The Best Band Names of All Time

On planet music, there is no shortage of good band names. From provocative to hilarious, pleasing to the ear to clever, the titles musical groups go by can be instantly iconic.

Some, like The Who, just sit well. It’s a name with many meanings, ideal for a British band that would become one of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest ever. You can just imagine the puzzled club-goers in the band’s formative days, responding with a confused, “the who?,” when hearing the band’s moniker.

Others, like Let’s Eat Grandma or The Helio Sequence pull you in. The former is an absurd proposition while the latter has a gorgeous ring to it. Both are memorable and almost set the act up for success. If you’re gonna go by a name that engrossing, you better own it on stage.

Even a good abbreviation can make for a fantastic band name, like MGMT. Many of the best names are evocative, mystical even, like Magic Sword, the electro-pop band out of Boise, Idaho that performs in cloaks. 

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Instead of just offering our own list of best band names (which we do), we thought we’d go a step further and query some music industry types for their favorites. Here they are, on behalf of a few writers, editors, and musicians in the know.

Mark Stock / The Manual

Gaytheist

Bands love to play with words. Portland trio Gaytheist goes by a picture-perfect name in that sense. Not only is the band unbelievably noisy and all kinds of punk rock, it’s fronted by a gay atheist who sports a delightful zero-fucks-given mentality.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

Some of the best band names are longwinded and showy. This Aussie band opts for just that with a name that, if written on the back of a jersey, would have to be in a very tiny font size. King Gizzard’s audacious name seems to reflect both the size of the band (a seven-piece) and its cerebral, psych-rock sound, so heady it’ll put you on a different plane.

Yeasayer

Yeasayer

Yeasayer just feels so positive and optimistic and bright, you want to shout it from the mountaintops. It helps that Yeasayer’s music is wonderfully complex, like a modern day Pink Floyd.

Pussy Riot

Pussy Riot

An ear-turning name from a band that has made activism its driving force. The name is designed to piss off the patriarchy and defy goons in power who favor censorship.

Digable Planets

Digable Planets

An ultra-thoughtful name from a band that defies most genres. And yet, the name also comes off as effortlessly cool. It’s spacey, earthy, and thought-provoking.

Matt Singer / Willamette Week Arts & Culture Editor

X

Simple, mysterious and utterly un-Google-able, which probably explains why their legacy as one of the great American rock bands of the ’80s faded in the internet age.

Public Enemy

Mainstream acts that take hard-left political stances often announce themselves with all the subtlety of a flash-bang, but the most radical of them all manage to hint at their dangerous ideas without proclaiming their intentions to rage against the system — the epitome of the phrase, one might say.

OutKast

OutKast

The “k” is capitalized because it does the heavy lifting here. “Outcast” looks limp written out. With the “k”? Cooler than a polar bear’s toenails. 

Funkadelic

The band is funky. They’re also psychedelic. What more do you need to know?

Tommy Franzen / Mothertapes Drummer

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

A fittingly enigmatic name for an enigmatic band.

The Band

The Band
The definitive “The” name. Who needs Dylan anyway?

Queens of the Stone Age

Queens of the Stone Age
A playful name for a band that straddles rough-edged rock and radio-friendly hits.

The Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead
Supposedly named by pure chance, it fits the ethos of a band whose music was central to a counter-culture revolution.

Jeni Wren Stottrup / Musician, Editor, Gritty Birds Podcasting

Thunderpussy

Thunderpussy

This Seattle band’s name is as fun and raucous to say out loud as their high-energy shows are to experience.

Childish Gambino

Childish Gambino

I love saying this off my tongue and that Daniel Glover came up with the moniker from a Wu-Tang name generator, proving that you shouldn’t always take yourself too seriously.

The Band

The Band

This iconic group proved that a name doesn’t need to be complicated if the music speaks for itself.

MF Doom/Madvillain

MF Doom/Madvillain

This hip hop artist goes by many names and I love the playfulness he uses with his villain monikers, all of which shift depending on what his sound is and who he’s working with.

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