WaterBear’s ultimate band name generator
Creating a band name can be a right headache. You have a great concept for the band or project and are sure of your musical direction. You may even have a few songs demoed up ready to go. It’s time to plant the digital flag and set up website, socials and lay the foundations for your future.
You just need a name. Can’t be too hard can it? You begin by writing a list. Nothing really leaps out straight away, and the more you work, the more desperate and uncool the potential names seem to get. So you ask the rest of the band, and also friends and family, for suggestions. How hard can it be? Two weeks, and several heated arguments with your fellow musicians later, and you just have a longer list of lame band names and are teetering on the brink of just picking the least rubbish one to get the whole sorry business over with and move on.
But stop for a moment. This is a real chance to make a fundamental difference to the potential of your project. There’s so much music, bands and artists out there, and you have a golden opportunity here to construct a name so cool, so damn interesting, that people just have to check you out above the rest.
Here are some processes and exercises to make the search for a truly epic name that bit easier:
Specific or general
Do you want to be specific and tell the world who you are, simultaneously generating acceptance form one genre at the expense of the wider public perhaps eg. ‘Metallica’. Or do you want a brand that won’t offend or put anyone off, allowing your music to be judged on its own merits eg. ‘Maroon 5’
No right or wrong here, but this issue gets to the heart of where you see yourself as an artist and also how well you understand your audience.
Tip: Try writing two separate lists of potential names, trying both approaches and see what works for you.
The answer to your problem might be staring you right in the face. Dig out all your lyrics and pore over every line. After all, you wrote this stuff, it came from your subconscious and there is a purity about that which may spawn a name that is authentic and not trying too hard. See if a phrase or set of words leap out at you.
Also think about your own geography. Where does the band live and where are the special places that mean something to you? You might get a band name out of it eg. ‘Cypress Hill’, ‘Boston’. You might also get a few bonus song or album titles too ‘Strawberry fields’ and ‘Stanley Road’ for example. You can also take the band Blossoms as an example – they named themselves after the local pub they all went to in Stockport.There is a potential goldmine of ideas here. Plus it makes you look back and consider where you came from as an artist.
While you’re at it, you might want to also go through your bookshelf and pick out ten books which mean the most to you. I would caution against using the actual book title, unless it’s super obscure and out of print, otherwise you run the risk of playing second fiddle to a more famous book. Once you’ve picked your book, try googling quotes from the book or picking through the actual pages to see what comes up. I am doing this right now as I write, using Ian Banks’ “The Wasp Factory” for inspiration. In 30 seconds I’ve found a line that stands out and has some resonance to me.
The rather dark and menacing line comes from the narration of the main character – “My enemy is twice dead, and I still have him.” It just sounds cool as you roll it around the tongue. I am wondering if the two words ‘Twice Dead’ have potential as a band name. It’s strong enough to add to the list of contenders perhaps, it might evolve along the way, as there maybe room to add another word or two. Anyway, you get the idea. The process forces result and, for me, beats sitting creatively constipated trying to force the issue. Just like song writing when inspiration fails, process and work can bridge the gap, keeping everything moving until inspiration strikes again. Sorry about the digestion metaphor. But creativity isn’t always pretty.
While we are on the introspective autobiography trip, go back thorough any letters you may have written, important emails, school reports, press and social media posts looking for stand out phases that could be recycled. There is a truth and authenticity about a future band name that you have already created in a natural unknowing way.
Common devices used by other bands
Of all the tricks to jump start the song name. the light/ heavy model has got to be the greatest. Contrast and clever juxta positioning can produce names with gravitas, and a timeless, epic quality. The greatest example of all must be ‘Led Zeppelin’. I don’t think they would have made this blog if they had continued to call themselves ‘The New Yardbirds’. My old band ‘Little Angels’ always struggled to be taken seriously in the rock press, and much of this might have been because the name was a double light construction, lacking the contrast or weight implied in a light/ heavy combination such as ‘Flaming Lips’ or ‘Iron Butterfly’.
Try and few variations yourself. Because this approach is overused (but still great), it lends itself to rock genres very well. Steel Panther, Def Leppard etc. My challenge to you is to try and use that idea outside the rock genre. Will it work? You tell me. Got to be worth a shot.
A little bit random
Randomisation is another option. The theory is this: one abandons the element of control and we simply trust the universe to give. I’ve tried this a lot and I think it’s a bit like doing scratch cards, you’ll get a win eventually. But unlike the scratch card, when you actually do win, you’ll need to recognise greatness when you see it. It’s easy to become jaded and miss a good name when in a mood of despair. Don’t be too judgemental initially and come back to a name a few days later if it calls you back. Perhaps the name will find you rather than the other way around.
Band name generators
Online of course there are several random band name generators. I’ve done this a lot. It has never worked for me and I’ve never seen it do the job for anyone else either. But it is fun. I’ll try it right now and give you the first four to see what happens. You know how it works – type in some responses to generic questions and the algorithms do the rest. Here goes nothing…
The results are in and the top four are:
- Worm Failure
- Classic Vicars Club
- My Heart, Your Toes
- Why. Dogs. Why?
You can have those if you like. You’re welcome.
Why doesn’t it work for me? I think it’s down of the coldness around the digital process. It makes me feel distanced from and unconnected to the results. There’s not enough art and soul in the process. I think I’ll feel differently if I randomly open a dictionary or scatter clippings from a newspaper to see what lands. That way I think I’ll feel more of a physical connection to the resulting names I suppose. Daft maybe, but that’s how it is for me.
So try the online versions by all means, but also consider organic ways of random word and phrase creation and see what turns up. Trust the universe and it just might provide.
In recent times there has been a growing trend for longer and more abstract names such as ‘Cellar Door Moon Crow’, ‘And So I Watch You From Afar’ and ‘Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band’.
These names are really fun and require a certain confidence on the part of the artist to pull off. I think they show creative courage and when I see names like that I always have to check out the band. Very often the music is similarly risky and ground-breaking.
This concept also helps with one of the most annoying aspects for coming up with a name, in that all the obvious ones are taken, and most of the not so obvious too. These days all it takes to form a band is think of a name and set up an Instagram account. It’s monumentally annoying when you have a great concept/name and some pub band in Australia already has it. You could take the view it doesn’t matter, and for the most part it doesn’t, but even small artists get mighty territorial and even litigious over this. It’s hassle and confusion we don’t need around the project.
So let’s keep looking.
Templates & approaches
Here’s some useful templates to try.
- ‘Noun, noun, noun, noun’ eg. ‘Wicker Basket Cat Farm’
- ‘Adverb noun noun eg. ‘Crispy Cat Park’
- ‘Noun singular and the adverb noun’ or variants eg. ‘Teaser and the Firecat’, ‘Cats in Space’
And here are some conceptual approaches to keep the names coming. How about:
- Longer abstract sentences such as ‘An uncomfortable silence falls’
- Evocative visual image described in words from a piece of cinematography ‘Teardrop Explodes’.
- Celebration of the ordinary ‘Soccer Mommy’
I could go on and on, but my main point is that the creative process can be stimulated and potentiated by process. You can of course come up with your own. What this boils down to really is putting the work in. As always in music, most people don’t do this and they settle for something average far too quickly, paving the way for someone like you to stand out from the crowd.
Good luck choosing your band name. It’s matters like this that makes the earth spin on its axis and futures are made. So let’s make it count.
Here’s a couple of useful links to online name generators:
And if you want to know more about the courses at WaterBear, here are links to short films that tell you about the BA (Hons) and MA courses run in partnership with Falmouth University.