Fictional Television And Movie Bands That Totally Rocked Our World
In 2010, Aldous Snow enjoyed his week on the Billboard Charts. His band Infant Sorrow sold just under 4,000 copies of their debut LP. By today’s standards, that’s not an enormous amount, but it’s nothing to balk at for an indie band. Except Aldous Snow wasn’t the frontman of a DIY project. The singer was one of the most prolific rock stars in the modern era and being hotly pursued by a major label. At least in the version of Hollywood depicted by Get Him to the Greek.
Hollywood is good at faking it,and fictional bands from movies and TV are usually just as good as the real rockers they draw inspiration from. You might not see their names at the Grammys (unless you’re looking in the soundtrack section), but these unsung heroes deserve every ounce of their fictional — and sometimes very real — success.
Josie and the Pussycats (Josie and the Pussycats)
Why save the best for last when you can listen to them first? Josie and the Pussy Cats are more than just a fictional band. They’re the kind of Hollywood-made magic that acts as a time capsule of early ’00s pop-punk nostalgia wrapped tightly in polyurethane, animal-printed clothing. It’s as if Lizzie McGuire grew up, joined a band, and went on to save the world.
Beyond the supremely important message that a few girls can save the world (including Tara Reid, who currently spends most of her time staving off sharknados), the soundtrack was crafted by the epic, power-pop band Letters to Cleo. Singer Kay Hanly lent her voice to Josie, and by proxy, a generation.
Next: Beck was supposedly the ghostwriter for one film band…
Sex Bob-Omb (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World)
Sex Bob-Omb didn’t just bridge the worlds between Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (though, we’re still waiting for a legit cross-over). They’re one of the only comic book bands actually improved by coming to life (and that says a lot considering the comic book version was pretty good).
There’s a reason Sex Bob-Omb were so bomb. That’s just what happens when you enlist a guy who’s won five Grammy Awards out of his 17 nominations. According to Pitchfork, Beck was Sex Bob-Omb’s expert ghostwriter. He’s credited with four songs on the soundtrack, with Broken Social Scene lending their talents to the fictional band Crash and the Boys.
Matt Damon’s Punk Band (Eurotrip)
It’s not every day you see an Academy Award-winning actor make a short-lived cameo in a trashy teen comedy, but anything was possible in the early ’00s. Matt Damon’s Eurotrip pop-punk band never had a name, but that doesn’t make their song “Scotty Doesn’t Know” any less of an anthem.
Damon admitted he took the role because the film was written by three of his college buddies, so it was truly a labor of love. The song was written by his college roommate’s brother and his other college roommate played in the backing band (who are a very real band called Lustra). He was the one who opted to shave his head since he wore a wig while filming The Brothers Grimm.
The Hex Girls (Scooby-Doo and the Legend of the Vampire)
The Hex Girls are particularly on-trend in 2018. Witchy women are absolutely on the upswing — just look at the recent uptick in black lipstick sales over the last five years. What makes the Hex Girls so great, beyond their totally Hot Topic aesthetic, is that they’ve managed to nail down their niche. In Scooby-Doo and Legend of the Vampire, they somehow land a coveted spot at the Vampire Rock Music Festival in Australia, which totally exists in the world of Scooby Doo. Who knew? Nothing like a band who knows their audience.
Despite looking like a group who would eventually end up uttering “And I would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for those pesky kids,” the Hex Girls are heroes. They’re self-proclaimed eco-goths, meaning they’re probably vegan, and one of them is even genuinely Wiccan. No wonder they save the day.
Gretta James (Begin Again)
Director John Carney knows his way around a fictional band. Though Begin Again didn’t win a Grammy for its music like Once (it was nominated), it has the romantic, witty flair of a Judd Apatow flick which makes it a slam-dunk for those who love musical rom-coms. Keira Knightley’s Gretta isn’t exactly a band per se, but she does hire one to back her and subsequently shows one of the most realistic portraits of struggling New York City musicians to ever grace the big screen.
The thing that’s so magical about Knightley’s performance is that she proves heartbreak and chutzpah are all you need to craft a successful music career (not a fancy, out-of-touch major label). Also, we get to watch Adam Levine suck the soul out of a genuinely sentimental song, which seems to be one of his greater talents.
The Weird Sisters (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
In case you were wondering if Hogwarts had a punk rock crowd, rest-assured, they’re just like every other high school. Only members of Radiohead happen to be the cool kids. And no, they’re not necessarily Slytherins.
The Weird Sisters came along during Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and played during the Yule Ball. In real life, these were no high school students. The Weird Sisters are a bona fide Britpop super-group. Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker takes on lead vocal duties with members of Radiohead, All Seeing I, and Add N to (X) backing him up. Originally, Franz Ferdinand was meant to take on the wizardly duties of rock, but they were, apparently, busy.
The Ain’t Rights (Green Room)
The Ain’t Rights’ experience in Green Room may have devolved into insanity, but prior to that, their experience was pretty much exactly what it’s like to be a DIY punk band touring in middle America — the dingy green rooms, the living out of an old van. Everything seemed normal before the white supremacists and Satanic rituals.
According to Rolling Stone, stars Callum Turner, Peaky Binders’ Joe Cole, Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat, and Anton Yelchin (who sadly passed away in 2016) were “put through a punk rock boot camp” prior to filming. And the results are impressive. Watching Alia Shawkat slay a cover of the Dead Kennedy’s “Nazi Punks F— Off” to a room of white-supremacists is particularly bold.
Frozen Embryos (My So-Called Life)
Long before Jared Leto ever walked on water with 30 Seconds to Mars and started cosplaying Jesus on the Met Gala red carpet, he was a popular but rather insecure teen in My So-Called Life. Leto starred as Angela Chase’s high school crush Jared Catalano, and like every high school cool kid in the ’90s, Catalano had a band.
Tito, a sort of running gag who’s constantly referenced but never given any screen-time, launched the project with Catalano. He, of course, quit leaving Catalano to take charge. This resulted in an episodes-long debate on whether or not Frozen Embryos should change their name. Does Tino own it? Basically, Frozen Embryos is everyone’s first band. The whole thing is so true to the teenage experience, it’s impossible not to love.
Spinal Tap (This Is Spinal Tap)
Spinal Tap almost seems like the original fake band, even though they’re far from it. They may have not invented the band parody, but they certainly turned it up to 11. With song lyrics like “My baby fits me like a flesh tuxedo / I love to sink her with my pink torpedo” it’s impossible not to laugh.
Though Spinal Tap are renowned for their ridiculousness, their success hinges on how much they actually got right. According to Rolling Stone, dozens of famous musicians, including Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, have commented on how the flick is a pretty accurate depiction of being in a popular band. Its truth-tinged hilarity has rendered it a classic all these years later.
Stillwater (Almost Famous)
Almost Famous was inspired by the real-life story of 15-year-old rock journalist Cameron Crowe who had the chance to interview Poco for Rolling Stone. Today, Poco is pretty forgotten when it comes to stars from the ’70s, but Almost Famous remains a classic. In the movie version, Crowe is transformed into the wide-eyed William Miller who’s following around up-and-coming rock band Stillwater (no, not that Stillwater from the ’70s. They’re a fictional Stillwater who also gloriously wore ’70s outfits).
Stillwater succeed gloriously in a flash of iconic lines (“I am a Golden God”) and exaggerated truths about the music industry. Their music has absolutely nothing to do with it. What makes Stillwater so good is the way they grapple with fame and unbridled ego. Anyone who has seen their terrifying, but somehow hilarious, almost-plane crash would probably agree.
Infant Sorrow (Get Him To The Greek)
Russell Brand has brought his fictional band Infant Sorrow to more than one film franchise. Aldous Snow, the drug-addled British rock star, dazzled as a supporting character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but Get Him to the Greek is where we saw his true depth and hilarity.
Though Aldous Snow has a lot of hilarious moments that are dripping in the kind of ignorance only made possible when no one in your entire life ever says no, the most unforgettable remains "African Child." Brand distastefully gyrating in an African village somehow thrust Infant Sorrow into the No. 1 spot in the real-life Billboard Heatseeker’s Albums Chart. Apparently, it sold 3,500 it’s first week. Not great, but not bad for a band that doesn’t actually exist.
Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes (Star Wars: A New Hope)
You might not expect to see a ’70s “jizz” band in space, yet here we are. And yes, you heard it correctly. Jizz is a form of music that’s very popular throughout the Star Wars universe, and leave it to the Biths, one of the most intelligent types of aliens, to perfect it.
No one knows who’s actually behind the Modal Nodes, who rock up the Mos Eisley Cantina with hits like “Cantina Band #1” and “Cantina Band #2.” They’re shamefully uncredited in the film, but word on the street is they’re not actors or musicians. They’re a bunch of real-life special effects artists who happened to be on set that day. It’s just a shame they were relegated to the Mos Eisley Cantina.
Autobahn (The Big Lebowski)
Autobahn aren’t the largest part of the Coen Brothers’ 1998 cult hit The Big Lebowski, but the Kraftwerk homage is too good to not mention. Autobahn are every europop cliche wrapped into one, hilarious package.
Fronted by sometimes porn star Karl Hungus, the band consider themselves German nihilists. With their music fame fading, they hatch a get rich quick plan to fake their own kidnapping. The band doesn’t ever actually play any songs, but their ridiculousness gives them a spot on this list. Especially because Aimee Mann gets a cameo as one of their girlfriends and has to chop off her own toe.
School of Rock’s Classroom Band (School of Rock)
Forget the world in 2018 when Schools of Rock actually exist (yes, they’re a real place you can go to to learn how to rock). Back in 2003, this was a novel concept, and Jack Black played the overzealous, hilarious teacher. The School of Rock band, which featured Miranda Cosgrove before iCarly made her a household name, was a voice for every kid who hoped to pursue a career in the arts, but didn’t have support from their parents. Ultimately, Zack wins over his dad and the whole thing is incredibly adorable.
School of Rock was so successful that it was later turned into a long-running Broadway play, and Cosgrove released her own solo album in 2010, despite the fact that her School of Rock character struggled to sing even one note.
Another of Jack Black’s films is coming up…
Mouse Rat (Parks & Recreation)
Mouse Rat hat a lot of trouble deciding on a name. Somehow, Department of Homeland Obscurity and Teddy Bear Suicide lost out. Either way, Andy Dwyer is a musical icon who deserved way better than to be relegated to a small, local act in a tiny, Midwestern town. Though, they did eventually get their 15 minutes.
Dwyer found a lot of success with his children’s show persona Johnny Karate, but Mouse Rat still managed to land a spot at the Pawnee/Eagleton Unity Concert. In one glorious episode, they got to play their hit "5000 Candles in the Wind" in front of hundreds of people waiting to see The Decemberists and Letters to Cleo.
Dewey Cox (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story)
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is often overlooked when examining Judd Apatow’s greatest successes. We’ve got hits like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Kknocked Up, Superbad, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but no one seems to remember that Walk Hard is actually the best fake music biopic that ever existed. It flips the self-indulgent serious of the Oscar-winning Walk The Line on its head by injecting 10,000 didgeridoos and some Spinal Tap ridiculousness.
Truth be told, Apatow knows his way around a fake band. He gave us both Keira Knightly’s Gretta James and Russell Brand’s Aldous Snow, but Dewey Cox never saw the same kind of love. It’s an utter shame considering he inspired the very rock and roll that made Infant Sorrow famous. Cox is the original.
The Barden Bellas (Pitch Perfect)
In 2012, Pitch Perfect found itself capitalizing off the recent popularity of acappella music. Glee had already been in full swing for three years, but the world had yet to see a feature length glee club movie with the same kind of teen-slash-young adult drama. Thanks to Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson, this movie was a lot less forgettable than it could have been (really, it had the potential to be really, really bad). Instead, it was pretty okay and more or less launched Hailee Steinfeld’s career as a singer.
The Bellas were the driving force behind Pitch Perfect and the subsequent sequels. Amidst the dance moves, powerful pipes and cup song, it’s not surprising the movie became the third highest-grossing musical comedy of all time. It even outdid itself because the 2015 sequel is the highest-grossing musical comedy of all time.
Sonic Death Monkey (High Fidelity)
Jack Black is so skilled at playing in fake bands that School of Rock isn’t the only one to make this comprehensive list. Way back in the year 2000, Black fronted a band with a known aversion to sticking with names. First they were Sonic Death Monkey, then they were Barry Jive and the Uptown Funk, and then they were Kathleen Turner Overdrive.
High Fidelity, the movie adaptation of Nick Hornby’s same-named novel,is absolutely overflowing with gems, but Black’s powerful cover of “Let’s Get It On” proves to be a bright spot. At the time, Black’s real-life band Tenacious D had yet to hit the mainstream, so his impressive voice was somewhat of a surprise.
The Venus In Furs/Wylde Ratttz (Velvet Goldmine)
It’s impossible to pick one winner from 1998 UK drama Velvet Goldmine. They both check every box for 90s music nerds, mainly because they featured genuine music talent rather than actors (though Ewan McGregor stunned with his Stooges cover). So, which fictional band wins? You decide.
Venus in Furs was a supergroup led by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, David Gray, Suede’s Bernard Butler, and Roxy Music’s Andy Mackay. The name itself is a Velvet Underground reference, and things got ultra-meta when they actually covered a Roxy Music song. The Wylde Ratttz were comprised of The Stooges’ Ron Asheton, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Steve Shelley, Minutemen’s Mike Watt, Gumball’s Don Fleming, and Mudhoney’s Mark Arm. They, too, get a little meta and cover two Stooges songs. Also, Flaming Creatures gets an honorable mention because they’re actually just Placebo.
The Blues Brothers (The Blues Brothers)
Few fake bands are as recognizable as Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi’s Blues Brothers. The sunglasses and the black suits made them icons who are subject to quite a few parodies, even today (we’re looking at you Drake & Josh). The band got its start more than 40 years ago on Saturday Night Live, but eventually recorded a full length called Briefcase Full of Blues and starred in their own feature-length film.
The Blues Brothers more or less ended with Belushi’s death in 1982. Aykroyd did occasionally resurrect the bit, but it wasn’t the same. It was still pretty good though.