What’s in a name? Well, quite a lot, really. A band name is one of the first decisions any budding young group has to come to and – as some very famous musicians will gladly tell you – there’s a whole load of fuck-up potential.
Take Jimmy Eat World, for example, who spent this past weekend lamenting their decidedly dodgy choice of band name. “Advice for new bands: When coming up with a band name, make sure it’s acronym displayed really large on your artwork or t shirts won’t be complicating matters. You’re welcome,” tweeted the band whose acronym is… right, yep. Probably worth a bit of a re-think, that one.
The Twitter explanation went on to describe how, in February 1994, the band spent a grand total of “less than 5 min, no shit,” hastily coming up with a band name “so we could play this dumb ass party.” Shocker, mates. Hope you at least got a party bag.
“So moral of the story: even seemingly small and insignificant decisions can be much bigger than you could imagine. Slow down sometimes and make sure it’s right,” they offered, wisely – advice that a bunch of other big-hitters would do well to heed. Below, we’ve rounded up a bunch of other bands who regret their choice of name. Learn from their mistakes, dear reader.
It’s a name that’s so ingrained into the top billings at festivals across the globe that we rarely give it more than a cursory nod, but take a step back for a second. Arctic Monkeys. What does that even mean? Was it a prescient nod to the IKEA Monkey and his big fluffy parka? Probably not, but it’s nice to pretend, isn’t it?
As it turns out, even iconic, recently shorn frontman Alex Turner doesn’t card much for the name, blaming it on their youthful naïvety. “This is the first band I’ve been in,” he offered by way of explanation in 2011. A lot of people in bands have a few goes at it before they find the one that works but with us, we all started playing guitar and everything at the same time.”
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He continued: “There might have been other ideas for offshoots at the time, but the Monkeys was the first one. It sound like a first band name, doesn’t it? It’s so bad that the tribute bands don’t sound worse. I saw there’s an Aertex Monkeys, that’s pretty clever.”
What’s more, he passed the buck on their dodgy moniker over to guitarist Jamie Cook, adding: “I’ve no idea where it came from. It was Jamie’s fault, he came up with it and he’s never even told us why. If he even knows, he’s keeping it a secret from me.” Probably not the IKEA Monkey then, we’ll admit.
‘Foo Fighters‘, you may or may not know, was the term used by US pilots during World War 2 to report UFOs. Pretty cool but of pub quiz trivia, that – not a particularly bad band name, either. Nice bit of alliteration. Rolls off the tongue. Could be worse. Could be Arctic Monkeys.
Don’t try saying that to Dave Grohl, though – he’s not a fan of the name at all. He’s laid into the title on more than one occasion – in 2010, he admitted that he was obsessed with UFOs at the time of writing the first Foo Fighters tape, leading to him plucking the name out of a book on aliens. “Had I actually considered this to be a career, I probably would have called it something else, because it’s the stupidest fucking band name in the world,” he added – harsh words, which he backed up in 2014. “Had I imagined that it would last more than a month-and-a-half, I might have named it something else,” Grohl said in a CBS interview. “It’s the dumbest band name ever.”
Mumford and Sons
Some more pub trivia for you now – did you know the other members of Mumford and Sons aren’t actually the offspring of dear Marcus? Seriously. Not to get all ‘birther’, but trust us – look up their birth certificates, if you dare. It’s all a big fat fraud.
Still, we won’t get too shitty with the ol’ banjo stringer – turns out he thinks it’s a dumb name too. He dubbed it a ‘ballache’, and admitted that he’s even thought about changing it. “I definitely regret the band name,” he said back in 2015. “If I’d known it was going to go this way I would have wanted to call it anything other than my last name.” Poor sausage.
This one’s a bit weird, really, isn’t it? What does Japandroids even mean? Well, it’s a portmanteau of two other suggestions – Japanese Scream (from drummer David Prowse) and Pleasure Droids (from guitarist Brian King). Both kinda crap, sorry lads. Not that Japandroids is much better. A democratic solution, though, we’ll admit.
“Yeah, maybe we would have taken it a little more seriously if we knew what was going to happen,” King admitted in a 2010 interview. “But for a band like us, when you name your band, you’re looking for a name to just put on a flyer to play a show. You’re not thinking that anybody is going to know who you are.”
He also admitted that it’s here to stay, and doesn’t think they’re alone in thinking their choice of moniker is a bit stinky. “I think there are a lot of bands that have become quite famous that wish they would have changed their name if they had just realised they would reach that level,” he added. “I mean, Radiohead. That’s a stupid band name – it’s not cool, it sounds terrible. If those guys had a chance to go back, what would they think? But it’s sort of like the band is bigger than the name now.” Fair point, Radiohead is a pretty dumb name too. We’ll let you off, Kingy!
Former bassist-turned-Corgan’s-#1-scapegoat D’Arcy Wretzky admitted as much in a Washington Post interview, dubbing the phrase “a stupid name, a dumb bad joke and a bad idea.” Go on, D’arcy – tell us what you really think.
Scottish post-rock titans Mogwai took their name from classic 80s horror Gremlins’ titular character. Don’t feed ’em after midnight, etc. What they didn’t realise at the time, was that Mogwai’s own name was adapted from the Chinese word mogui (魔鬼) – meaning demon. Fitting, really, for a band name they’ve been haunted by for a fair while.
“The first time we got together and played properly as a band was June 1995,” Braithwaite said in a 2015 Irish Times interview. “We rehearsed just after Glastonbury in my parents living room. We always wanted to get a better name than Mogwai but, like a lot of things, we never really got around to it.” Not the most exciting excuse, really, considering the spooky connotations of the name. Make something up, Stu! Say you’re being haunted! Say it’s a curse and if you change it you’ll have to bring in a vocalist! Say something! Anything! Oh, whatever.