?Nothing captures the feel of a movie or show like a great soundtrack, but sometimes, background music just isn’t enough. Mood music is all well and good, but to really connect to a fictional universe, getting to hear the music that the characters themselves love (or sometimes hate) can tell you volumes about what kind of world you’re dealing with. Alternately, fictional bands themselves can be great subject matter for television or film. Such bands are often tongue-in-cheek parodies of real groups or popular musical genres — some more respectful than others — and many of our favorite nerdy properties feature a wealth of such imaginary ensembles.
I’ve gathered here 11 bands that are simply too awesome for the real world to handle. Some are merely background players, others are the side projects (read: pipe dreams) of popular characters, while still others are the central focus of their own shows and films. A few are good enough to have released their “own” records, others are deliberately (and often hilariously) terrible. Some even are real bands playing under pseudonyms. Whatever the case, they make nerdity sound every bit as awesome as it looks.
11) Dingos Ate My Baby, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
When not howling at the moon or performing his duties as Willow Rosenberg’s sole heterosexual squeeze, teen lycanthrope Daniel “Oz” Osbourne (Seth Green) played guitar for “Dingoes Ate My Baby,” the Buffy-verse name for the real life band Four Star Mary. This band would have made the cut for the sheer awesomitude of their name if nothing else, but they’re not bad music-wise either, playing above par ’90s-era alt-rock. Enjoy “Shadows” off of Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Album.
10) Jeffster, Chuck
At one time or another, I think everyone has encountered a pair like Jeff Barnes and Lester Patel of Chuck fame: A duo whose friendship seems based around the fact that they’re the only human beings on earth that can stand each other (if you’ve never known a “Jeff and Lester”, you might wanna take a long, hard look at your own best friend). Individually, they’re walking reminders that “nerd” is still a derogatory term in some cases, but together, they are JEFFSTER — a two-man cover band that exists somewhere in the neutral zone separating hilariously bad from surprisingly good. In any case, they’re tough to get out of your head and quite unlike anything else you’ve heard. Please enjoy (if that’s the appropriate word) Jeffster’s video from the season 3 finale: a “unique” take on Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory.”
9) Timmy and the Lords of the Underworld, South Park
Lords of the Underworld were merely a terrible garage band until a motorized wheelchair interrupted one of their rehearsals. It was driven by a mentally handicapped little boy known as Timmy (last name unknown) who proceeded to blow the band away with his remarkable vocal skills. Hired as their new lead singer, Timmy went on to wow the judges at the battle of the bands, and became one of South Park‘s most popular recurring characters.
8) Shallow Gravy, The Venture Bros.
Hank Venture on bass, H.E.L.P.eR. on “drums”, and lead vocalist Dermott Fictel are the ingredients of Shallow Gravy. Dermott is a local semi-delinquent who works at the supermarket, is prone to outrageous claims concerning his own abilities, and paradoxically spends a good deal of his free time hanging out with the naive, squeaky-clean Hank (there is good reason for this, but I’m not gonna spoil anything). Hank picked up Brock Samson’s old bass, and over a summer of diligent practice, actually got good. With the re-built H.E.L.P.eR providing the beat, the three of them got Pete White to manage them, and cut a single, titled “Jacket”.
Even if you’ve never seen a minute of Venture Bros., you’ve gotta give this a listen. It’s one of the most infectious tunes I’ve heard in years, and it makes me want to kick myself for selling my Fender P-Bass all those years ago.
7) Billy and the Boingers, Bloom County
The only band on the list NOT from a movie or TV series, Billy and the Boingers was part of a story arc from Berkeley Breathed’s legendary satirical comic strip Bloom County, formed when local unscrupulous attorney Steve Dallas decides to quit practicing law and instead manage a heavy-metal band. Bloom County’s drug-addled, occasionally dead, and former Communist mascot Bill The Cat, and oversensitive, ample schnozzed penguin Opus are recruited, playing “electric tongue” and tuba, respectively. Additionally, rabbit pessimist Hodge-Podge is hired to play drums. The band was originally named Deatht?ngue, but caved to congressional pressure in a parody of the PMRC (Parent’s Music Research Council) hearings of the ’80s that targeted groups like Judas Priest.
This tune is from a vinyl 45 (ask mom and dad, kids) that came with the Bloom County collection Billy and the Boingers Bootleg and was performed in real life by a group called The Harry Pitts Band (no, seriously!).
6) Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem, The Muppets
Now we enter the Big Leagues of fictional music! Meet rock piano virtuoso and singer Dr. Teeth and his band: Janice on guitar, Floyd on Bass, Zoot blowing sax, and Animal at the drums. Together, they are the house band of the Muppet Universe: THE ELECTRIC MAYHEM!
They’ve rocked faces in practically every Muppet project since the 1970s, but I liked them best during their stay at the Happiness Hotel in The Great Muppet Caper. Here they are entertaining Kermit and Piggy on their way to dinner with “Night Life.”
5) The Weird Sisters, Harry Potter
The Weird Sisters (who, paradoxically, are all male) were basically the Beatles of the Wizarding world, and received several mentions throughout the Harry Potter book series.
In the films, we finally get to see and hear them during the Winter Ball scene of Goblet of Fire. In “Muggle” terms: they are Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackey of Pulp (vocals, bass), Johnny Greenwood and Phil Selway of Radiohead (lead guitar, drums), Jason Buckle of All Seeing I (rhythm guitar), and Steve Claydon of Add N to (X) (keyboards).
Together, they sound quite a bit like what you’d expect a Harry Potter rock band would sound like. Frankly, they’re surprisingly awesome together — here they are rocking the hell out of Hogwarts with “Do The Hippogriff.”
4) Spinal Tap
How could I do a list like this without giving mad props to the original fictitious power-metal trio of David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), and Derek Smalls?(Harry Shearer)? Frankly, I couldn’t.
First appearing in 1979 in the failed pilot to a sketch comedy show called The T.V. Show, they rose to iconic status in both music and cinema with the 1984 release of This Is Spinal Tap, probably the most famous “mockumentary” ever made. Here’s a clip of Tap’s most well-known tune–“Big Bottom”, celebrating the virtues of economy-sized back porches long before the rise of Sir Mix-a-Lot.
(NOTE: In honor of Spinal Tap, this list has been turned up to 11.)
3) Wyld Stallyns, the Bill & Ted Movies
Wyld Stallyns might not have provided the audiences of Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey with much actual music, but the sheer scope of their influence on the world of these films is enough to gain Bill S. Preston, esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan a place of honor here. Indeed, none of the other bands on this list achieved world peace, cleaned up the environment, saved the economy, ended poverty and hunger, established peaceful relations with alien civilizations, and, most importantly, insured that Earth had more excellent water-slides than any other inhabited planet.
The video is of the Bogus Journey finale, where Wyld Stallyns’ first live performance (and only performance in both movies) is beamed to every television on the planet as they play “God Gave Rock and Roll To You II” (actually KISS playing a cover of a tune originally by Rod Argent.
2) Dethklok, Metalocalypse
Dethklok are FAR more than a mere death metal quintet. On their Adult Swim series Metalocalypse, lead singer Nathan Explosion, bassist William Murderface, lead guitarist Skwisgaar Skwigelf , rhythm guitarist Toki Wartooth, and Pickles the Drummer are the most powerful cultural force in the world. They employ enough people to be considered the eighth largest economy in the world, their fans are known to kill themselves when their new albums are delayed, and concert goers are required to sign waivers to disavow the band from responsibility for their deaths.
A secret society known as the Tribunal watches over Dethklok’s activities, concerned that they might be the ones foretold in an ancient Sumerian prophecy regarding an “Apocalypse of Metal.”
Show creator Brendon Small writes most of the music for Dethklok, and does the singing and speaking voice of Nathan Explosion.
Please enjoy this video of “Awaken (Musta Krakish),” a song Dethklok wrote as an apology to Finland after nearly destroying the country on their last tour. Nathan based the lyrics on an ancient Finnish spellbook, and the performance accidentally summoned forth a forest troll from deep within the earth.
1) Sy Snootles and the Max Rebo Band, Return of the Jedi
My pick for greatest, nerdiest fictional band only ever did one song, and it lasted barely over a minute — but how could I not give the highest honors possible to this marvelous artifact of the original, non-“special Edition-ized” Star Wars trilogy? (No “Jedi Rocks” nonsense here!) Meet the Rebo band: Ortolan keyboardist Max Rebo, Droopy McCool the Kitonak on woodwind, and Pa’lowick lead singer Sy Snootles.
According to the Expanded Universe, Jabba obtained the lifelong services of these “Jizz-Wailers” (I swear to God, that’s the in-canon term for their musical genre) when they signed a contract with him to pay them in food instead of money to Max’s delight and Sy’s chagrin.
Here’s the tune that won over the mighty Jabba, and insured a special place in the hearts of nerds for all time, “Lapti Nek!” with subtitles in English for the benefit of non-Huttese speakers.