23 Perplexing Band Name Meanings Explained

With the new Fountains of Wayne album dropping tomorrow, it’s good to have their name back in the rotation. But let us indulge our inner Shakespeare as we ask what, exactly, is in a name? Are Fountains of Wayne named after some elaborate waterworks cluster depicting Wayne Campbell in various poses: The “Shwing,” The “Party On,” The “Dream Sequence,” you get the idea…?

The power poppers in Fountains of Wayne are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the seemingly nonsensical world of band names. At least the FoW moniker is based on a grammatically correct phrase. For many acts, their name sounds as though the members were intoxicated and decided to string together the first words that popped into their foggy minds. Below, we’ve uncovered the origins behind some of the most vexing band names around. Sometimes there’s a method to the madness, and other times it’s just murky mythology.

30 Seconds To Mars

In a surprisingly nerdy origin story, 30 Seconds To Mars, the name of Jared Leto’s band, was taken from part of a lecture about humans and exponential advances in technology.

50 Cent

Why not go for a full dollar? Because 50 Cent aka Curtis Jackson wanted to repurpose the nickname from a 1980s criminal to honor him and to use it as a symbol for “change.”

Archers of Loaf

Conjuring pockmarked loaves of Wonderbread, “Archers of Loaf” is, well, nothing more than the very type of befuddling word chain we were out to demystify. Rumor has it the band just opened a dictionary and randomly pointed to “archer” and then “loaf.”

Blink-182

Blink-182 was originally just called Blink, until an Irish band of the same name threatened to take legal action. To avoid a lawsuit, they added 182, which appears to carry no significance.

Cage The Elephant

This one is truly from the ramblings of a crazy man. Some dude was talking to himself and menacingly approached the band outside a club, telling them “you have to Cage the Elephant.”

Cobra Starship

Cobra Starship” are words taken from the back of the front man’s favorite jacket. Fifteen years ago, using the same methodology, the name would’ve probably ended up being “Starter Official Apparel.”

Coldplay

Often accused of plagiarizing music, the band legitimately used someone else’s idea for this name, when a local student suggested it to them.

Death Cab For Cutie

Named after a non-Beatles song from “Magical Mystery Tour.” Which is why nobody recognizes the name.

The Devil Wears Prada

These Christian-tinged metalheads chose the name for its anti-materialism vibe, but only realized after reading the book and seeing the movie that the story is about as pro-materialism as it gets. Whoops.

Foster the People

Mark Foster originally called his group Foster and the People, but people misheard it as “Foster the People” and Mark ended up digging the positive vibes of the name.

Fountains of Wayne

According to their website, the band lifted the name from a now-closed garden store in Wayne, New Jersey.

Gym Class Heroes

The name gives us flashbacks of meatheads getting all aggro and pushing us around in phys ed, but this group is so named because Travie McCoy met the drummer in gym class back in ninth grade.

Jimmy Eat World

No, not a sly religious acronym, this name actually came from a sibling rivalry. Band member Tom Linton’s little brothers apparently got into a scuffle years ago, and in some sort of revenge act, Ed drew a picture in crayon of Jimmy shoving the globe into his mouth, and titled it “jimmy eat world.” The lesson? Kids are weird.

Linkin Park

Named to honor Santa Monica’s Lincoln Park, Linkin Park changed the spelling since www.lincolnpark.com was already taken. Plus, missepellings = authenticity, duh.

Lupe Fiasco

Wasalu Muhammad Jaco took his nickname, “Lupe,” and added the cool-sounding “Fiasco” to become, uh, Lupe Fiasco. Unfortunately, it was too late when he realized he should be calling other MC’s fiascoes, not himself.

Maroon 5

Well, the band is a five-piece, so there’s that. But according to Maroon 5‘s website, only the members and Billy Joel know the true origins of the name.

Nine Inch Nails

Probably a reference to the nine-inch spikes used to crucify Jesus, front man Trent Reznor liked that it abbreviated easily.

Paramore

Paramore” is the maiden name of their friend’s mother. Once they found out the meaning of the word “paramour,” they were sold.

Pearl Jam

Bassist Jeff Ament came up with “pearl” while the band brainstormed potential names. Then a few members saw Neil Young live and he stretched out songs to 15 or 20 minutes, and thus they were inspired to add “jam.” And just think, if Neil Young had been tired or lazy that night, we’d all be listening to Pearl Half-Assing It.

Taking Back Sunday

Surprisingly, it wasn’t already owned by any atheist groups. This was copied from a song of the same name by their friends’ band.

U2

Often thought to relate to U-2 spy planes, “U2” was actually chosen from a list of potential names because it was short, crisp and vague.

Usher

An homage to his first job? Or just the exact opposite of his current job? Nope. Usher is the man’s actual first name.

Vampire Weekend

We thought maybe it had something to do with some crazy Columbia University secret society…but it’s actually just named after a film that singer Ezra Koenig worked on while an undergrad there.