The silliest origins of cool band names

You know that band you love, the one you have the poster of on your bedroom wall, and whose music comforts you when times are hard? The one whose name you ganked for your YouTube username (but with 2495 stuck on the end, of course) because it's such a cool name? Well, that name probably wasn't the miraculous creation of your favorite musician's genius, but actually the product of a weird and silly accident.

Arcade Fire

Contrary to popular belief, most musicians don't find inspiration in the laughter of children, or the wind in the trees, or the clouds in the sky. We know this because they don't ever sing about the laughter of children, or any of that other stuff. Musicians are people, and like most people, they spend a disappointing amount of their time engaged in pointless conversations and getting dumped. Luckily for Win Butler, the lead singer of Arcade Fire, the band name was not the product of a bad breakup—it was, however, the product of a dumb conversation about an arcade that was on fire … maybe. In his own words, "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." Totally inspiring.

Daft Punk

Before they became Daft Punk, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo were two of three members of a short lived guitar-based band called Darlin'. Shortly before Darlin' strummed its last chord, two of the band's songs were reviewed in Melody Maker, a British weekly music newspaper. In the process of giving Darlin' a definite-but-brief thumbs down, reviewer Dave Jennings described their music as "a daft punky thrash." Despite the negativity (the band was on the way out, anyway), Bangalter and Homem-Christo were so amused by the creative dig at their musical efforts that they kept it. Using a negative review to name your successful new band seems an almost phoenix-like act of rebirth … but it's also, definitely, daft.

Chvrches

Chvrches are a popular musical team from Glasgow, and the story behind that peculiar name has to be the most "millennial" yet. The decision to call the band "Churches" was unfortunately not a diabolical ploy to tempt and convert devout listeners of Christian rock, but instead it was chosen on a whim because "it's easy to pronounce to Americans." Another criteria was that they should be able to say the name to their moms without cringing, which seems like a sensible precaution (we're looking at you, Cherry Poppin' Daddies).

The most interesting element of the name, however, is that curious "v", just sitting there in the middle, like a lemon in a bowl of oranges. The band put it there so all their fan boys and girls, and Christian rock converts, could distinguish them from actual churches in an internet search. So it's really just a practical marketing decision made to look like branding.

The Human League

The Human League started out life as The Future when it was first formed in 1977. Founders Ian Marsh and Martyn Ware decided to change the name when they added Phillip Oakley to the lineup for vocals—it was either that or a third keyboard player, and since they couldn't actually afford another keyboard, they went with the singer. Their use of synthesisers already gave the band a futuristic style (at least, as far as the '70s was concerned), and there probably isn't a lot of leeway when you were previously called "The Future," so they went looking for sci-fi inspiration. And since it was the '70s, and the internet was probably just a popular fishing tool, they found inspiration in a board game called Starforce: Alpha Centauri, which contained a society of humans called—you guessed it—the Human League. Are they total geeks, or what?.

System of a Down

System of a Down are a '90s thrash metal band that hasn't got round to retiring the tour bus. Their name is a pretty evocative collection of words, implying a lot of things but not actually saying anything at all—and that's actually what the band likes about it. According to John Dolmayan (the band's drummer), its origins lie in the poetry of the band's guitarist, Daron Malakian. As the story goes, Daron was writing down his feelings (probably in a little book with a lock on it), and he wrote a poem called "Victims of a Down." He brought it to one of the band's regular show-and-tell sessions, and they all kind of liked it. However, they decided to change the word "victims" to "system," because it was less personal and more open to interpretation (also, less depressing). It still means effectively nothing—and therefore potentially everything, depending upon your state of mind when you come across it. It's like a linguistic inkblot test, but without the subsequent Freudian interpretations.

Mötley Crüe

Recently disbanded glam rock band Mötley Crüe has been making loud noises since 1981, which is longer than most bands that actually give thought to their name. Initial ideas for a name included the unpopular suggestion "Christmas" for some reason, but the winner ended up coming from an experience guitarist Mick Mars had with his previous band, White Horse. One of the band members described the rest as "a motley looking crew," which stuck with Mick just long enough for him to write it down, but not long enough to spell it correctly. He remembered the phrase come new-band-naming time, and with a few more creative misspellings, and the addition of a couple of umlauts (inspired by the Löwenbräu beer they were drinking at the time), hocus pocus they had a brand-new, super-popular and successful, incredibly stupid and meaningless name.