Daft: adj meaning “silly; foolish.”
Punk: adj meaning “a loud, fast-moving, and aggressive form of rock music”; also “a worthless person”
It is with these terms as a backdrop that we dive into the history and meaning of the band name, Daft Punk.
Formed in 1993 in France, the electronic music duo, which has now retired, was comprised of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo. As the last decade of the 20th century continued, the two gained popularity and recognition amidst the French house movement scene, combining house with funk, disco, rock, and pop. Today, they’re thought of as one of the most influential electronic bands of all time.
The two founded Daft Punk after their indie rock band, Darlin,’ broke up. That’s when they began to experiment with drum machines and synths. They released their debut LP, Homework, in 1997. It featured singles, “Around the World” and “Da Funk.” In 1999, the two musicians began to take on their now-infamous robot personas in public, complete with helmets, futuristic outfits, and more. They stayed out of the media’s eye, preferring mystery.
The group released its sophomore LP, Discovery, in 2001. And in 2013, they released their fourth and final album, Random Access Memories. That final LP featured the globally popular track, “Get Lucky,” which the duo wrote with Pharrell Williams. In their time as a group, the band also collaborated with the likes of The Weeknd and Kanye West to great attention.
Focusing on the band’s memorable name requires a deeper look at the group’s origin story.
The two founding members met in 1987 while attending secondary school in Paris. They became friends and recorded demos. In 1992, the band formed the guitar-based band Darlin’ with Bangalter on bass and Homem-Christo on a six-string guitar. Laurent Brancowitz played guitar and drums. That group was named after the Beach Boys’ song, “Darlin,” which they covered and released as a single with an original song, too.
But it only took six months for Darlin’ to disband. In total, they’d only written and produced four songs and performed two shows. Since that time, Bangalter noted the group was “pretty average.” While Brancowitz went on to play music with another band Phoenix, the other two members went on to form Daft Punk, working with drum machines and synths.
The name Daft Punk was plucked from a negative review of their previous band Darlin’ in the outlet Melody Maker. Writer Dave Jennings had called that band’s music “a daft punky thrash.” The band members chuckled, finding the review humorous. And Homem-Christo is quoted as saying, “We struggled so long to find [the name] Darlin’, and [this name] happened so quickly.”
In other words, they redefined themselves by taking a negative and flipping it into a positive. If that’s not the definition of art, then who knows what is?
Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage