Some band names stuck for all the right reasons, while others have left some artists rueing the day they mislabeled themselves. Throughout history, bands have been guilty of concocting a name in moments of haste, confusion, or naïveté, without giving much thought to the tag they were placing on themselves. There were others who believed their name was a good idea “at the time,” then regretted their choice of moniker many years later.
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Here’s a look at seven bands who still aren’t keen on their names and some who have even changed them along the way.
1. Lady Antebellum (Now Lady A)
In the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, Lady Antebellum—which they were then called and since forming in 2006—decided it was time to change their name and rebrand the band as Lady A. In a lengthy post on Twitter on June 11, 2020, the band — Hillary Scott, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley — shared a statement explaining their name change and added that they were “regretful and embarrassed” by it after realizing the association of the name “Antebellum” to slavery in America.
“Antebellum” is a period associated with the pre-Civil War when many Americans, particularly those in the South, owned slaves.
“When we set out together almost 14 years ago, we named our band after the southern ‘antebellum’ style home where we took our first photos,” wrote the band in their post. “As musicians, it reminded us of all the music born in the south that influenced us — southern rock, blues, R&B, gospel and, of course, country. But we are regretful and embarrassed to say that we did not take into account the associations that weigh down this word referring to the period of history before the civil war, which includes slavery.”
Some fans criticized the band for waiting so long to change it, while others accepted the name change. Regardless of the initial reactions, the band have been Lady A ever since.
In 2022, the group settled a lawsuit filed against them by Seattle blues singer, Anita White, who also goes by the name Lady A.
2. Mumford & Sons
“I regret our band name,” said Marcus Mumford in 2016 of Mumford & Sons. “It’s rubbish. It’s a rubbish name. You never really think about it when you’re in the pub, you’ve done your first rehearsal, you’ve written your first song, and someone’s like ‘You need a band name now.’”
Derived from Mumford’s surname, at first, the band wanted to call the band something that would denote a family business of sorts. When asked if he should have named the band Lovett and Sons, Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett said it wouldn’t have made sense at the time.
“It would have just sounded like Lyle Lovett’s side project,” said Lovett in 2011. “No, honestly, when we put the band together Marcus [Mumford] was the one making the phone calls and getting the gigs. We never thought anyone outside of London was going to see us. The band name kind of made sense as an antiquated family business name.”
The word “mogwai” derives from the Cantonese word meaning “evil spirit” or “devil.”
As dark as their music can often get, the Glaswegian quartet—made up of Stuart Braithwaite, Dominic Aitchison, Martin Bulloch, and Barry Burns—never had any intention of having the more wicked connotation tied to the band since they initially chose the name after the 1980s Gremlins character, Mogwai. They even intended on changing their name since forming in 1995 but never got around to it.
Mogwai “has no significant meaning,” revealed Braithwaithe, “and we always intended on getting a better one, but like a lot of other things we never got round to it.”
4. The Dixie Chicks (Now The Chicks)
Just two weeks after Lady A changed their name, The Dixie Chicks (as they were then called) followed suit. The country trio of Emily Strayer, Martie Maguire, and Natalie Maines dropped the word “Dixie,” in their name due to its association with the Confederate-era South and rebranded themselves as The Chicks in 2020.
The Chicks admitted that they wanted to change their name many years earlier after seeing the Confederate flag labeled as “the Dixie Swastika.” The Chicks made little comment after changing their name with the exception of “We want to meet this moment,” along with the release of the video for their song “March March,” which featured footage of historic and more current protests centered around environmental causes, women’s rights, gay rights, and Black Lives Matter.
The group now shares its name with another band in New Zealand, the 1960s sibling duo of Judy and Sue Donaldson, who began performing in the 1960s. The singing sisters gave The Chicks their blessing to use the name.
“A sincere and heartfelt thank you goes out to ‘The Chicks’ of [New Zealand] for their gracious gesture in allowing us to share their name,” The Chicks told the sibling duo. “We are honored to co-exist together in the world with these exceptionally talented sisters. Chicks Rock!”
Read the full story behind the band name switch to The Chicks HERE.
5. Death Cab for Cutie
Death Cab For Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard revealed that he clipped the band’s name from the 1967 song of the same title, by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, a group formed in London by a group of art students in the 1960s.
The song “Death Cab For Cutie“—originally written and composed by Vivian Stanshall and Neil Innes, and featured on the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band’s 1967 album, Gorilla—apparently sounded “cute” to Gibbard at the time, but it’s a name he regrets placing on his band.
“The name was never supposed to be something that someone was going to reference 15 years on,” said Gibbard in a 2011 interview with TimeOut Chicago. “I would absolutely go back and give it a more obvious name.”
Check out the full meaning behind the band name Death Cab for Cutie HERE.
6. Arctic Monkeys
Arctic Monkeys‘ frontman Alex Turner will admit he’s not fond of the band’s name, but he just chalks it up to sheer naïveté. “This is the first band I’ve been in,” said Turner in 2011. “A lot of people in bands have a few goes at it before they find the one that works but with us, we all started playing guitar and everything at the same time.”
Formed in Sheffield, England in 2022, the band has held the moniker since then.
“There might have been other ideas for offshoots at the time, but the Monkeys was the first one,” continued Turner. “It sounds like a first band name, doesn’t it? It’s so bad that the tribute bands don’t sound worse. I saw there’s an Aertex Monkeys. That’s pretty clever.”
In another interview, Turner expressed his frustration with the band’s name and blamed guitarist Jamie Cook for coming up with it. “It was Jamie’s fault,” said Turner. “He came up with it and he’s never even told us why. If he even knows, he’s keeping it a secret from me.”
Read the entire history and meaning behind the band name Arctic Monkeys HERE.
7. Foo Fighters
“It’s the dumbest band name ever,” said Dave Grohl in a 2014 interview on 60 Minutes, referring to Foo Fighters, a name he pulled from the slang used for UFOs during World War II.
After Nirvana ended, following the death of Kurt Cobain in 1994, Grohl admitted that he wasn’t sure how long this new musical project he was starting would last, so he called it Foo Fighters.
“I called it Foo Fighters because I didn’t want people … I didn’t want to put my name on it at first,” said Grohl. “I didn’t want people to say, like, “Oh, that’s the guy from Nirvana.'”
He continued, “Had I imagined that it would last more than a month-and-a-half, I might have named it something else.”
Read the full story meaning behind the band name, Foo Fighters, HERE.
Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame