Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Bongzilla, Bongwater, and Bongripper: 10 bands named for marijuana

1. Green Day 
Though it was originally just the name of a song, Green Day the band adopted Green Day the name after the group started to gain some steam. Armstrong picked up the phrase—Bay-area slang for a day spent constantly smoking weed—from some of his friends at UC Berkeley, and wrote the track about his first pot experience. Twenty-odd years and a rehab stint later, the name doesn’t seem quite so cool—but then again, neither does naming a record after poop.

2. Bongzilla
Generally speaking, stoner metal bands don’t take the genre’s name literally. The tag usually refers to the genre’s slow, heavy tempos, not its subject matter—it’s not like Kyuss used to perform in 4:20 T-shirts and lead “legalize it!” chants onstage or anything. An exception is Bongzilla, of Madison, Wisconsin, who held their seemingly jokey moniker as a mission statement. Nearly every song they recorded was about the sticky stuff, from “666lb. Bongsession” to “Keefmaster” and “Kash Under Glass.” All that pot didn’t mellow their sound any, though. Cutesy pot puns aside, they always sounded like a group that would eat your face off if given the chance.


3. Lance Herbstrong
Of all the terrible portmanteaus on this list, Lance Herbstrong is by far the clumsiest, since of all the illicit substances fallen cyclist Lance Armstrong was accused of using, pot wasn’t one of them. But this beat-heavy remix ensemble doesn’t limit itself to just one drug either. The band titled its 2012 album Meth Breakfast and included a busy, tweaked-out reworking of Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine” on it, which, incidentally, listeners would have to be baked out of their minds to enjoy. Also on the album: a splash of reggae, songs with bongos, and a dubstepping version of “Hot For Teacher.” It’s a mess.

4. The Doobie Brothers
Like many weed acts, The Doobie Brothers got their name from—surprise, surprise—their collective fondness for marijuana. The brothers Doob formed in 1969 under the original and horrible name “Pud” before eventually morphing into a bigger group in 1970 and renaming themselves The Doobie Brothers. Songwriter Tom Johnston has said the group’s moniker came from a band pal who thought it, like, totally spoke to how much the group liked weed, man. Considering the band’s burgeoning and stoned audience at the time, it was probably a smart marketing move, even if the name has only gotten dumber 44 years later.


5. Mary Jane Girls
Rick James wasn’t exactly known for his subtlety. Case in point: He named Mary Jane Girls—the early-’80s R&B/funk group he assembled with one of his backing vocalists, JoJo McDuffie, and several other ringersafter a slang term for marijuana, since he was such a fan of the wacky weed. Despite the lark of a moniker, Mary Jane Girls had several hits (including “In My House” and the often-sampled “All Night Long”), perhaps because James himself wrote the act’s music. While the band name didn’t cause much controversy then—as McDuffie put it in an interview, “We had to say, ‘It was [named after] the shoes (Mary Janes) and the candy, because we’re sweet.’”—the group itself is still contentious today: In late 2013, James’ estate sued two members, Kimberly “Maxi” Wuletich and Cheryl Ann “Cheri” Bailey, after the pair toured under the Mary Jane Girls name, allegedly without its approval.

6. Bongwater
Kramer—i.e., Mark Kramer, the professionally single-named musician and producer, not the Seinfeld character—formed Bongwater in 1986 as a musical showcase for actress-monologist Ann Magnuson’s spaced-out musings on wanting a Nick Cave doll, having “an afternoon of incredibly hot sex” with “the big fat lead singer from Canned Heat,” and wanting to put “a bullet in Jesse Helms’ pea brain.” The stoner-friendly name was particularly apropos for a band that, as the previous avalanche of cultural and political references suggests, sought to fuse downtown ’80s attitude with the freeform trippiness of the ’60s. The collaboration ended in 1991, after Magnuson and Kramer entered into a romantic relationship, which Kramer broke off when he decided to return to his wife. The two then traded lawsuits until the legal costs took a major financial toll on Shimmy Disc, the indie label Kramer had founded, further harshing everyone’s buzz.

7. Canibus
Of all the rappers who emerged in the 1990s, the former Germaine Williams might be one of the least likely to have initially named himself in honor of the wildwood weed; his ferocious, high-speed attack and penchant for getting into high-profile feuds with his colleagues suggest a taste for mood-altering substances that have more of a sharpening effect on the user’s personality, such as black coffee or uncut adrenaline. Maybe he just chose his handle as an oblique tribute to his Jamaican birthplace. Though he does rant about Freemasons and the alien crash at Roswell with the intensity of someone who believes he’s onto something. (There’s also that whole “discharged from the military  for smoking pot” thing.)

8. MellowHigh
An offshoot of MellowHype and Odd Future, MellowHigh was born with THC in its DNA: Just in case anyone missed the point, Domo Genesis peers through smoke coming from his mouth on the cover of the trio’s 2013 debut, and all three perform in the video for “Troublesome” through a thick haze of pot smoke. The anxiety-laden lyrics of the song suggest that the high isn’t exactly mellow—that goes for the rest of the songs on MellowHigh for that matter. Maybe the name MellowHigh is aspirational?

9. Bongripper
Of all genres—or perhaps sub-genres—both stoner and doom metal are packed to the brim with bands that seem to exist purely to bolster drug culture. Of these, Chicago’s Bongripper has done so both with its name and with its 2006 album, The Great Barrier Reefer, which mixes metal’s dual love of mythology and marijuana for the album’s entire 80 minutes. Despite being an instrumental band, Bongripper’s lengthy dirges go hand-in-hand with the substances they pay homage to, and with such witty turns of phrase such as Hippie Killer’s “Reefer Sutherland,” the band can still make a wink to its audience while allowing its crushing riffs do the heavy lifting.

10. Cannabis Corpse
Richmond, Virginia’s Municipal Waste is often considered to be one of the forebears of the thrash renaissance, but that doesn’t mean its members are one-note in their desires. Take, for instance, Waste’s bassist, Phil Hall, better known as Landphil to the heshers of the world. Though Cannabis Corpse is a play on death-metal legends Cannibal Corpse, the band re-contextualizes Hall’s manic energy in a way that’s a little danker. Coupled with the fact its album titles cleverly extend its homage to Cannibal Corpse (Blunted At Birth, Tube Of The Resinated), the band is playful with its tributes, making it a constant source of lightheartedness in a genre that often dwells in disfiguring carnage.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter