Inspiration is everywhere...
This isn't another long list of prefabricated band names, but ideas on where you can look for inspiration to create your own. For some, these tips might be obvious, and you're probably the one the rest of the band counts on to come up with a name, right? I hear that. For others, I hope these tips will help you create a band name that's uniquely yours, whether it represents where you come from, your musical style, your sense of humor, or all three.
What genre of music do you play?
Think about the genre(s) of music your band is playing, then list words and concepts that relate to it. For example, if you're a metal band, check out which metals are heaviest on the atomic scale and see if you can use any of them in your name. If you're a blues band, list as many concepts as you can think of using the word "blue."
One of my cover bands played several different genres, but our bassist had a style that was distinctively '70s' funk, so I created the name Clusterfunk. (Had to be extremely careful about the logo design...lol.) Well-known bands that have used this method—some of them a bit disingenuously—include Iron Maiden, Blues Traveler, Metallica, Climax Blues Band, Metal Church, Kid Rock, Grand Funk Railroad, and Parliament Funkadelic.
Where are you from?
If you want to represent your hometown, state, or general location, take a look around. Check out maps and street signs. Look for historical buildings and parks. My location, for example, is well-known for both its area code and its exit number. One band in my city named itself after the street where they practice. For one of my cover bands, I chose the name of a railroad bridge that locals nicknamed Tin Bridge. It was an infamous party spot, so everyone knew what and where it was.
Famous bands have used this method, too, including Boston, Kansas, America, The New York Dolls, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Linkin Park, Asia, The Bay City Rollers, The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Chicago, Alabama, Europe, Black Oak Arkansas, The Little River Band, and LA Guns.
Who are you? (who who...who who...)
Does anyone in the band have an epic-sounding last name? Like Van Halen, Dio, Dokken, Bon Jovi, Argent, Danzig, Santana, or Vandenberg? Maybe you could put two of them together like Fleetwood Mac. If your band includes family members, you could follow the example of The Ramones or The Everly Brothers.
What do you like?
It's probably impossible to list all the bands that have chosen names inspired by literature, poetry, philosophy, movies, music, and the like. The Doors is one famous example, named after Aldous Huxley's essay entitled The Doors of Perception, which details his experience while on mescaline. Atreyu is named after the young hero from the movie The Neverending Story. Simple Minds was inspired by David Bowie's song "Jean Genie." This is another area of inspiration that's nearly limitless.
Basics: The Nouns
From The Adverts to The Zombies, band names beginning with "the" never go out of style and appear in nearly every genre of music from punk (The Stranglers) to Southern rock (The Outlaws) to dark wave (The Smiths) to classic rock (The Who). You can't lose with a "the" name. Even The The had a credible career.
You can go a step further and develop a "bandleader & the nouns" name, real or fictional. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Derek & the Dominoes, Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, Hootie & the Blowfish, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Huey Lewis & the News, and KC & the Sunshine Band are a few examples. This works well when one band member is well-known (or does all the songwriting).
Basics: The Numbers
Throwing a number into the mix adds a multitude of additional possibilities for both wordplay and memorability. Whether you choose to go fully numeric (311), partially numeric (U2), or spell out the number (Five Finger Death Punch) is totally up to you. Bands like 10CC, Nine Inch Nails, Maroon 5, Matchbox 20, Blink-182, MC5, Sevendust, The B-52s, Three Days Grace, .38 Special, and L7 are proof positive that the numbers add up.
Basics: The Letters
You can choose to go by an acronym or abbreviation, either as a stand-in for the full name of your band (AFI), to represent the band members (ABBA), or just to be mysterious (EMF). It worked for NWA, DRI, REM, WASP, UFO, INXS, and NOFX, didn't it?
Why not add a preposition to your band name? Tons of bands had success with this device, including Alice in Chains, Rage Against the Machine, System of a Down, Puddle of Mudd, House of Pain, Temple of the Dog, Men at Work, and many more. And it lets you connect two separate ideas into one cohesive band name.
Ordinary Words & Phrases
Lots of everyday phrases, even clichéd ones, translate well into band names. One of my brother's numerous bands had the epic moniker Wishful Thinking. Bands that have used this format successfully include Shudder to Think, Judas Priest, Cheap Trick, Three Dog Night, Midnight Oil, Dire Straits, Humble Pie, and No Doubt.
Words and phrases lifted from ordinary objects work well, too. Think ACDC, Public Enemy, Black Flag, REM, and Poison.
The Dollar Menu, aka Mix & Match
Choose an adjective, a noun, and a word denoting a group. Eventually, you'll come up with a combination that you like and that sounds wicked. I mean, Blue Oyster Cult and Stone Temple Pilots can't be wrong, right? Neither can Electric Light Orchestra and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. How about Dexy's Midnight Runners and Cherry Poppin' Daddies? The possibilities are, literally, endless.
Puns & Other Wordplay
Puns and wordplay also can be used to create awesome band names, like 3rd Bass, The Dead Kennedys, Lipps Inc., The Dandy Warhols, and...The Beatles. Some bands have used the portmanteau method to create their names, like the way "breakfast" and "lunch" combine to create "brunch." Examples include Ringo Deathstarr, Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Harmonica Lewinsky.
Many paths, one destination...
Hopefully, I've given you some ideas as to where to look for inspiration for your perfect band name. If these tips are already in your wheelhouse and you have more ideas, please feel free to add them in the comments. And if any of these ideas help you, I'd love to hear the story behind what inspired you and the name you created.
May all your gigs have perfect sound, be free from technical difficulties, earn you good pay, and have SRO crowds that enjoy your music. Peace!