man! I really love your articles!!!))) "here are... Some musicians!" Bravo!)))
    captainsnazz
    Your writing style is awesome, keep it up. I would totally buy Dull Farm by Blank Grey Straw though.
    Cardbored
    @Picture: If my band name was based upon that it would be Black Frosted Flakes.
    DevilsRedRider
    my band has been slaving away trying to change our name from SoundGasm to something a little less ridiculous. a great article to re-inspire us to solve our name issues
    Danjo's Guitar
    Yeah, except then the next day they all wake up and say "Miles per minute? That doesn't work, we need something else." Or maybe it would last more like a year, but eventually, its toast. My band had a different name for every gig we played over a span of 3 years. Most of them were either terrible but inspiring in the moment, or just too ridiculous, but could make a good album name.
    shakyjake316
    Yeah, that's certainly likely. Don't you feel like that moment of inspiration at least provides some sort of momentum, though? Perhaps as a starting point for something better?
    the_hoodster
    This was awesome to read, although I was hoping at one point in the article to see Alllen. But I didn't just write an awesome article so what the frig do I know?
    shakyjake316
    Thanks for the kind words. Funnily enough, I originally put a few "Alllans" in toward the end, but changed them at the last minute for consistency's sake. Now I'm wishing I'd left them as a little Easter Egg.
    BlitzkriegAir
    You do know B-52's are flying fortresses and not just random letters and numbers thrown together? Also in Sandy Pearlman's poetry, the "Blue Oyster Cult" was a group of aliens who had assembled to secretly guide Earth's history. /rant
    shakyjake316
    I knew the B-52s thing but had no idea what BOC was about. That said, these are only supposed to be the fictional thoughts of the narrator, not my own personal views (although some do overlap. Thanks for the input, though!
    KTbass
    i really should not eat my morning waffles in blue jeans anymore
    Raining Kasch
    Black Coffee for me. Hmmm...not bad. But if we're being totally literal, Black Bagel....still not the worst name I've ever heard.
    gukker
    Blue Nasi, lol everything is blue because everybody wears blue jeans
    Crim_Graveyard
    Haha, to be honest i didnt know it was that hard to come up with a name. one day i just thought "Crimson Graveyard" as me and my friend jammed together