Wildly Successful Bands Who Got Their Start While In School
Getting an education is important. It can set you up for success in your chosen field, provide you with networking skills you’ll need later in life, and if you’re really lucky, it can help you form a wildly successful band that’s loved by millions of people all over the world. Okay, maybe that last part is rare but it does happen. These bands formed while in middle school, high school, and college, and they became massively successful.
Do you know the name of the incredibly influential experimental rock band who originally called themselves “On a Friday?”
U2 Started With A High School Bulletin Board
U2 is currently one of the biggest bands on the planet and it all started with 14-year-old Larry Mullen Jr. in Dublin, Ireland. While still in high school, Mullen pinned a flyer to his school’s bulletin board searching for some fellow musicians to pla with.
A few days later, Bono, The Edge, and Adam Clayton all met at Mullen’s house and the boys started a band called feedback. The boys played together for four years until they were signed by Island Records in 1980.
The Cure Started Out As Little Boys
The founding members of the Cure were school friends attending Notre Dame Middle School in Crawley, West Sussex. They called themselves Obelisk with the original members consisting of Robert Smith, Michael Dempsey, Laurence Tolhurst, Marc Ceccagno, and Alan Hill.
However, once Smith began attending high school at St. Wilfrid’s Catholic Comprehensive School, there were some changes in the band’s lineup. They then changed their name to Easy Cure and signed to Hansa Records. Soon after, the contract was dissolved with Smith claiming that “They just thought they could turn us into a teen group.”
Coldplay Was First Started During Orientation Week
While attending University College London, Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland met during orientation week and eventually formed the band Pectoralz. Martin and Buckland then brought fellow classmate Guy Berryman into the group in 1997. However, the band now needed a manager, which led Martin to recruit his long-time school friend Phil Harvey who was studying at the University of Oxford.
The band’s final addition was Will Champion on percussion although he had no prior experience playing the instrument. Another student name Tim Crompton suggested the name Coldplay to the group and the name stuck.
The next band met in school then dropped out to play music full time
Maroon 5 Started Out As A Rock Band
When Adam Levine was 15, he was introduced to Ryan Dusick who was 16 by their mutual friend, Adam Salzman. The four original members of the band all attended Brentwood School in Los Angeles where Adam Levine and Jesse Carmichael came together with Mickey Madden and Ryan Dusick to form the band Kara’s Flowers.
An independent record producer, Tommy Allen, heard the band at a Malibu beach party and offered to manage them and help them produce a record. After producer Cavallo heard the record, he offered the band a deal with Reprise Records.
The band coming up met when they were only 13!
Queen Formed Thanks To Two Colleges
Back in 1968, Brian May and Tim Stafell were attending London’s Imperial College when they decided to form a band. After putting up a flyer at school looking for a “Mitch Mitchell/Ginger Baker” style drummer. Roger Baker, a dental student, auditioned for the position and was welcomed aboard.
After some time, Tim Staffell was attending Ealing Art College where he met Freddie Mercury, who still went by Farrokh “Freddie” Bulsara. Mercury joined the group and recommended that the band change their name from Smile to Queen. The band had a record deal by 1973 with Trident/EMI, and the rest is history.
Radiohead Was Made Up Of Outcasts
Thom Yorke wasn’t exactly the most popular or outgoing teenager while attending Abingdon School, an independent school for boys in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Yorke claims that he assembled the particular group of boys because “they dressed weird and went to a lot of parties.” The group consisted of Yorke, Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, Philip Selway and Colin’s brother Johnny.
The group formed in 1985 and originally called themselves On a Friday, in reference to the day they would rehearse in the school’s music room. After some changes, the band was eventually picked up by EMI and changed their name to Radiohead after the Talking Heads song. Now, they’re considered one of the most influential bands of our time.
Green Day Was The Brainchild Of Two 14-Year-Olds
Back in 1986, 14-year-old Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt began playing in a band that they called Sweet Children. In 1988, Armstrong and Dirnt began collaborating with drummer John Kiffneyers, who also went by “Al Sobrante.” To avoid confusion with another local band named Sweet Baby, they changed their name to Green Day for their love of marijuana.
After seeing them live, Larr Livermore signed them to his label Lookout! Records. They released their debut album 39/Smooth in 1990 and began to tour nationwide. Their second studio album, Kerplunk went on to sell 50,000 copies in the United States.
The Strokes Were Always Meant To Play Together
The beginning of the Strokes can be traced back to Julian Casablancas, Nick Balensi, and Fab Moretti playing music together as young teens while attending Dwight School in Manhattan. Casablancas would later meet Nikolai Fraiture while attending Lycée Français de New York and brought him into the group. However, at the age of 13, Casablancas was sent to boarding school in Switzerland.
There, he met Alber Hammond Jr., and after graduating, the two moved to New York and reunited with Casablancas’ childhood friends. The collection of friends then came together and started The Strokes. After the release of their first EP, they found themselves caught up in a bidding war between labels. The band’s success skyrocketed from there.
The next band formed during orientation week at college
R.E.M Dropped Out Of School To Pursue Music
In 1980, Michael Stipe met Peter Buck at Wuxtry Records, where Buck worked. The two had incredibly similar taste in music and became friendly over their shared bond. Kathleen O’Brien, a mutual friend, then introduced Stipe and Buck to Mike Mills and Bill Berry, fellow University of Georgia students. Mills and Berry had been playing music together since high school, and the four decided to start a group together.
The group spent the next few months practicing and decided on the name R.E.M (rapid eye movement.) Eventually, they all dropped out of school to pursue music, making waves in the Athens music scene before finally making it big.
The band coming up originally went by the name Tony Flow and the Miraculous Master of Mayhem
Vampire Weekend Were True College Boys
Vampire Weekend came together while enrolled at Columbia University, starting with frontman Erza Koenig and Chris Thompson collaborating on a rap project titled “L’Homme Run.” Changing their musical direction, they added Rostam Batmanglij, and Chris Baio to their ranks and started Vampire Weekend. The group began playing shows around the school, most notably at the battle of the bands at Lerner Hall in 2006.
After graduating from college, the group continued to self-produce their debut album while simultaneously working full-time jobs. Before even releasing the album, the band went on three tours and were named “The Year’s Best New Band” by Spin. Their success only grew from there.
MGMT Made Music Perfect For Their Environment
During their freshman year at the liberal arts school Wesleyan University, Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden formed a band. According to Goldwasser, “We were just hanging out and showing each other music that we liked.” After some experimenting making their own music, they released two demos under the name The Management and later changed their name to MGMT.
They continued honing their skills during their dorm room jam sessions and frequently played around at parties and venues in the area. After graduating from school in 2005, they toured extensively for their EP Time to Pretend which got the attention of the public.
Red Hot Chili Peppers Trace Their Roots Back To Fairfax High School
The Red Hot Chili Peppers was first comprised of Anthony Kiedis, Hillel Slovak, Flea, and Jack Irons, who were all students at Los Angeles Fairfax High School in 1983. At first, they went by the name Tony Flow and the Miraculous Master of Mayhem first performing as an opening act for Gary and Neighbor’s Voices. Their performance was so well received that they were asked back to the venue the following week.
They then changed their name to The Red Hot Chili Peppers and started frequently performing in the Los Angeles area. After hiring Lindy Goetz as their manager, Goetz signed a seven-album deal with EMI America and Enigma Records, pushing the band to the top.
The Donnas Go All The Way Back To Eighth Grade
Brett Anderson, Allison Robertson, Maya Ford, and Torry Castellano were all born in 1979 and became friends in eighth grade. The same year they formed a band in order to play at their school’s “Day on the Green” and were one of the two all-female groups in the Palo Alto, California area.
Relatively unknown throughout high school, the girls practiced in Castellano’s garage almost every day while attending Palo Alto High School. They later created another band with the same members, The Donnas, and worked with producer Darin Raffaelli, eventually signing with Atlantic Records in 2001.
Interpol Had Been A Dream Of Daniel Kessler For Some Time
Originally, the band was first put into motion by Greg Drudy and Daniel Kessler who met in a philosophy class at New York University in the late 1990s. Kessler had meant to start a band for some time but had a difficult time finding anyone to play with until meeting Drudy. Kessler then ran into his old friend Paul Banks whom he recruited to join the band.
Although the group was putting out solid music, they needed a name. Eventually, they settled on Interpol. After some lineup changes, the band signed with Matador Records after releasing multiple Eps between 1998 and 2001.
Alt-J’s Sound Comes From Practicing In Dorm Rooms
Joe Newman, Gwil Sainsbury, Gus Unger-Hamilton, and Thom Sonny Green all met while attending Leeds University in 2007. Originally, future frontman and guitarist Joe Newman approached guitar and bassist Gwil Sainsbury with his music, suggesting that the two form a band. The two then began recording their own music on GarageBand with Sainsbury acting as the producer.
The band attributes a lot of their style to the restrictions they had regarding practicing in college as they had to keep the noise down in their dorm rooms. After graduating, the group moved to Cambridge to work on music, they eventually signed to Infectious Music in 2011.
Passion Pit Started Off As A Solo Project
Michael Angelakos began writing the first Passion Pit songs for his girlfriend while at Emerson College. He wrote and produced all of the music by himself on his laptop and began performing in the area. After one of his shows, Ian Hultquist, who was attending Berklee College of Music approached Angelakos, proposing that the two collaborate.
They came together along with Ayad Al Adhamy, Thom Plasse, and Adam Lavinsky. There were a few lineup changes after the band signed to Frenchkiss in 2008 and they released their debut EP Chunk of Change that same year.
Ra Ra Riot Rose To The Top Incredibly Quickly
Forming in 2006 at Syracuse University, Ra Ra Riot made a name for themselves performing around the Syracuse area. They caught the attention of their fellow students and grew in popularity for their upbeat and energetic shows. Just six months after the group’s creation, they were invited to play at the CMJ Music Festival.
After their performance, they were described by Spin as “one of the best young bands we’ve heard in a really long time”. The band signed to the major label V2 in 2008 after a series of tours in the United States and Europe.
The Offspring Were A Band Of High School Friends That Included The Janitor
The Offspring got their start like many other bands, some high school students jamming out in one of their garages. The band began with Bryan “Dexter” Holland and Greg Kriesel in 183. They were inspired by T.S.O.L and Social Distortion and formed the band Manic Subsidal. They then added Doug Thompson and Jim Benton to the lineup.
In 1985, they also recruited their high school janitor Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman who joined as the second guitarist because he was old enough to buy the younger boys alcohol. After choosing the name The Offspring, they released music on their own record label until signing with Nemesis Records in 1988.
Jukebox The Ghost Came Into The Scene Fresh Out Of College
In 2003, Ben Thornewill, Tommy Siegel, and Jesse Kristin all met while attending George Washington University. There, they formed the group called The Sunday Mail. They played as a group until they all graduated and decided to continue making music.
They rebranded themselves as Jukebox the Ghost with Jukebox as a reference to Captain Beefheart and Ghost as a reference to a Nabokov novel. They released their first album Let Live & Let Ghosts in 2008 and not long after began touring with some major names in music.
Public Enemy Got Political In Long Island
Chuck D. and Hank Shocklee met while working together a radio station in college. Shocklee had a show on the radio, and had Chuck come one and rap. They both attended Adelphi University on Long Island and quickly formed a bond over music.
During this time, the pair were discovered by Rick Rubin, one of the founders of Def Jam records. As the project evolved, Flavor Flav and Professor Griff were brought on board, forming Public Enemy.
Death Cab For Cutie Got Involved In Washington
While attending Western Washington University, Death Cab for Cutie lead singer Ben Gibbard was working on other projects. He released a cassette with several buzzy songs and thought it would be a good idea to turn his solo project into a band.
To go from solo to full band, Gibbard recruited college friends Nathan Good and Nick Harmer. Together they became Death Cab for Cutie, and an indie icon was born. Today, they are are still recording music, just not as often as they used to.
Pink Floyd Gave It The Old College Try
Even though Pink Floyd claimed they didn’t need an education, there was one good thing that came from their schooling. The members of the band met while studying architecture at Regent Street Polytechnic School in London.
The only member who came from another school was Syd Barrett, who was an art student. Once they formed and started making music the rest became history. In 1967 they released “The Piper at the Gate’s of Dawn,” their debut album.
Grace Potter And The Nocturnals Pulled All Nighters In College
Before she was simply known as Grace Potter, she performed as Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. The songstress met Matthew Burr, her husband, and bandmate, while she was performing at a college venue.
Burr introduced himself and propositioned her about joining a band. To round out the group they added Cory Beard and Scott Tournet. The band last released an album in 2012, and in 2017 Potter made the sad announcement that Burr had left the band.
Boyz II Men Started As Boys
Boyz II Men is more than just a name. The band originally formed in high school under the moniker Unique Attraction and had too many members to count. The band broke up, but Nathan Morris and Wanya Morris weren’t ready to give up on their dreams.
The pair brought Michael McCrary on board and re-branded themselves as Boyz II Men. They got their big break after sneaking backstage at a talent show where they got the attention of Michael Bivins.
Talking Heads Chatted It Up At The Rhode Island School Of Design
David Byrne and Chris Frantz first made the acquaintance of each other in a quintet at the Rhode Island School of Design. They branched out on their own and formed a trio with Tina Weymouth and formed Talking Heads.
In 1977, Talking Heads rounded out their lineup with Herry Harrison. Harrison did not meet them while in school. He was an alumnus of Harvard. Not that it mattered much. The close-knit band has been making hit songs ever since!
Muse Started As Rocket Baby Dolls
While attending Teinmouth Community College, the future members of Muse were scattered through several different bands. At some point they did meet and called themselves Rocket Baby Dolls. Under the name they won a battle of the bands contest.
When they changed their name to Muse, everything changed. Touring non-stop paid off, and the band became one of the biggest in the world. From sporting events to movie soundtracks, Muse can be heard anywhere music is played!
It All Started With A Beastie Boys Concert For Good Charlotte
Twin brothers Joel and Benji Madison were still in school when their lives were changed after seeing the Beastie Boys in concert. They were so inspired that they decided to start their own group, asking their fellow high school classmate Paul Thomas to play the drums.
By 1996, Good Charlotte was a fully functioning band. In the following years, the group moved to Annapolis, Maryland where they played at any show they could book. They did this for two years until they were signed by Epic Records.
Steely Dan Took A Different Path
This one might be a slight stretch, but we’re going to count in any way. Steely Dan is comprised of two men: Walter Brecker and Donald Fagen. The duo met in school, but didn’t form Steely Dan until after they graduated.
Still, the worked closely together during their studies and spent time on the road with each other as back up musicians. They might not have formed Steely Dan in school, but their musical bond was definitely made there.
The Rolling Stones Have Been Friends Forever
Believe it or not, The Rolling Stones first met at Dartford Maypole County Primary School. At the time, they didn’t stay in touch. Most friends from primary school don’t. They came together again ten years later when a mutual friend re-introduced them.
Once they formed The Rolling Stones they became an unstoppable musical force. In his mid-70s, a video of Mick Jagger went viral online showing him prepare for the bands upcoming tour and he put most athletes to shame.
The Who Learned About Each Other As Teens
The Who are one of the most legendary rock and roll groups of all-time. With classics like “Pinball Wizard” and “Behind Blue Eyes” among others, they’ve earned their place in the Hall of Fame.
Their journey, if you haven’t guessed, began in school. Pete Townshend and John Entwistle knew each other as teens. Roger Daltry went to the same school and they formed the Detours. Luckily for everyone, they eventually changed their name to The Who.
30H!3 Had A College Bond
If you ever wondered how 30H!3 got their name, we have the answer! The electronic music duo attended the University of Colorado together. Like so many others, they shared their love of music there and formed their now iconic band.
30H3! loved their university so much that they even named themselves after the area. The area code around the school is 303, which seemed a fitting way for them to honor their friendship and keep the memory of school alive forever.
Imagine Dragons Was A Little Different In College
Dan Reynolds, the lead singer of Imagine Dragons, was going to school at Brigham Young University when he met Andrew Tolman. Together, they became the founding members of one of the biggest bands in the world.
While at school, they solidified the band’s original lineup. Unfortunately, Tolman dropped out of Brigham Young University, and the band, around the same time. Reynolds went on without him, and as the leader of the band turned them into a musical monster that couldn’t be contained.
Tokyo Police Club Went To The Same High School
Sneaking onto our list now is Tokyo Police Club. Even if you don’t know the band’s name, you probably know a few of their songs. They originally formed when all the members were 18-years-old.
Oddly enough, the members knew each other long before forming the band. They even played music together in the suburbs of Newmarket. The reason they ended up forming the band at the end of their teens was because they missed playing music together.
King Of Leon Are Related
One of the most obvious ones to include on this list in Kings Of Leon. The band is comprised of one cousin and three brothers. Just because they all grew up together doesn’t mean they always played music together, though.
At some point in their youth, all four of them picked up instruments and formed the band. Known for their bluesy style and retro rock feeling, the took the music scene by storm when they originally came out. These days they are still one of the most popular rock band in the country.
The Black Keys Have Been Making Blues Together For A Long Time
Another blues inspired rock group, the Black Keys have been playing music together since their members could first hold instruments. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney both met before they were ten-years-old, although the music didn’t come together right away.
Living in SoCal, the young kids parted way, then met back up in high school. As it turned out, they both loved the same kind of music, and they especially loved playing music together. Forming the Black Keys was the obvious next step.
How Could We Forget The Beatles?
Perhaps the most popular band the world has ever know, The Beatles jammed together in high school before hitting it big as adults. At 16-years-old, John Lennon started a band called The Quarrymen and recruited Paul McCartney to play rhythm guitar.
Shortly after, a 14-year-old George Harrison auditioned to join the band and was given a spot in the lineup. After years playing as the Quarrymen, they band took off their leather jackets, put on suits, and re-named themselves The Beatles.
All Time Low Have Always Been Brats
All Time Low have been living the dream since they started together as a Blink 182 cover band in high school. Always fans of bratty pop-punk, they had no ideas that they would become major players in the scene.
In 2006, the band signed to Hopeless Records, and instant found success as an upcoming pop punk outfit. It’s safe to say they’ve probably played with Blink 182 now, as well, meaning they are literally living their dreams.
New Found Glory Are Classic Punks
New Found Glory might not be as big as they used to, but the influential punk band is still touring across the nation decades after forming in high school. In fact, being outcasts in school is exactly what brought the band together.
As guitarist Chad Gilbers told MTV News, “For us, punk rock and even hardcore music was something we did because we didn’t fit in in high school. We had nowhere to go, so we went to shows.”
Jimmy Eat World Met In Preschool
Jim Adkins and Zach Lind probably didn’t start playing music together as Jimmy Eat World in high school, but that is how long they’ve known each other. Before they formed the power pop band, they played separately in a variety of other local bands.
When they finally came together, they never imagined they would become famous, “When we first started, we thought we were kind of a stupid band, so we gave it a stupid name.”
Paramore Will Never Get Old
If you’re wondering today why Paramore lead single Hayley Williams looks the same as she did when the band debuted over a decade it’s simple; she was 16-years-old at the time All We Know Is Falling came out to rave reviews!
Williams, who was homeschooled, still managed to meet her bandmates, and said she picked up an interesting name along the way, “My friends never had any nicknames for me. But after I joined the band I was called ‘that Paramore girl’ for a long time.”