bands that started as cover groups former tribute acts
[Photos via Steel Panther/Spotify, All Time Low/Spotify, 5 Seconds Of Summer/Spotify, Nirvana/Spotify]

Picturing our favorite bands in their fledgling stages is no easy task. But imagining them devoid of any original music and instead performing cover songs? That’s straight-up impossible.

Remarkably, it’s not all that rare for now-iconic artists to reveal that they’d formerly performed as a tribute act. After all, what better way to get a feel for your band than by taking on music you can all vibe to?

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We did some digging and came up with 10 bands who set their foundations by performing covers.

Panic! At The Disco

Panic! At The Disco and blink-182 aren’t exactly two bands you’d group together when thinking back to the 2000s alternative scene. As it turns out, though, maybe they should be. Before Panic! went on to pave their own unique niche in the genre, they got their start as a blink-182 cover band. We’ll give you a minute to process…

Sum 41

Prior to becoming Sum 41Deryck Whibley and the rest of the band went by Kaspir. However, the name wasn’t the only distinction between their two iterations. The now-iconic pop-punk outfit were founded as a NOFX cover band before moving on to develop their own original catalog. It doesn’t stop there, though. Ahead of Kaspir, Whibley had also belonged to Nirvana and Weezer tribute groups.

Steel Panther

It’s incredibly difficult to imagine Steel Panther as being anything other than their comedic glam-rock selves. Before they started writing their own material, though, they performed glam-metal covers under the name Metal Skool. At least that describes the roots of their signature aesthetic…

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Knuckle Puck

What better way to break out on the heels of the mainstream alternative heyday than by performing preestablished hits? That’s exactly how Knuckle Puck set their foundations, playing covers for the first year of their tenure. While we’re certainly glad that they went on to write their own tracks, we’d give anything to go back and catch an eclectic set.

Nirvana

We won’t fault you if you assumed that Nirvana simply hit the ground running as musical pioneers. Looking back, it certainly appears that way. The grunge icons did their fair share of grinding, though. In fact, Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic formed a short-lived cover band called the Sellouts, paying tribute to Creedence Clearwater Revival.

5 Seconds Of Summer

In the modern era, everybody seems to get their start through internet trends. So why should 5 Seconds Of Summer be any different? Before they catapulted into mainstream success, the pop-rock sensation were just another group doing acoustic covers on YouTube. The videos are still up on their channel, including renditions of Mayday Parade‘s “Jersey” and A Day To Remember‘s “If It Means A Lot To You.”

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Reel Big Fish

This one isn’t too surprising, given that Reel Big Fish never shied away from their affinity for performing covers. Still, it’s not very well known that the band actually started with that dedicated foundation. While it’s unclear what those early setlists looked like, we can only imagine that they were full of ’80s and early ’90s pop.

Forever Came Calling

Forever Came Calling gained some considerable traction in the 2010s alternative music scene. But did you know that they’re even further rooted than that? The band actually got their start in 2006 as a Senses Fail/Taking Back Sunday tribute act. We’d say that we’re surprised, but the influence is clear as day.

Nickelback

It’s scary to think that there’s an alternate universe out there in which Nickelback continued as a cover band indefinitely. Imagine a world without “Photograph” and its associated memes… No thanks. In case you have no idea what we’re talking about, the alt-rock group used to perform Led Zeppelin and Metallica covers under the moniker Village Idiot. Actually, we’ve changed our minds. We’d do anything to see that act.

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All Time Low

Before All Time Low bettered the world with Put Up Or Shut Up, they were gracing the Baltimore scene with blink-182 covers. Alex Gaskarth and Jack Barakat had actually formed two distinct tribute bands before merging into one group who “learned pretty much every blink-182 song, New Found Glory song and Green Day song there were to know.” We can’t imagine Gaskarth even dreamed that he’d one day form an outfit with Mark Hoppus called Simple Creatures. Talk about coming full circle…

Which bands do you know of who got their start doing covers? Let us know in the comments below!