Everyone knows what that “Christian radio” sound is. You’re on a roadtrip, flipping through the radio stations, and you land on some music that you just know is Christian. It’s not the lyrics. It’s not the instruments. It’s not even necessarily bad. It just sounds …Christian.
Band names work the same way. You don’t have to be born and raised in the Bible Belt to know that bands like MERCY ME, Casting Crowns and Third Day are Christian, without ever hearing a single song. Likewise, you don’t have to be a student of classic rock or hip-hop to know Twisted Sister and Wu-Tang Clan are mainstream. The band names all fit just right.
But sometimes, a band name can sneak through that almost fools you. It’s not always explicitly Christian-sounding, but it can ring “Christian-y” in a way that might make you wonder just what sort of music it is. This can come in handy for kids in strict religious households trying to sneak some mainstream music in (“They’re called Black Sabbath, Mom!”) but it can also throw you off a little.
Here are a few of our favorite examples.
A band that ended up shaping a lot of modern indie pop and had a lot longer tail than the youth group fashion trend that inspired the name.
Pronounced “churches.” Not …uh …”chu-vurches.”
Best-known for this pretty fun New Wave hit in the 1980s, though unfortunately not quite as timeless as the Church itself.
Our Lady Peace
This Canadian radio rock act was named after Mark Van Doren’s famous poem, which is not technically religious in nature. But Our Lady Peace still just sort of sounds high church-y.
Peter, Paul and Mary
This one may sound like a clever Bible reference but it was really just truth in advertising. Mary Travers, Peter Yarrow and Paul Stokey were a huge part of the Greenwich Village folk revival, although spiritual revival wasn’t really on their mind.
Gwen Stefani and crew’s band name doubles as a great little summer church camp chant.
Jesus and Mary Chain
Unlike Peter, Paul and Mary, this band was very clearly going after a religious vibe with their name, however ironically. They never saw much chart success, but their impact on the sound that would come to be known as shoegaze was enormous. Who needs album sales when you’ve got legacy?
Admittedly, you’d probably have to been living in the woods since the 1970s to be fooled by this band’s name but, in the interest of completion, we’d be remiss to not list the most obliquely Bible-sounding band name of all time here. Get this: There’s even a guy named Peter Gabriel in the lineup.
Avenged Sevenfold is one of those band names that isn’t explicitly Christian but sort of has a Christian-y vibe hanging onto it. Although that vibe goes away pretty quickly if you listen to the lyrics.
Nobody who listened to Judas Priest would mistake them for a Christian act, since they sung about well “breaking the law.” But if your parents were a little square in 1980, you might have beeen able to smuggle British Steel into your house by insisting the band name was a tribute to the New Testament.
Creed isn’t exactly not Christian, since the band played footsie with Christian rock for much of the 90s and early ’00s, but the band’s name certainly evoked more Christian energy than their early hits actually contained.