Special Report

25 Bands with the Strangest Names and Where They Came From

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Band names used to be relatively easy and straightforward. Some had titles that were for their leaders, like Bill Haley and the Comets, or Stan Kenton and His Orchestra, while others were meant to be stylish or at least memorable, like The Harmonicats or The Fleetwoods.

The early 1960s saw the dawn of more imaginative names. Although there still remain similar ways of naming bands, creative monikers were on the rise. The Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and slightly later the Flying Burrito Brothers were all musical staples of the era. (That’s hardly the only band with a culinary moniker, by the way. Here are 25 bands with food names.)

Then there were groups like the Rolling Stones who took their name from a classic Muddy Waters blues song, “Rollin’ Stone” — which, incidentally, also inspired the name of a notable music and pop culture publication and a Bob Dylan song. Incidentally, The Beatles (originally The Quarrymen) were considering calling themselves some variation on “Beetles” — to parallel rock pioneer Buddy Holly’s famous band, The Crickets. Apparently, John Lennon had the inspiration to change the spelling of the insect slightly to give it a musical touch. See also little-known fascinating facts about The Beatles.

Then we arrived in the late 20th century, to the current time, where band names have gotten increasingly unusual. Some are nonsensical (Hoobastank), some are wordy (When People Were Shorter and Lived Near the Water), and some are more or less impenetrable (30 Odd Foot of Grunts).

By utilizing various music business publications and blogs such as Rolling Stone, Spin, Pitchfork, and Clash Music, as well as a wide range of local and regional arts and culture sites, 24/7 Tempo has assembled a list of what might well be the 25 strangest band names you’ve ever heard, along with explanations — in some cases admittedly vague and/or fanciful — of where those names came from.

Here are bands with strange names and where they came from

!!!
> Founded: Sacramento, California, 1996
> Genre: Funk rock, dance
> Representative album: Wallop

The band took this evidently unpronounceable name from the way clicking sounds in the southern African Jul’hoan language. The sounds were represented in the subtitles for the 1980 international hit film from South Africa, “The Gods Must Be Crazy.” The group also sometimes calls itself Chk Chk Chk, only slightly easier to pronounce.

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30 Odd Foot of Grunts
> Founded: Sydney, Australia, 1992
> Genre: Rock
> Representative album: Other Ways of Speaking

Actor Russell Crowe was the lead singer and vocalist of this Aussie band, which apparently drew its name from the collective height of its members and the earthy enthusiasm with which they performed. In 2005, the group evolved into another one with the same initials, The Ordinary Fear of God. When that folded, Crowe formed a band with the bland name Indoor Garden Party, which released one album in 2017.

Archers of Loaf
> Founded: Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1991
> Genre: Alternative
> Representative album: White Trash Heroes

When asked about the meaning of his band’s name by Clash Music, co-founder Eric Bachmann replied, “It’s a riddle. It means something in Russian, but we intentionally mistranslated it. Work it out.”

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Bowling for Soup
> Founded: Wichita Falls, Texas, 1994
> Genre: Alternative
> Representative album: A Hangover You Don’t Deserve

Steve Martin did a sketch on his 1978 comedy album, “Wild and Crazy Guy,” called “Bowling for (expletive)” — a parody of the TV game show “Bowling for Dollars.” This band formed originally as Rubberneck, but after a few months, it adopted the name of the sketch as its own, bowdlerizing the final word of Martin’s title into something more, shall we say, palatable.

Chumbawamba
> Founded: Burnley, England, 1982
> Genre: Alternative
> Representative album: Tubthumper

Apparently, members of this politically and socially outspoken band used to delight in making up stories about where their name came from. One version was that it was based on a chant from a troupe of African drummers who played next to band members when they were busking in Paris. Another explanation is that co-founder Danbert Nobacon had a dream about being in a club where the restrooms were labeled “Chumba” and “Wamba” instead of “Men” and “Women.”

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Dirty Projectors
> Founded: Brooklyn, New York, 2002
> Genre: Alternative
> Representative album: Bitte Orca

David Longstreth, founder and only consistent member of Dirty Projectors, started using this band name in 2003. He claims to have no recollection of why he chose it or what it means.

The Everybodyfields
> Founded: Johnson City, Tennessee, 2004
> Genre: Alt. country, roots rock
> Representative album: Halfway There: Electricity and the South

Sam Quinn, co-founder of this Tennessee band, christened it after his childhood nickname for his rural backyard.

Faster Pussycat
> Founded: Los Angeles, California, 1985
> Genre: Rock, glam metal
> Representative album: Wake Me When It’s Over

This group borrowed its name from soft-core porn producer and director Russ Meyer’s 1965 sexploitation cult film “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!,” about three go-go dancers on a killing spree through California.

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Godspeed You! Black Emperor
> Founded: Montreal, Quebec, 1994
> Genre: Experimental rock
> Representative album: Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven

This Canadian collective borrowed its name, which it sometimes renders as GY!BE, from a 1976 documentary by director Mitsuo Yanagimachi about a Japanese motorcycle gang, the Black Emperors.

Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci
> Founded: Carmarthen, Wales, 1991
> Genre: Psychedelic Folk
> Representative album: Barafundle

Performing in both English and Welsh, this band was part of the so-called Cool Cymru arts movement in the late 1990s (“Cymru” is the Welsh name for Wales). In various interviews, band members have said that they couldn’t think of a name so decided to just put a bunch of silly words together. “Gorky’s” was based on “gork” — Welsh school slang for “dimwit.” “Zygotic” referenced a zygote, or fertilized egg, and “mynci” was not a translation but a phonetic transcription of “monkey” using Welsh spelling.

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Hiss Golden Messenger
> Founded: Durham, North Carolina, 2007
> Genre: Alt.folk, alt.country
> Representative album: Lateness of Dancers

The group’s lead singer and co-founder, M.C. Taylor, has said that the name just came to him from “a mysterious sort of universe” while he was living in San Francisco. He admits that he’s often asked about it and says that, other than that, he doesn’t have a good answer.

Hoobastank
> Founded: Agoura Hills, California, 1994
> Genre: Alternative
> Representative album: The Greatest Hits: Don’t Touch My Moustache

This mysterious name is said to have come from a mispronunciation of a German street name by co-founder Chris Hesse. What the original could have been is hard to imagine.

I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness
> Founded: Austin, Texas, 2003
> Genre: Post-punk
> Representative album: Dust

“Pressing any member of [this] Austin-based quintet … on the origins of their proper-sentence band name,” according to Spin, “only leads to cheeky responses.” The phrase is also the title of a recent novel by award-winning author Claire Vaye Watkins.

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Iwrestledabearonce
> Founded: Shreveport, Louisiana, 2007
> Genre: Metalcore, deathcore
> Representative album: Hail Mary

Famed University of Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant earned his nickname as a young man by wrestling a bear in a ring on a bet. When Gary Busey played Bryant in the 1984 movie “The Bear,” he insisted on reproducing the challenge literally. In later years, on “Late Night with David Letterman” and elsewhere, he’d sometimes brag, “I wrestled a bear once.” Band members heard this at some point and decided it would be a good group name.

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard
> Founded: Melbourne, Australia, 2010
> Genre: Acid rock, garage rock
> Representative album: Nonagon Infinity

The name of this Australian group was made up at the last minute. They were just friends who used to get together to play when another friend asked the as-yet-unnamed ensemble to perform at a show. One of the founders wanted to call the band Gizzard Gizzard for their public debut, while another one thought they should borrow the Doors’ Jim Morrison’s nickname, the Lizard King. They compromised.

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Mike Adams at His Honest Weight
> Founded: Bloomington, Indiana, 2011
> Genre: Alternative
> Representative album: Casino Drone

The leader of this group, not surprisingly, is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist named Mike Adams. When he was about to release his first solo album (the band coalesced later), he and a friend came up with the “Honest Weight” part because he wanted to bill himself as something more than just “Mike Adams.” It wasn’t about his physique, he has said. As he told the arts and culture publication The Arts Fuse, “‘Honest weight’ has more to do with, like, karats of gold, maybe. The ‘weight’ being the value of something.”

Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head
> Founded: Seattle, Washington, 2005
> Genre: Alternative, electronic
> Representative album: Glistening Pleasure

This imaginative name was in reference to Israeli-born actress Natalie Portman’s appearance in the 2005 sci-fi film “V for Vendetta.” Disappointingly, the band changed its name to Brite Futures before breaking up in 2012.

Neutral Milk Hotel
> Founded: Ruston, Louisiana, 1989
> Genre: Alternative
> Representative album: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

This lo-fi cult band was born out of a series of home recordings by singer-songwriter and guitarist Jeff Mangum. When he got together with friends to form a band, he originally dubbed it Milk. There was another band by that name, though, so he added “Neutral” and “Hotel.” Why? When he’s been asked, Mangum has replied that he prefers to keep that private. According to the music blog Stereogum, the name was actually coined by one of Mangum’s bandmates in an earlier group.

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The Number Twelve Looks Like You
> Founded: Bergen County, New Jersey, 2002
> Genre: Mathcore
> Representative album: Worse Than Alone

The inspiration for this band’s name was a 1964 episode of “The Twilight Zone” called “Number 12 Looks Just Like You” — an eerie tale about a future society in which all 19-year-olds undergo a procedure to make them resemble one of a selection of physically attractive models.

Poi Dog Pondering
> Founded: Honolulu, Hawaii, 1984
> Genre: Alternative
> Representative album: Pomegranate

Originally a street band in Hawaii before moving on to Austin and later to Chicago, this ensemble — whose changing personnel has always numbered about 10 or 12 members — was named by co-founder Frank Orrall. “Poi dog” is Hawaiian slang for “mutt,” and Orrall apparently liked the contradictions implied by the image of such a canine having serious thoughts.

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Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
> Founded: Melbourne, Australia, 2013
> Genre: Alternative, post-punk
> Representative album: Hope Downs

One of this Melbourne band’s early songs was called “Rolling Blackouts,” and they eventually adopted it as the group name, too. That there were several other bands with the same name, though, didn’t matter at first because, as co-founder Fran Keaney told Bandcamp, “we were pretty much a bedroom kind of band.” When they gained a larger audience, they appended “Coastal Fever” to their name — a reference to a bout with a virus that kept their guitarist confined to a Cambodian hostel for a time.

Toad the Wet Sprocket
> Founded: Santa Barbara, California, 1986
> Genre: Alternative
> Representative album: Dulcinea

Eric Idle of Monty Python came up with the silliest possible band name he could imagine for a sketch about rock musicians (“Rex Stardust, lead electric triangle with Toad the Wet Sprocket, has had to have an elbow removed…”). To Idle’s eventual surprise when he first heard the band on the radio, members of a real group thought it would be funny to adopt the name.

The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza
> Founded: Murfreesboro, Tennessee, 2004
> Genre: Mathcore
> Representative album: Danza III: The Alpha — The Omega

Actor Tony Danza (“Who’s the Boss?”) was a tap dancer early in his career, and this now-defunct group borrowed his name and profession as a joke. Apparently, when they played live shows, at least some of the audience — mainly an older demographic — came expecting to see Danza himself tap dancing on stage.

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