Band Names

Name that Band

Have you ever wondered how band names come about? It’s harder to name a band than you might realize. Everything needs to come together in just the right way. Here’s our story.

We have been playing together for about a year now. Brian Surano our drummer is family. He and I have been talking about playing together forever and when I moved back to California after being in New Mexico for over a decade, we finally had our chance. We started jamming some of my songs that I had already recorded and played but I knew I needed to write some new ones. I started doing that while we thought about how we were going to find a bass player.

I’m not a famous rockstar just a teacher, and I was at a conference for bilingual educators in San Francisco with Miguel, also a teacher at my school. The conference was last spring and ended on Good Friday. He and I decided to go to the Mission district for food and tequila. After hanging out a bit, we decided that since it was Good Friday we should go to church. So we stumbled over to the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Asisi and found the door to the original chapel. We went inside where mass had already started, found a pew, and joined in the singing. After a while we were lead to the main church where we joined the larger congregation mid-song, perfect timing and almost the same key, like a throng of lost and cast-out angels. This may not seem like a normal place for a kick-ass rock band to begin but the music was beautiful, and I love music. Also symbols. During one of the hymns, a giant cross was passed around like Kurt Cobain’s body over a sweaty and frantic mosh-pit. The only way for it to make it around the building and back to the altar was for several people to pass it on at once. So Miguel and I carried the cross together, stumbled out onto the street, buzzing both from the effects of the tequila and the spiritual experience we had just had. At this point my brother, who lives in the Mission and is a musician, was home and beginning his rehearsal for an upcoming show he had with his band Rad Cloud, a surfy lounge-rock band. I asked Miguel if he played music, he said he played bass. When we got my brother’s place, I grabbed an electric guitar and Miguel started thumping on the upright bass while we played alongside and within a loungy cloud of radness. The search was over.

Since then we played a couple of house parties but mostly worked on writing and learning new songs and trying to record them. When we finally finished the album (more on this later) and waited for it to be mastered, I started an informal focus group about the band name. We wanted something that sounded cool but a little light-hearted. Something that represented us and that would help us take the world by storm. The problem is that every name we could think of that seemed reasonable was already taken. Every single one, there must have been about 200 we tried. If you don’t believe me try it out for yourself, I dare you, anything you think is cool is taken. For a while we had been wanting to call ourselves “The Sawed off Buskers.” The problem with this name was two-fold. First of all, nobody in the U.S. seems to know what a busker is, so that was working about as well as a joke where you are constantly needing to explain the punchline. Second, the way our lives are, we knew we wouldn’t be able to play on the street enough for a band with buskers in the name and we didn’t want to be just a bunch of posers. So we kept at the name thing and nothing was working. Finally, my eight-year-old son found out what we were doing and demanded he be a part of the process. He became obsessed and wouldn’t let it alone until I finally told him to come up with his best three names, write them down, and that I would consider them. Every name had a type of lizard in it and I kind of liked this one. I took the name to my high school students and they also seemed to like the idea. It didn’t hurt that Jabba the Hutt’s side-kick in Return of the Jedi is also a Kowakian Monkey Lizard. All of these pieces were fitting together too nicely so finally a name, and a band were formed.