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How To Name Your Indie Band

How To Name Your Indie Band

So, you’re in a band! You wrote some material, met a drummer who doesn't smell like his parents' garage, and you’re finally getting that take of "(Jenny You Are My) App Store" down tight.

But now you have a decision to make. It is the hardest, most important challenge your band will face, besides booking shows and making money and not hating each other and defeating your girlfriend's evil exes in a rock-fueled battle of noise dragons.

Your band needs a name.

It’s essential to keep the Internet in mind when naming your unsigned group today. You need a name that will force would-be listeners to hit your Myspace "Play" button before hitting their browser’s "Stumble" button. You need a name that is easy to find on Google and non-copyright-infringing. ("Pepsi and the Colas" is not a good choice.) Where to start?

As a veteran of an unsigned band (Serf Rock—We mostly play Medieval blues) and a vigilant (obsessive) follower of modern music, I've compiled a few tips for giving your band a name that wont be condemned to the page 12 catacombs of Google. Read on to find the name that works for your band's unique format! But don't pick "Catacombs of Google." I just copyrighted that.

If You're a Solo Act

It can be tempting to take the easy path of slapping your birth name on a poster or CD cover. But hold on there, Rebecca Black! A common surname like Smith or Brown isn't gonna top any search results very easily. Plus, there's a good chance your listeners are Internet elitists, over-fed on information and eager to despise anything remotely "tired," even if your music is awesome. Consider this dramatization:

Hipster A: Hey Thaddeus, I dig this song. What is this?

Hipster B: The new EP by James Smith!

Hipster A: James Smith? Ugh. That name is so derivative. I suddenly hate it.

Don't lose Thaddeus' attention because of your boring surname. Try to hipster up those syllables by adding superfluous vowels or prefixes linked to European nations you've never been to. Here are a few ways you can hipsterize that birth-given snoozer:

Name: James Smith

Hipsterized Name: Jamie Von Schmidt

Jayne Smythe

St. Jimbo

See, it's easy to sound pretentious! Here's one more example, using my name:

Name: Brandon Specktor

Hipsterized Name: Brad Spectre

Brann Van Speck

Braiden Spock

Beard McSpeck

And now I wait for the groupies to come flocking.

If You're a Band of 2-6 Members

The popular, sure-fire formula for naming a collective today is:

[Type of animal] + [Non-sequitur location]

It’s worth noting that bears see the greatest success in today's market. As far as I can tell this trend began in 1971 with a family bluegrass revival troupe from Anaheim, CA named the Country Bear Jamboree. Unfortunately, due to a combination of inter-band politics and rivets bolting their feet to the floor, they never did make it out of California. Their legacy lives on today in bands like Grizzly Bear, Panda Bear, Mostly Bears, Minus The Bear, and Bear in Heaven. Other popular species in the rock zeitgeist include wolves (Sea Wolf, Wolf Parade, Turbowolf, Wolves in the Throne Room, Guitar Wolf), deer (Deer Tracks, Deer Tick, Deerhoof, Deerhunter) and horses (Horse Feathers, Band of Horses, An Horse, Torn Apart By Horses). Working from these leads, here are some more valid (and available) options:

Bears In Congress

Bears In The Rec. Room

Bear With Me

Bears Undercover

Bears Anonymous

Bears of the Old Republic

99% Bears

The Bear Is A Lie


Bear Mitzvah

Bears on Wolves

Wolves on Bears

Wolves and Deer on Bears

Wolves After School

Wolves with Bachelors Degrees

Harmonica Wolf

Djembe Wolf

Keytar Wolf

Tuberculosis Wolf

Werewolf Country Club

The Stepford Wolves

Tomb Of The Unknown Horse

Amused For Several Minutes By Horses

Horsey McBearWolf

If You're A Band of 7 Or More Members

You're obviously going for the nuanced, symphonic vibe, so make sure you pick a name that tells the world, "We are artists making important sounds and you will BOW DOWN BEFORE US!" The Polyphonic Spree, The Phenomenal Handclap Band, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor have the right idea, offering listeners a grandiosity and melodrama in their names that prepares them for the grandiosity and melodrama of their music (super hipster bonus points go to Godspeed! for the unnecessary exclamation mark). Unused examples include:

The Polyrhythmic Poets League

The Great Melodica Caucus

It's Lonely Here On Mount Olympus

Avast! Pirate Warlords of Sound!?

Jamie De Smitte And The Unbearable Werewolf Militia

There! Now you're all ready for Internet fame. If you'd like to send me a royalty check after you hit it big, please make it out to Beard McSpeck.

What's your ideal/favorite/current band name?

Tags: names, indie rock, music, indie music, hipsters, band names

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About the Author
Brandon Specktor

For 22 years, Brandon was a fat kid living in Tucson, AZ, which gave him lots and lots of time to write. He now works at a magazine in New York City, but still loves writing almost as much as he loves muffins.

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