How to name your hip new band

by Jared Hemming

Listen up, basement Beethovens: in light of Iggy Azalea’s impending performance at the University of Minnesota’s homecoming in October, the blog post this week is devoted to finding the perfect, vibe-worthy name for your burgeoning GarageBand project.


The new, classic artist herself used the ‘stripper name formula’ (first pet’s name + street you grew up on); here are a couple more methods to create a fancy-sounding name of a more indie variety.


Method 1: random dictionary flipping

Bands for whom it works: R.E.M., Incubus, the Pixies

This is probably the first technique writer’s block-stricken musicians turn to when they feel too self-conscious to actually suggest a self-generated name to the other members of their band. Don’t worry, not all random dictionary finds are final, and it’s to your own discretion how you’d like to interpret the word. For example, R.E.M.’s name comes from the band flipping to “REM” (as in REM cycle) in the dictionary, and yet the band chose to pronounce the name in its initials, adding periods after each letter.

        Example names created in research: ‘the Oranges,’ ‘Floorwalker,’ ‘Bareheaded.’


Method 2: opaque sentence/phrase

Bands for whom it works: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Death Cab For Cutie, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead

Arguably the most annoying approach of the bunch, sentence/phrase bands usually take their name by referencing an obtuse artifact lost in pop culture obscurity. At times, the names can sound as if each band member was given a piece of paper, wrote down a word, and then came together to form indie-rock greatness out of the amalgamation. Death Cab For Cutie, for example, is not the product of a solemn night of scrabble for Ben Gibbard, but a clandestine reference to a song by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

        Example names created in research: ‘Dazed in the Post Office,’ ‘Fired Breathing by the Seaside,’ ‘Everybody Knows My Name,’ ‘How to Eat Swell’


Method 3: band name by band reference

Bands for whom it works: Radiohead, the Ramones, The Beatles

So you love music but you don’t have the creative impetus to move beyond the bands you love? Just name your band after the bands you love! As evidenced by the examples above, there’s no shame or loss of integrity by paying homage to another musician. Radiohead, originally named the blander ‘On A Friday,’ shamelessly changed their name to reference a deep-cut Talking Heads song at the request of their label. Now, the ‘Head (people call them that, right?) win the contest of Best Band Since The Beatles. Heck, The Beatles themselves got their name from John Lennon’s twin loves: Buddy Holly’s band the Crickets and terrible puns.

        Example names created in research: ‘Gold Soundz, ‘Bone Machine, ‘Teen Age Rioters’


Method 4: adjective + noun

Bands for whom it works: Sonic Youth, Flaming Lips, Smashing Pumpkins

This one’s for the poetic musicians, the players who feel the need to express their musical explosion of a band in the form of a flowery adjective with an exciting noun. In fact, ‘Musical Explosion’ and ‘Exciting Nouns’ both make great examples of potential artists you’ll see on Pitchfork’s next Best New Music section.

        Example names created in research: ‘White Cowskulls,’ ‘Frightening Limbs,’ ‘Modern Eggs.’


        The struggle of making music is enough. Using these templates will cool the edge off naming your polaroid-worthy band.


‘Cool the Edge.’ If anyone is forming a 90s hip hop/jazz-fusion group, feel free to take this one.