Many musicians insist that one of the most difficult parts of creating a successful band is finding just the right name. Truth is, naming a band is easy. No matter what spirit an outfit hopes to evoke with its handle, there's a vast history of tradition and iconography waiting behind nearly every stylistic or thematic choice. Here's a handy guide to finding the perfect name for the band that's going to change the world as soon as it settles on the perfect name.
10. Change 'the' to 'thee' Thee Oh Sees are doing it. Thee Goblins are doing it. Heck, even Denver's own Thee Dang Dangs are doing it. Heading up a group's name with the archaic "Thee" instead of that boring ol' "The" is a time-honored rock and/or roll tradition. Japanese garage-rockers Thee Michelle Gun Elephant, their name largely a mispronunciation of The Damned's Machine Gun Etiquette, stuck a 'Thee' at the beginning and went to town. They were also probably nodding to their heroes, British garage group Thee Headcoats, who themselves may have been paying homage to the '60s band Thee Midniters. Whatever its origins, this is a move that says, "We emphasize the mundane, we embrace the mistakes and we don't take ourselves too seriously. Except for we kinda do, 'cause we're nodding to some real music geekery here."
9. Reference the majesty of nature Not unlike the way we pave over natural wonders then name suburban subdivisions after them, an animal band name says, "We're paying tribute to nature, even though we don't ever really hang out in it or see it anymore." Let's face it: It's mostly urban dwellers who are naming themselves after bears and trees. Think: Grizzly Bear, Frog Eyes, Tame Impala, Wye Oak, Deerhunter, Deerhoof, Deer Tick, White Fang, Red Fang, Black Tusk. As our cities grow and we plunge further down the rabbit hole of technology, our mushy human brains fight to hold on to some subconscious connection to the natural world whence we came. What else would explain that ironic revival of T-shirts emblazoned with howling wolves and majestic sea turtles?
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8. Throw in a number Sometimes the one perfect word that effortlessly captures a band's unique magic isn't quite enough. Maybe it's already taken by another group, or maybe it's too insignificant to really stand out on its own. Either way, why not throw in a number? Take that little nugget of a word and simply add an arbitrary string of digits. If this strategy seems similar to choosing an AOL screen name, that's because it is! It's exactly the same! Some complete masterpieces of numerical naming include Eve 6, Matchbox 20, Demolition 23, Sum 41, Prefuse 73, Blink 182 and Isotope 217 -- each a more inspiring example than the last.
7. Embrace the negative Nothing's more rock and/or roll than nothing. A fixation upon the idea of subtraction and negation is an attractive source of inspiration for many groups hoping to find the perfect name. You've got your No's: No Age, No Joy, Nobunny. You've got your zeroes: Zero 7, Zero Hour, Zero Zero. You've got your Joy Division, your Minus the Bear, your Subtract by Two, your Wild Nothing. (Zero 7, you'll notice, both Embraced the Negative and Threw in a Number, an example of strategic cross-discipline band-naming.)
6. Don't just misspell -- metal misspell The names of quote-unquote heavy bands are often heavy themselves: Borrowing from subjects like mythology, industry, literature and history can be serious business. In an attempt to balance the intellectual scales, many heavy groups choose to misspell a word or throw in an arbitrary umlaut, an act of intentional anti-intellectualism. The band that employs the metal misspell says, "We may be well educated, but we're also tough and we know how to shred and shit!" Czech it öut: Such venerable hard-rock acts as Mötley Crüe, Motörhead, Queensrÿche, Hüsker Dü, Beowülf, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Wyld Stallyns, Megadeth and Blue Öyster Cult recognized the raw power of the metal misspell.
5. Evoke the cold, clinical ambience of a spaceship Electronic musicians are essentially pioneers in the field of making music that robots want to get down to, and, as such, they're charged with the task of creating an image that's clean, cold, clinical and spaced out. Consider some of these efficient examples: Kraftwerk, LCD Soundsystem, Mouse on Mars, Ladytron, The Golden Filter, Client, 1200 Micrograms, Stars of the Lid, Biosphere, the Orb, Orbital, William Orbit, Photek, Apparat, Biosphere and Electric Skychurch are just the tip of the iceberg. References to astronomy, technology and geometry are key in properly naming a musical unit with a robo-positive ethos.
4. Keep your money on your mind This strategy's simple: If you're a hip-hop or pop artist hoping to get that paper, simply swap out 'S' for '$' or even just mention any kind of currency in your name, and the cash will start flowing. That's all there is to it. This strategy worked for Ke$ha, A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$, Chamillionaire and 50 Cent, among others.
3. Pretend to like sports One smart strategy when naming a group is to evoke the name or the spirit of a professional sport, even if bandmembers have no actual interest in said sport, so as to appeal to a demographic outside the band's natural audience. Groups such as Tennis, American Football, Junior Varsity KM, Fastball, the Outfield, All-Time Quarterback and Rugby have been hugely successful in courting throngs of sports junkies and converting them into die-hard fans, all thanks to a little game we like to call sports. Thanks, sports!
2. Be human A band of humans striving to be universally understood is often successful in forging a connection with an audience when it's chosen an explicitly human name. Each of us is a son or a daughter, after all, and many of us are mothers or fathers, brothers or sisters. Many more of us are men or women. Some of us are even humans. This is why names like Humans, the Men, the Marked Men, Boyz II Men, Women, Girls, the Strange Boys, Sons & Daughters, the Chemical Brothers, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, Vivian Girls and Twin Sister so immediately evoke a sense of warmth and familial security. Because let's not forget: We were all Get Up Kids once.
1. Evoke the darkness Nothing's darker than darkness, and darkness is pure black. Everyone knows that. For a melancholic group dying to convey a fondness for the morose or the macabre, the word "black" must appear in the name of the group. Groups who've pledged their allegiance to utter darkness include Black Moth Super Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Black Mountain, Black Heart Procession, Black Mold, the Black Ryder, the Black Angels, Big Black, Small Black, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. For the musician who's feeling moody, this is the way to go. Because the world desperately needs one more band with the word "black" in its name.
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