The following is a definitive ranking of fake bands. A fake band is an act created for and only exists in not the real world.
The greatest fake band, Spinal Tap, is not on this list. Why? Because they became a real band. After the 1984 groundbreaking mockumentary, the group released another album and have played a few giant rock festivals. So they’re now a real band. Same with The Monkees, The Rutles, The Partridge Family, The Blues Brothers, Dewey Cox, Dethklok, 2ge+her and Tenacious D.
This list does not include bands and artists from television shows like Empire and Nashville since their actors have gone on tour, therefore going from a fictional world to a real world.
This list does not include every band from The Simpsons or Documentary Now! or SNL. We set some limits. We can do massive posts on just bands on any of those shows.
This list does not include Gorillaz because that’s a real solo project portrayed as cartoons.
The list consists of bands and solo artists from film, television and radio that have not crossed into the real world. It’s listed from worst to best. Our #1 pick has played some large concerts but since it doesn’t consist of flesh and blood, it’s allowed.
Loveburger from Can’t Hardly Wait
The group that managed to span an entire career, from inception, to pinnacle, to feud, break up, and reunion, at a single party without ever playing a note. -Andrew Bucket
Way No Way from Friends
There’s really no way (pun intended) of telling whether Ross or Chandler have any actual musical talent, but that’s besides the point. Schwimmer and Perry have great chemistry together – and the characters are so fully fleshed out by the time this idea is first floated – that it’s totally believable that they’d start a band together during their college years. With some seriously terrible taste in outfits, song titles, and hairstyles, these two are the perfect foil and pastiche of popular acts from the era, including Hall and Oates and A Flock of Seagulls. -Jose Lopez-Sanchez
Zack Attack from Saved by the Bell
It’s been 26 years since the Behind the Music inspiration (Behind The Music premiered in 1997) episode of Saved By the Bell (narrated by Casey Kasem) and I still have so many questions about the gang’s band ‘Zack Attack’: Was it all a dream? (Yes). Why did they name the band after Zack, when Slater was clearly the linchpin? (Racism). And where was Jessie?! (The actress broke her leg). That episode blew my tiny little mind. Maybe they were trying to capitalize on the popularity of Twin Peaks. Maybe they were just trying to warn kids of the perils of fame–but if that’s the case, they should’ve warned their own cast-members first. Poor Screech. I think he’s in prison now. -Norm Quarrinton
Wyld Stallyns from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
“I am Ted Theodore Logan.”
“And I am Bill S. Preston Esquire.”
“And are… Wyld Stallyns!”
Maybe it’s this legendary intro that’s makes this band from Sam Dimas California or maybe it’s the fact that by 2688 the galactic civilization’s teachings will be based on the music of Wyld Stallyns, cause they did end war and poverty with their music, that makes them most excellent.
But really a Wyld Stallyns’ concert would be awesome cause of their time traveling phone booth that came to them at Circle K. Think of the possibilities.
So I wish could score tickets to this intergalactic famous band. But in the end it’s always good to follow the wise words of scholars Bill and Ted: “be excellent to each other,” and “party on dudes.” -Jp Sisneros
Krazee Eyez Killah from Curb Your Enthusiasm
Krazee Eyez Killah is an up-and-coming rapper whose collaboration with Larry David was featured in Season 3 of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Krazee was engaged to David’s friend Wanda Sykes, but partook in some unsavory extracurricular activities that put everyone involved in a very difficult situation. While his ability to spit bars is unmistakable, and his synergetic spirit, taking notes from an aging comedy writer on the use of profanity, is admirable, his penchant for infidelity (and sharing details of his exploits with his co-writers) got him into some hot water. -Matt Byrne
The Jerk-Offs from Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Did you have a lot of nerd-love related angst as a teen? I sure did. That’s why I related (or wanted to relate) heavily to both the book and film version of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Nick (played by Michael Cera at peak post-Arrested Development Michael Cera, before that movie about him holding a cactus) is the only straight member of a gay band called The Jerk-Offs, which is just a great name for a 2/3 gay band. On top of that, their hit song is called “Screw the Man.” Unrelated to the fake band, but I guess kind of related to the fake band, is that the soundtrack to Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, bumped incredibly hard and introduced my fourteen-year-old self to acts like Devendra Banhart and We Are Scientists. -Tam Sackman
The Lone Rangers from Airheads
This grammatically misguided group took a radio station hostage so that the world could hear their song. Which turned out to be a Reagan Youth cover. -Andrew Buckethttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lR8e0f-Bx8
Hell Hath No Fury from Degrassi
There are so many stand out moments in Degrassi. So much so that at some point its marketing and advertisement teams started creating commercials with the tagline “Degrassi, it goes there.” Between the cutting, eating disorders, surprise pregnancies, break ups, cheating, and school shootings (poor Jimmy), nothing is more synonymous with the soap opera-esque show in my mind than the riot girl inspired band Hell Hath No Fury. Created purely to seek revenge, the members of Hell Hath No Fury only ever preform one song (called “Mr. Nice Guy” for obvious reasons) and don matching t-shirts with a picture of Craig Manning’s head on fire. I can’t even remember what Craig did to the front woman Ashley. Did he cheat on her? Did he break up with her? Did he get her surprise pregnant after shooting up the school with his eating disorder? It doesn’t matter. Hell Hath No Fury matters. -Kaylee Dugan
Paige Michalchuk and the Sex Kittens (PMS) from Degrassi
I attribute many of my grown-up neuroses to having watched way too much Degrassi in middle school (back when it was still on The N and “went there”); at 29, I am still very terrified of contracting an STD, unwanted pregnancy, etc.
HOWEVER, I also feel like this Canadian children’s show was an invaluable supplement for sex ed., and for that I am (mostly) grateful.
All of that aside, Paige Michalchuk’s band The Sex Kittens (aka PMS) ft. Hazel and Terri and Ashley was DEEP AF (and certainly kicked the shit out of Craig’s dumb band Downtown Sasquatch), slash look at Paige calling out her date rapist THROUGH THE POWER OF SPOKEN WORD. -Megan Burns
Sadgasm from The Simpsons
Sadgasm might be one of my least favorite Simpsons retcons and also one of my favorite rips on Bush’s “Glycerin.” They’re certainly no Be Sharps, that’s for sure. Oh, the hours I could spend on The Be Sharps (their name alone works on three levels! Go ahead and count them, I’ll wait.) Back to Sadgasm- they chose to make Homer’s parody of Kurt Cobain’s IV drug use an insulin dependence due to cappuccino-induced diabetes. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than when The Critic made Johnny Wrath, lead singer of Nuns in a Blender, just kind of sleepy. -Jeb Gavin
Hangman’s Joke from The Crow
When Brandon Lee is resurrected as The Crow and returns to the last place he lived before he died (and where he was murdered), he goes straight to his closet and pulls out a pair of leather pants, as you do. That’s rock n’ roll. That’s the lead singer of Hangman’s Joke, and while their (only?) song claims it can’t rain all the time…it literally rained the entire movie. Wet leather is an unforgiving material on an unforgiving man. -Jenn Tisdale
Rex Manning from Empire Records
If I’m elbowed, Fonzie-like, just right, I’ll break out in an operatic cover of “Say No More, Mon Amour,” because I am a profoundly broken person. But, we mustn’t dwell…no, not today. We CAN’T. Not on Rex Manning Day. -Jeb Gavin
Mystik Spiral from Daria
A truly awful band fronted by a truly handsome cartoon character. Mystik Spiral and Trent’s influence on Daria and the real world, specifically real humans attracted to a real dumb cartoon character, can not be underestimated. -Brandon Wetherbee
Citizen Dick from Singles
They are loved in Belgium and therefore they are loved by me. -Jenn Tisdale
The Ain’t Rights from Green Room
The fictional band at the forefront of Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room aren’t a second thought in order for a contrived school dance musical moment to take place – they’re quite literally the center of the film’s plot. The Ain’t Rights have to explore their connection as bandmates and friends in order to escape the hellish situation they’ve been thrust into – and that dynamic is one not often explored in a horror setting. If you read the title just now, you know the lyrics, and if you’ve seen the movie you can appreciate the irony. Also, Anton Yelchin was kind of perfect for this part and it’s really a shame that we won’t be able to see him like this again. That dude was a talent. -Tam Sackman
Forgone Conclusion from The Office
One of the funniest episodes of the UK Office was the “Training” episode (S01E04), in which David Brent reveals to his subordinates that he was in a crappy 80’s band (loosely based on Ricky Gervais’s real-life crappy 80’s band). Encouraged by the faux-interest of his bored employees, Brent goes home to get his guitar, and proceeds to perform songs (like the homoerotic western ballad “Free Love Freeway”) for them even though they’re in the middle of sensitivity training. Gervais resurrected Brent’s fake band in the 2016 mockumentary Life on the Road, which is currently on Netflix. -Norm Quarrinton
Adam from Only Lovers Left Alive
Jarmusch’s beautifully crafted Vampire film may be my favorite thing he’s ever done. The deep dive into Adam and Eve’s relationship is equal measures beautiful and haunting, but what sticks with me is Adam’s deeply depressing funeral music. A mix between a dirge and a Nothing album, it’s pretty fucking great. I’d add that shit to my Spotify in a heart beat. -Kaylee Duganhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31drln8hsqs
This band does it all: ripping solos from Stack Sanchez and Freddie Fingers. Beautiful Native American imagery. Highly sexual lyrics. A second drummer. They’re easily the best SNL band, fake or real. Why? Horatio Sanz on bass smoking a pipe. Yes, of course there’s the other reasons mentioned, but that’s ultimately just window dressing on the real deal. For me and my family; Sanz on pipe is why we keep coming back to this deep cut year after year. -Joe McAdam
Cherlene from Archer
It was clear that after five seasons, Archer needed to shake things up to stay fresh. While many long-running sitcoms do it by introducing new characters, creator Adam Reed decided to kick off the sixth season by literally blowing up the old offices of the ISIS Spy Agency (yes, same name) and give us a Miami Vice meets The Dukes of Hazzard hybrid. One of the best revelations was that Cheryl, everyone’s favorite pyromaniac-billionaire-executive assistant, was determined to make a name for herself as a country music singer, catering to her “outlaw country” base. Even crazier is that these songs are actually pretty decent! Other hits include “Baby Please Don’t Go” and – of course – a duet with Kenny Loggins himself on a retooling of fan favorite “The Danger Zone.” -Jose Lopez-Sanchez
Dr. Fünke’s 100 Percent Natural Good-Time Family Band Solution from Arrested Development
Arrested Development featured folk rock group Dr. Fünke’s 100 Percent Natural Good-Time Family Band Solution, who cut their teeth on the dietary supplement scene, performing jingles for such herbal remedies as Teamocil and Zanotab during the ‘90s. The band briefly reunited in 2004 but broke up almost immediately before their return to the stage, only to perform in a revamped lineup, featuring original member Tobias Fünke, as well as his nephew George Michael and an unnamed woman who was briefly his sister in law. -Matt Byrne
Randy Watson and Sexual Chocolate from Coming to America
If Randy Watson and Sexual Chocolate played your wedding, you’d have a great wedding. Uncomfortable Whitney Houston covers presented with confidence and swagger? Yes, please! -Brandon Wetherbee
The Weird Sisters from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
I’m pretty sure I yelled at the screen when I noticed Pulp frontman (and godlike genius), Jarvis Cocker, in the fourth Harry Potter movie (The Goblet of Puberty). Jarvis, plays the lead singer of the (presumably) popular wizard band The Weird Sisters, in the Yule Ball scene. Phil and Johnny from Radiohead are in it too, but I like to pretend they’re playing themselves and that they joined a wizard rock band in a futile attempt to out-weird Thom Yorke. The Weird Sisters don’t get a lot of screen-time because Harry Potter fans preferred watching a ginger teenager punch well above his weight. -Norm Quarrinton
Barry Jive and The Uptown Five from High Fidelity
A band that’s talked about for nearly the entire film lives up to the hype. Sure, it’s a cover, but it’s a really well done cover by an unexpected frontman. Related, with every re-watch of this film, Rob is clearly the villain. -Brandon Wetherbee
The Wonders from That Thing You Do
Despite what so-called “music critics” may tell you, the ONLY important band of the 1960s was a little group from Erie, Pennsylvania called the Oneders (later changed to The Wonders). The four piece, immortalized in Tom Hanks’ directorial debut That Thing You Do, was comprised of Guy (aspiring jazz drummer/my childhood hero), Jimmy (singer who is mean to Liv Tyler), Steve Zahn and Ethan Embry. The titular song from the film is, for lack of a better word, a banger. There’s no better depiction of pure elation in film than the scene when they celebrate hearing themselves on the radio for the first time. Every time I watch that scene, and see Liv Tyler and Ethan Embry running through the street screaming, and Guy scrambling to plug in the radio, and see Steve Zahn kissing that cardboard cut-out, it breaks my heart into a million pieces, like it always does. -Tommy McNamara
Electric Dream Machine from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
Yeah, it’s incredibly disturbing, crass, and juvenile, but that’s why we love Always Sunny. When Charlie is replaced after his initial struggles as the lead singer in the gang’s band, he is replaced by Dennis – who has the talent, but is crippled by his own narcissism, as usual. Dennis and Charlie eventually join forces (and huff some paint) to create the underlying motif of what will eventually become their opera, “The Nightman Cometh.” It is supremely strange and incredibly funny, and the DIY-aesthetic grows on you. -Jose Lopez-Sanchez
Mother 13 from The Best Show on WFMU
A conversation with Corey Harris, the lead singer and driving creative force behind the rock band Mother 13, is a widely-agreed upon all-time great segment from The Best Show on WFMU, with host Tom Scharpling navigating Harris’ arrogant, myopic dreams of stardom. Scharpling’s longtime comedy partner, Jon Wurster plays Corey, whose modern rock band Mother 13 seeks stardom through a seemingly endless string of corporate radio shindigs and soulless package tours. Harris becomes a semi-regular caller into the program, and eventually reveals a plan to front the first band to have ever performed live at the summit of Mount Everest, bringing an all-star band of folks like Travis Barker and Clarence Clemons along with him. While we never get to hear any Mother 13 jams, you’ve got to admire their moxie (even if the climb is a massive disaster, resulting in the death of everyone in the band except Harris). -Matt Byrne
Jem and the Holograms from Jem and the Holograms (2015)
I should have hated this movie. It left behind the best parts of Jem and the Holograms (SYNERGY) and turned Jem into a teen pop star without any of the Jem/Jerrica Benton issues I grew to love. I need the drama of those Clark Kent/Superman moments! However, as a stand alone movie I really enjoyed it. Plus this band is legitimately good whereas the original Jem and the Holograms were…well…truly, truly, truly outrageous. -Jenn Tisdale
Crucial Taunt from Wayne’s World
Crucial Taunt, fronted by the magnetic Cassandra Wong (Tia Carrere), play a fairly straightforward strain of hard rock popular during the early ‘90s, when Wayne’s World was released. Most fans prefer the full-band format to Cassandra’s solo project, which was derided as a less authentic approach to pop/rock. The band’s standout cut, a cover of The Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz,” is a fierce distillation of everything cool about that specific era. -Matt Byrne
Pink Slip from Freaky Friday
Look, I’m not saying this proudly, but I thought Pink Slip was THE SHIT when Freaky Friday came out, probably due in large part to the fact that I was still going through my Avril Lavigne phase and the band’s fashion sense spoke to me on a deep level. I also do stand by the fact that “Take Me Away” had a catchy AF chorus. -Megan Burns
The Clash At Demonhead from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Ahh, The Clash at Demonhead. If you like Metric (if you like Beck, you’ll like Sex Bomb-Omb and if you like Letters to Cleo, you’ll like Josie and the Pussycats from Josie and the Pussycats), you’ll like them, because they are Metric fronted by Brie Larson. Yes, this is the same Brie Larson who won the Academy Award for Best Actress last year for her performance in Room, so you know it’s cool. Larson’s character, Envy Adams, was inspired by Metric’s real-life singer Emily Haines. Envy Adams is the ex-girlfriend of Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), who now is dating her bandmate Todd (ex-Superman Brandon Routh), a vegan. It turns out that Todd is Scott’s new girlfriend Ramona’s ex, too, and the two men end up fighting in an epic battle of telekinetic veganism versus…well, Scott Pilgrim. The selection of Metric for the band’s music makes The Clash at Demonhead feel like a band with tremendous growth potential, and helped expand the real-life band’s audience, too. -Vesper Arnett
Test Pattern from Documentary Now!
What with imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that, the Stop Making Sense-era Talking Heads should be pretty dang flattered by Test Pattern’s loving parody, a collective that went all-in on replicating their quirky art-school weirdo rock. Fronted by Fred Armisen and Bill Hader, the band offered up shockingly well-crafted album length tribute to the band to accompany an episode of their very good TV series Documentary Now. -Matt Byrne
FiGrin D’an and the Modal Nodes from Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
The polka inspired earworm from the first Star Wars film is the only song with clarinet that is able to transport the listener to a galaxy far, far away. It does not crack the top 10 due to guilt by association. Because the Rebo Band had a new song, “Jedi Rocks,” in post 1997 editions of Return of the Jedi, we’re punishing FiGrin D’an and the Modal Nodes. -Brandon Wetherbee
10. Marvin Berry and the Starlighters from Back to the Future
This is the greatest movie ever made. You know that new sound you were looking for? Well listen to this. -Jenn Tisdale
9. The Folksmen from A Mighty Wind
Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer are fantastically funny as Spinal Tap, the band known for bringing the volume up to 11, but they’re also known as The Folksmen. The Folksmen originally appeared as an SNL sketch in the 80s, but have their biggest moment as a part of that movie. The film A Mighty Wind highlights many fictional musical acts with great folk-country earworms, but the most entertaining band is The Folksmen. And yeah, they have done a few real-life performances, but they are nowhere near the level of fame for their work as folk artists. The Folksmen’s hits include “Old Joe’s Place” and “Never Did No Wanderin,’” songs that both encapsulate the feel of a real folk song and are good enough to become actually stuck in your heads. Their tune “A Mighty Wind” also won a Grammy, so they’re certainly no joke. -Vesper Arnett
8. Sing Street from Sing Street
Sing Street was the best movie of 2016 (apart from Moonlight, obvs). If you haven’t seen it, stop reading this and go watch it. It’s on Netlfix. Okay, now that you’ve seen it and agree with me we can talk about it. Sing Street is an almost unrealistically talented bunch of 15-year-old lads. When I was 15, I could just about tie my shoelaces. If they were a real band, they would have been signed to a sketchy record deal by some posh heroin addict in London and would be on their 18th reunion tour right about now, and I would probably be buying tickets from StubHub like a chump. I’ve had “Drive It Like You Stole It” stuck in my head for close to a year, and remarkably, I don’t want to kill myself. -Norm Quarrinton
7. Stillwater from Almost Famous
The premise of 2000-released semi-autobiographical biopic Almost Famous is that it’s the film’s screenwriter (and legendary Rolling Stone rock writer) Cameron Crowe twisting stories of his misspent teen-aged 1970s on the road with bands including The Allman Brothers Band, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, as embodied by the quintet Stillwater. Given that this is true, and that Billy Crudup and Jason Lee nail their roles as the Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of said band, then Stillwater’s anthemic soundtrack song “Fever Dog” is easily the best fake rock band rock anthem ever.
What makes the arcing and booming guitar and massive kick-drum driven anthem a heater and makes Stillwater as a fake rock band better than most real rock bands I’ve ever heard? It’s the fact that not unlike the film itself, it borrows heavily from something iconic, and nails emulating it to perfection. In this case it’s Led Zeppelin’s bombastic, Led Zeppelin IV album closing cover of Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie’s 1929 blues dirge “When The Levee Breaks.” Toss in some of the sex appeal of that same album’s lead track “Black Dog” for good measure and “Fever Dog,” much like Stillwater, is still perfect. -Marcus Dowling
6. The Soggy Bottom Boys from O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The Soggy Bottom Boys are a remarkably charming and competent country trio comprised of three escaped convicts on the law. Their single, “Man of Constant Sorrow” became so popular in the early 2000s that a group of modern country artists convened to pay tribute to that and a slew of other tracks from the era, culminating with the release of the documentary concert film Down from the Mountain. -Matt Byrne
5. Mouse Rat from Parks and Recreation
Ten little syllables: “You got sex-hair — you got it from me, girl!”
A town as crazy as Parks & Rec’s Pawnee, Ind., needs a ridiculous fake band, but what really makes the Chris Pratt-helmed Mouse Rat so awesome is its flexibility. Just look at its stack of rejected and former band names: Teddy Bear Suicide, Ninjadick, Puppy Pendulum and Flames for Flames, among many others. They sound like a less well-spoken Hold Steady that’s had 12 or 13 beers, but you’d be surprised what you can build from that.
If Dave Matthews had a sense of humor, he might have written a rock song like “The Pit,” which, once the titular hole was filled in, was gloriously reborn as “The Park,” Leslie and Ann’s dream. The best thing Li’l Sebastian ever did was die, what with a tribute like “5000 Candles in the Wind.” And if the opening line of Leslie’s 2012 campaign anthem doesn’t make you smile, that’s on you: “Catch your dream! — and shackle it to your heart!” -Tristan Lejeune
4. Marceline the Vampire Queen from Adventure Time
All of the tunes from Adventure Time are solid, but being obsessed with Marceline, I am a big, unironic proponent of any/all of her musical endeavors. Here she is covering Mitski (with goddamn LSP on the drums!!!):
And “I Remember You” is always a good one:
100% support. -Megan Burns
3. The Beets from Doug
It’s not just that The Beets, the band beloved by the title character of Nickelodeon’s classic Doug, were a delightful send-up of the aesthetic of imported British rock, from the invasion through the ‘80s. And it’s not just that their music was both hilarious and genuinely catchy – listen to “Killer Tofu” and tell me it’s not the best song Blue Öyster Cult never wrote. It’s what they stood for: the power of devoted fandom, at that liminal moment when childhood metamorphoses into adolescence, to provide not just joy but stability, an anchor in young lives buttressed by bullying, alienation, and the inscrutability of the wider world. The Beets are the distilled essence of every band that made that critical difference to outsiders, misfits, and rejects growing up. -Max Bentovim
2. The Commitments from The Commitments
The Commitments are the best fake band, and the reason behind it is pretty simple: soul is the best music genre. Director Alan Parker takes a simple story – he explores what might happen if a bunch of young Irish people started a soul band – but his premise has legs beyond that. The Commitments would even go on tour, doing covers of Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, and other soul superstars. There’s a scene in The Commitments where the band is practicing with a cover of Roy Head’s “Treat Her Right.” The band is still feeling each other out, and sort of stumble on chemistry. They surprise each other, inviting flourishes of the song along the way, until the scene ends up being the best of its kind. It is literally magical. You should probably stop reading and just watch it right now. -Alan Zilberman
1. Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show
Are there any bands better than Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem? Honestly, I can’t think of one. A fully stocked and stacked roster of all-time greats (Janice on guitar! Animal on the skins! Bassmaster Floyd Pepper!) crank out hit after hit, acting as the house band for some of the most legendary puppet-focused variety shows and films. Of all the “fake” bands (these guys are the real deal, if you ask me), there’s no one more accomplished or iconic. -Matt Byrne