What’s in a name? For Linkin Park it’s the mundane origins of Lincoln Park in Santa Monica, which Chester Bennington used to drive past on his way to the studio, the spelling rejigged for the band so they could get their own domain. Hard-nosed and practical – well done, lads. Here are 49 more stories behind the names. Most of them even true.
It’s like this. Singer Ezra Koenig fancied making his own version of vampire movie The Lost Boys, set in Cape Cod (a starring location on VW’s debut album) and featuring a character called Walcott (who also has his own song on the record). It never really took off but the movie title stuck around.
In the Melody Maker singles column in May 1993, writer Dave Jennings described Darlin”s ‘Cindy So Loud’ as a “daft punky thrash”. Darlin’ members Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo were reading and nabbed the phrase for their new band’s name.
Hold onto your hats – this one’s about a fire in an arcade. But is it a real one? Here’s Win Butler talking to Pitchfork: “It’s based on a story that someone told me. It’s not an actual event, but one that I took to be real. I would say that it’s probably something that the kid made up, but at the time I believed him.” So that’s all clear.
530 Seconds To Mars
30 Seconds To Mars
Highbrow stuff from Jared Leto’s crew, who found a thesis from a former Harvard professor that suggested that the human race is, on an exponential technological curve, 30 seconds to mars. That’s the story anyway, according to bassist Matt Wachter, who may just be counting down to his next chocolate bar.
These days, inspiration has to be tempered by Google search results – after all, ‘Chvrches’ is going to be a little more specific than ‘Churches’. The Scots electropop trio were also nudged in this direction by Amy Burrows’ single artwork, where the ‘u’s looked like ‘v’s, oddly enough.
You’d never guess this one if you didn’t know. US post-punk funkers !!! nabbed their name from 1980 South African comedy movie The Gods Must Be Crazy, in which the Khoisan language was subtitled as a series of exclamation marks. Otherwise it sounded like clicks. Hence the slightly easier pseudonym, Chk Chk Chk.
Mark Hoppus, Tom De Longe and Travis Barker have always been fairly shady about the root of their name, De Longe supposedly conjuring up the ‘Blink’ on a whim. The ‘182’ suffix is even more obscure, apparently plucked out of the ether just as they were about to be sued by an Irish band also called Blink.
9Panic! At The Disco
Panic! At The Disco
Not, as some believe, a conflation of lyrics from The Smiths’ ‘Panic’; rather, according to lead singer Brendon Urie, a wholesale lifting of lyrics from US indie band Name Taken’s Panic: “Panic at the disco/Sat back and took it so slow/Are you nervous?/Are you shaking?”
10Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey
“I wanted a name I could shape the music towards,” the former Lizzy Grant told Vogue magazine. “I was going to Miami quite a lot at the time, speaking a lot of Spanish with my friends from Cuba – Lana Del Rey reminded us of the glamour of the seaside.”
“When I was a kid,” Steven Ellison told Hearty Magazine in 2010, “I would always bother people about super heroes and I was like, ‘Ok if you could have any superpower in the creation of comic books what would you have, X-Ray vision, you could be like invisible, what would you do?’ I wanted to fly. That’s it. That’s all.”
13Fall Out Boy
Fall Out Boy
Fall Out Boy was the name of a short-lived character in The Simpsons, and emerged as the favourite tag for Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump’s newborn band. They tried to rechristen themselves with a smarter name for their second gig, but as it tripped off Wentz’s tongue, a wag in the crowd shouted, “Fuck that, no, you’re Fall Out Boy!” There was no escape.
14The Human League
The Human League
The Sheffield synth pioneers were initially called – appropriately enough – The Future, but when dulcet-toned singer Phil Oakey joined they decided on an overhaul. The Human League was the name of a, yes, futuristic society in 1970s sci-fi boardgame Starforce: Alpha Centauri.
Rick Witter’s awesome Yorkie crew took their name from a railway shed. Of course they did. They were on their way back to York, and as their train pulled into the station they noticed a small outhouse in the sidings with ‘Shed 7’ daubed on it. Truly, it was Kismet.
The US indie godheads found inspiration in one of those sensitive, charming nicknames that little children bandy around so carelessly. Frontman Rivers Cuomo had asthma, so his ‘friends’ called him ‘Weezer’. It’s the unshakable logic of youth. And, you know, makes a decent band name in the end, so all good.
Singer Matt Healy took his band’s name from scribbling in a book of beat poetry he’d acquired from an artist. “On the back page there were loads of suicidal messages and it was dated ‘1st June, The 1975’,” he told Fame Magazine. “The use of the word ‘The’ preceding the date really stuck with me.”
Mark Brydon and Roisin Murphy’s avant-dance duo were named after the slang for ‘milk’ in Anthony Burgess’s dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange. Synth-poppers Heaven 17 also took their name from the book, as did 90s indie also-rans Campag Velocet.
Las Vegan troubadours The Killers are named after the fake band in their heroes New Order’s video for 2001 single ‘Crystal’. It’s a wonder no one thought of the name before. Apart from New Order, of course.
20System Of A Down
System Of A Down
Here’s SOAD singer Serj Tankian with a forensic explanation: “It comes from a poem our guitarist, Daron [Malakian], had written called ‘Victims Of A Down’. He brought it to us and ‘System’ was chosen as a better, stronger word because it makes it into the ‘whole’ instead of the people in particular. It’s the society.”
Naturally, the Kendal mint cakes fashioned their name from the early 20th century modern art movement Fauvism (leading proponent, French artist Henri Matisse). Fauvism from fauve, the French for “wild beast”. The band were initially called Fauve, in fact, before they decided to dumb it down for us proles.
22The Velvet Underground
It was one of John Cale’s mates who showed the band the book – US journalist Michael Leigh’s The Velvet Underground, a 1963 study of wayward sexual proclivities between consenting adults. It appealed to the quartet (why wouldn’t it?) and they adopted the name.
This cute little moniker was singer Scott Hutchison’s nickname when he was a bairn because he was so shy. Maybe there’s an element of self-help in slapping the name on the band you lead, out there in front of so many people. A few people anyway.
None-more-smooth French pop outfit Phoenix named themselves after ‘Phoenix’, a song on ‘Homework’, an album by Daft Punk, whose Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo were formerly in that band called Darlin’ with Phoenix guitarist Laurent Brancowitz. Phew.
“So simple minded he can’t drive his module/He bites on the neon and sleeps in the capsule” – that’s from David Bowie’s ‘The Jean Genie’, and that was enough to give Glasgow’s Simple Minds their name.
Rather brilliantly, 1950s rock’n’roll star (and inveterate twister) Ernest Evans chose his stage name by riffing on Fats Domino, a near-contemporary. He was already called “Chubby” by his pals – the rest was a parlour-game pun coined just after he’d rolled out a Domino impression.
Let’s gloss over the name itself, picked for ease of recognition and all that, and go straight to the question mark. That’s down to singer Andy Cairns who handwrote the spines on the demo tapes he sent to record labels and started writing too far over to the left. The question mark made it all a little more central. Justified!
Billowy-haired Bastille singer Dan Smith’s birthday is 14 July. That’s Bastille Day. We don’t really need to carry on with this one, do we?
29Queens Of The Stone Age
Queens Of The Stone Age
“Rock should be heavy enough for the boys and sweet enough for the girls. That way everyone’s happy and it’s more of a party.” That’s Josh Homme being as inclusive as you expect him to be, and helpfully explaining why he didn’t go with the flipside: “Kings would be too macho.”
Yannis Philippakis is getting a bit narked off with explaining Foals’ nomenclaturic (technical term) origins, but we’ve got archive words to look at. It’s down to an old pal who took one look at the band and described them as “like a bunch of foals, like stinky, smelly…” Mind you, the ancient Greek word ‘Philippos’ means “fond of horses”, so maybe there’s more to this.
It could’ve been worse – they could’ve been called Starfish. However, when their friend’s band Coldplay decided they no longer wanted their name, Chris Martin and co leapt on it. As you would. The first Coldplay took their title from an anthology of children’s poems called Child’s Reflections: Cold Play.
“If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold” – that’s a quote from the Bible, Genesis 4:24. The Californian metallers aren’t particularly religious though. One look at their album covers should confirm that.
It might sound space-age, but the Hartnoll brothers actually named their outfit after the M25, which they and countless other 80s/90s ravers would circle, looking for the party.
Some shady origins here, most of them involving a penis. Free jazz visionary Don Vliet’s nom de plume most likely comes from old mucker Frank Zappa, but possibly also from Vliet’s Uncle Alan who reputedly liked to whip the old chap out and compare it to a “beefheart”.
35Foster The People
Foster The People
A classic mishearing. Lead singer and bandleader Mark Foster intended his team to be called Foster & The People, but people just got it wrong. It worked though. As Foster told USA Today, “The first few shows that we played were for charities. It kind of clicked: Foster the People, that’s us.”
The ‘Freebird’ auteurs went through a series of names before choosing Lynyrd Skynyrd in honour/piss-take of their old PE teacher Leonard Skinner, a legend among his pupils for getting all het up about long hair. Obviously he wouldn’t have got along with the band, then. Relationships improved as Skinner later MC’d one of their gigs.
37The Airborne Toxic Event
The Airborne Toxic Event
LA band The Airborne Toxic Event took a fairly intellectual route to their name, taking it from the second part of US author Don DeLillo’s 1985 novel White Noise.
38Cage The Elephant
Cage The Elephant
Kentucky rock band Cage The Elephant were inspired by a shaven-headed nutter they ran into after a show in Tennessee. He pelted up to singer Matthew Shultz – putting the fear of God into him – then hugged him, saying, “You have to cage the elephant, you have to cage the elephant.” They could hardly do anything but name the band after it.
39Bring Me The Horizon
Bring Me The Horizon
As singer Oliver Sykes told Spin, the Sheffield metal band named themselves after a line in Pirates Of The Caribbean: “Right at the end of the film – it might even be the very last line – Johnny Depp says, ‘Bring me that horizon.’ That was really inspiring.
A ‘green day’, according to Bay Area slang, is a day lounging about doing nothing but puffing marijuana. Billie Joe Armstrong wrote a song about it and liked it so much that he kicked the band’s original name – Sweet Children – into touch.
41Fountains Of Wayne
Fountains Of Wayne
The ‘Stacey’s Mom’ (and not much else) hitmakers named themselves after a store in Wayne, New Jersey that sold garden ornaments. It’s obvious if you think about it.
Diplo’s nemesis decided – and fair enough – that Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor is no name for a popstar and went for something a little more (geddit?) ‘royal’. The extra ‘e’ at the end feminises it – rather than, you know, calling herself Lady or something.
43Yo La Tengo
Yo La Tengo
Of all the convoluted band name origins… New Jersey art-rockers Yo La Tengo’s name is the Spanish for “I’ve got it!” and refers to a hoary old tale about the 1962 New York Mets, who used it as a call to stop infielder Elio Chacon bumping into people when he went for the ball – he didn’t understand the English shout. The story goes, it didn’t work anyway.
The unusual spelling is the timeworn device to, well, stop yourself getting sued – that’s how Abel Tesfaye avoided the attentions of Canadian band The Weekend. As for the original name itself, it’s a homage to the lost weekend when he left the familial home at 17 and never returned.
Annie Clark found some suitably highbrow references for her St Vincent stage name. It’s taken from the Saint Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center where Welsh playwright and poet Dylan Thomas. “The place where poetry comes to die,” Clark has said, doing herself down somewhat.
Well, what’s it going to be, Hov? Jay-Z is either a tribute to his old mentor, rapper Jaz-O, or a skit on his old childhood nickname ‘Jazzy’, or indeed another play on the J/Z subway station near his Brooklyn roots. Let’s take it as an amalgam of all three, the stars aligning.
Back in World War II, allied flying aces referred to UFOs as “foo fighters”. When Dave Grohl was getting his own music together in the Nirvana fallout he was playing everything himself, but thought the combination of group name and its mysterious roots might kid people into thinking they were a proper – yet anonymous, unidentified – group.
They come from London, and they’re delivering the city’s lingua franca. Something like that anyway. The trio actually met at university in Nottingham, but as singer Hannah Reid told the Evening Standard, London is not only where they’re from, it’s “also so international and multicultural that it actually felt like quite a universal name in a way.”
Originally called The Mullanes – just look at singer Neil Finn’s Twitter name, Neil Mullane Finn – New Zealand pop classicists Crowded House chose their new name when they signed up with Capitol Records, who fancied something more sellable. Bassist Nick Seymour was always inviting people around to the band’s Hollywood apartment, which got rather, um, crowded.
50Two Door Cinema Club
Two Door Cinema Club
There’s a Tudor Cinema in the boys’ hometown of Bangor, and guitarist Sam Halliday just happened to mispronounce it as “Two Door Cinema”. Sometimes it really is as simple as that.