Indie rock is a genre of rock music that originated in the United States and United Kingdom in the 1970s. Originally used to describe independent record labels, the term became associated with the music they produced and was initially used interchangeably with alternative rock. As grunge and punk revival bands in the US and Britpop bands in the UK broke into the mainstream in the 1990s, it came to be used to identify those acts that retained an outsider and underground perspective. In the 2000s, as a result of changes in the music industry and the growing importance of the Internet, some indie rock acts began to enjoy commercial success, leading to questions about its meaningfulness as a term.
Sometimes used interchangeably with "guitar pop rock", in the mid-1980s, the term "indie" (or "indie pop") began to be used to describe the music produced on punk and post-punk labels. Some prominent indie rock record labels were founded during the 1980s. During the 1990s, grunge bands broke into the mainstream, and the term "alternative" lost its original counter-cultural meaning. The term "indie rock" became associated with the bands and genres that remained dedicated to their independent status. By the end of the 1990s, indie rock developed several subgenres and related styles, including lo-fi, noise pop, emo, slowcore, post-rock, and math rock. In the 2000s, changes in the music industry and in music technology enabled a new wave of indie rock bands to achieve mainstream success.
In the early 2000s, a new group of bands that played a stripped-down, back-to-basics version of guitar rock emerged into the mainstream. The commercial breakthrough from these scenes was led by four bands: The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Hives and The Vines. Emo also broke into mainstream culture in the early 2000s. By the end of the decade, the proliferation of indie bands was being referred to as "indie landfill".
|Cultural origins||Late 1970s to early 1980s, United States and United Kingdom|
The term indie rock, which comes from "independent," describes the small and relatively low-budget labels on which it is released and the do-it-yourself attitude of the bands and artists involved. Although distribution deals are often struck with major corporate companies, these labels and the bands they host have attempted to retain their autonomy, leaving them free to explore sounds, emotions and subjects of limited appeal to large, mainstream audiences. The influences and styles of the artists have been extremely diverse, including punk, psychedelia, post-punk and country. The terms "alternative rock" and "indie rock" were used interchangeably in the 1980s, but after many alternative bands followed Nirvana into the mainstream in the early 1990s, "indie rock" began to be used to describe those bands, working in a variety of styles, that did not pursue or achieve commercial success. Aesthetically speaking, indie rock is characterized as having a careful balance of pop accessibility with noise, experimentation with pop music formulae, sensitive lyrics masked by ironic posturing, a concern with "authenticity," and the depiction of a simple guy or girl.
Allmusic identifies indie rock as including a number of "varying musical approaches [not] compatible with mainstream tastes". Linked by an ethos more than a musical approach, the indie rock movement encompassed a wide range of styles, from hard-edged, grunge-influenced bands, through do-it-yourself experimental bands like Pavement, to punk-folk singers such as Ani DiFranco. In fact, there is an everlasting list of genres and subgenres of indie rock. Many countries have developed an extensive local indie scene, flourishing with bands with enough popularity to survive inside the respective country, but virtually unknown elsewhere. However, there are still indie bands that start off locally, but eventually attract an international audience.
Indie rock is noted for having a relatively high proportion of female artists compared with preceding rock genres, a tendency exemplified by the development of the feminist-informed Riot Grrrl music of acts like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, 7 Year Bitch, Team Dresch and Huggy Bear. However, Cortney Harding pointed out that this sense of equality is not reflected in the number of women running indie labels.
The BBC documentary Music for Misfits: The Story of Indie pinpoints the birth of indie as the 1977 self-publication of the Spiral Scratch EP by Manchester band Buzzcocks. Although Buzzcocks are often classified as a punk band, it has been argued by the BBC and others  that the publication of Spiral Scratch independently of a major label led to the coining of the name "indie" ("indie" being the shortened form of "independent").
"Indie pop" and "indie" were originally synonymous. In the mid-1980s, "indie" began to be used to describe the music produced on post-punk labels rather than the labels themselves. The indie rock scene in the US was prefigured by the college rock that dominated college radio playlists, which included key bands like R.E.M. from the US and The Smiths from the UK. These two bands rejected the dominant synthpop of the early 1980s, and helped inspire guitar-based jangle pop; other important bands in the genre included 10,000 Maniacs and the dB's from the US, and The Housemartins and The La's from the UK. In the United States, the term was particularly associated with the abrasive, distortion-heavy sounds of the Pixies, Hüsker Dü, Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Dinosaur Jr., and The Replacements.
In the United Kingdom the C86 cassette, a 1986 NME compilation featuring Primal Scream, The Pastels, The Wedding Present and other bands, was a document of the UK indie scene at the start of 1986. It gave its name to the indie pop scene that followed, which was a major influence on the development of the British indie scene as a whole. Major precursors of indie pop included Postcard bands Josef K and Orange Juice, and significant labels included Creation, Subway and Glass. The Jesus and Mary Chain's sound combined the Velvet Underground's "melancholy noise" with Beach Boys pop melodies and Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" production, while New Order emerged from the demise of post-punk band Joy Division and experimented with techno and house music.
The most abrasive and discordant outgrowth of punk was noise rock, which emphasised loud distorted electric guitars and powerful drums, and was pioneered by bands including Sonic Youth, Big Black and Butthole Surfers.
SWANS, an influential band from New York can easily, but mistakenly, be categorised as noise rock, but are more correctly identified as part of the No Wave scene which included Lydia Lunch, and James Chance & The Contortions. These bands were documented by Brian Eno on the seminal compilation album No New York. A number of prominent indie rock record labels were founded during the 1980s. These include Washington, D.C.'s Dischord Records in 1980, Seattle's Sub Pop Records in 1986 and New York City's Matador Records and Durham, North Carolina's Merge Records in 1989. Chicago's Touch and Go Records was founded as a fanzine in 1979 and began to release records during the 1980s.
The Jesus and Mary Chain, along with Dinosaur Jr, indie pop and the dream pop of Cocteau Twins, were the formative influences for the shoegazing movement of the late 1980s. Named for the band members' tendency to stare at their feet and guitar effects pedals onstage rather than interact with the audience, acts like My Bloody Valentine, and later Slowdive and Ride created a loud "wash of sound" that obscured vocals and melodies with long, droning riffs, distortion, and feedback. The other major movement at the end of the 1980s was the drug-fuelled Madchester scene. Based around The Haçienda, a nightclub in Manchester owned by New Order and Factory Records, Madchester bands such as Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses mixed acid house dance rhythms, Northern soul and funk with melodic guitar pop.
The 1990s brought major changes to the alternative rock scene. Grunge bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains broke into the mainstream, achieving commercial chart success and widespread exposure. Punk revival bands like Green Day and The Offspring also became popular and were grouped under the "alternative" umbrella. Similarly, in the United Kingdom Britpop saw bands like Blur and Oasis emerge into the mainstream, abandoning the regional, small-scale and political elements of the 1980s indie scene. Bands like Hüsker Dü and Violent Femmes were just as prominent during this time period, yet they have remained iconoclastic, and are not the bands that are frequently cited as inspirations to the current generation of indie rockers.
As a result of alternative rock bands moving into the mainstream, the term "alternative" lost its original counter-cultural meaning and began to refer to the new, commercially lighter form of music that was now achieving mainstream success. It has been argued that even the term "sellout" lost its meaning as grunge made it possible for a niche movement, no matter how radical, to be co-opted by the mainstream, cementing the formation of an individualist, fragmented culture. This theory hypothesizes staying independent became a career choice for bands privy to industry functions rather than an ideal, as the principle of resistance to the market evaporated in favor of a more synergistic culture.
The term "indie rock" became associated with the bands and genres that remained dedicated to their independent status. Even grunge bands, following their break with success, began to create more independent sounding music, further blurring the lines. Ryan Moore has argued that in the wake of the appropriation of alternative rock by the corporate music industry that what became known as indie rock increasingly turned to the past to produce forms of "retro" rock that drew on garage rock, rockabilly, blues, country and swing.
|Cultural origins||Early 1990s|
Indie electronic covers rock-based artists who share an affinity for electronic music, using samplers, synthesizers, drum machines, and computer programs. Less a style and more a categorization, it describes an early 1990s trend of acts who followed in the traditions of early electronic music (composers of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop), krautrock and synth-pop. Progenitors of the genre were English bands Disco Inferno and Stereolab. Most musicians in the genre can be found on independent labels like Warp, Morr Music, Sub Pop or Ghostly International.
By the end of the 1990s indie rock developed a number of subgenres and related styles. Following indie pop these included lo-fi, noise pop, sadcore, post-rock, space rock and math rock. Lo-fi eschewed polished recording techniques for a D.I.Y. ethos and was spearheaded by Beck, Sebadoh and Pavement, who were joined by eclectic folk and rock acts of the Elephant 6 collective, including Neutral Milk Hotel, Elf Power and of Montreal. The work of Talk Talk and Slint helped inspire post-rock (an experimental style influenced by jazz and electronic music, pioneered by Bark Psychosis and taken up by acts such as Tortoise, Stereolab, and Laika), as well as leading to more dense and complex, guitar-based math rock, developed by acts like Polvo and Chavez.
Space rock looked back to progressive roots, with drone-heavy and minimalist acts like Spacemen 3 in the 1980s, Spectrum and Spiritualized, and later groups including Flying Saucer Attack, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Quickspace. In contrast, sadcore emphasized pain and suffering through melodic use of acoustic and electronic instrumentation in the music of bands like American Music Club and Red House Painters, while the revival of Baroque pop reacted against lo-fi and experimental music by placing an emphasis on melody and classical instrumentation, with artists like Arcade Fire, Belle and Sebastian and Rufus Wainwright. Weezer's Pinkerton (1996) introduced the Emo genre to a wider and more mainstream audience.
In the 2000s, the changing music industry, the decline in record sales, the growth of new digital technology and increased use of the Internet as a tool for music promotion, allowed a new wave of indie rock bands to achieve mainstream success. Existing indie bands that were now able to enter the mainstream included more musically and emotionally complex bands including Modest Mouse (whose 2004 album Good News for People Who Love Bad News reached the US top 40 and was nominated for a Grammy Award), Bright Eyes (who in 2004 had two singles at the top of the Billboard magazine Hot 100 Single Sales) and Death Cab for Cutie (whose 2005 album Plans debuted at number four in the US, remaining on the Billboard charts for nearly one year and achieving platinum status and a Grammy nomination). This new commercial breakthrough and the widespread use of the term indie to other forms of popular culture, led a number of commentators to suggest that indie rock had ceased to be a meaningful term.
In the early 2000s, a new group of bands that played a stripped-down and back-to-basics version of guitar rock emerged into the mainstream. They were variously characterised as part of a garage rock, new wave or post-punk revival. Because the bands came from across the globe, cited diverse influences (from traditional blues, through new wave to grunge), and adopted differing styles of dress, their unity as a genre has been disputed. There had been attempts to revive garage rock and elements of punk in the 1980s and 1990s and by 2000 scenes had grown up in several countries. The Detroit rock scene included The Von Bondies, Electric Six, The Dirtbombs and The Detroit Cobras and that of New York Radio 4, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Electric Frankenstein, and The Rapture. Elsewhere, the Oblivians from Memphis, Billy Childish and The Buff Medways from Britain, The (International) Noise Conspiracy from Sweden, and The 184.108.40.206's from Japan, enjoyed underground, regional or national success.
The commercial breakthrough from these scenes was led by four bands: The Strokes, who emerged from the New York club scene with their début album Is This It (2001); The White Stripes, from Detroit, with their third album White Blood Cells (2001); The Hives from Sweden, after their compilation album Your New Favourite Band (2001); and The Vines from Australia with Highly Evolved (2002). They were christened the "The" bands by the media, and dubbed "The saviours of rock 'n' roll", leading to accusations of hype. A second wave of bands that managed to gain international recognition as a result of the movement included The Black Keys, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Modest Mouse, The Killers, Interpol and Kings of Leon from the US.
From the UK were The Libertines, Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, Editors, The Fratellis, Razorlight, Kaiser Chiefs and The Kooks. British band Arctic Monkeys were the most prominent act to owe their initial commercial success to the use of Internet social networking, topping the charts with their debut single "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor". Also successful were Jet from Australia, and The Datsuns and The D4 from New Zealand. Many of the British bands listed above, with the exception of Arctic Monkeys, experienced a sharp decline in commercial fortunes owing to what The Guardian has called the "slow and painful death" of indie rock. In 2018, The Guardian's music critic John Harris spoke of the complete absence of guitar-driven rock from the music charts; and argued that a revival of the genre will most likely be from the rise of female groups. He wrote: “there is a sense that most rock musicians are running out of creative permutations, as if the possibilities offered by 12 notes and the 4/4 beat have all been used up.”
During the 1990s a number of indie rock groups, such as Sunny Day Real Estate and Weezer, diversified the emo genre from its hardcore punk roots. A number of Midwestern emo groups started to form during the mid-late 1990s including The Promise Ring, The Get Up Kids, and American Football. Emo also broke into mainstream culture in the early 2000s, with the platinum-selling success of Jimmy Eat World's Bleed American (2001) and Dashboard Confessional's The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most (2001). The new emo had a more refined sound than in the 1990s and a far greater appeal amongst adolescents than its earlier incarnations. At the same time, use of the term "emo" expanded beyond the musical genre, becoming associated with fashion, a hairstyle and any music that expressed emotion. During the mid-to-late 2000s, emo was played by multi-platinum acts such as Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, Paramore, and Panic! at the Disco.
By the end of the 2000s the proliferation of indie bands was being referred to as "indie landfill", a description coined by Andrew Harrison of The Word magazine, and the dominance of pop and other forms of music over guitar-based indie was leading to predictions of the end of indie rock. However, there continued to be commercial successes like Kasabian's West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum (2009), which reached number one in the UK. In 2010, Canadian band Arcade Fire's album The Suburbs reached number one on the Billboard charts in the United States and the official chart in the United Kingdom, winning a Grammy for Album of The Year.
With the release of the Jacuzzi Boys' second LP Glazin' in 2011, The Orwells' Remember When in 2012, and Twin Peak's Sunken in 2013, a new type of music was on the rise. DIY sprouted out of a necessity to adapt towards changing music tastes in the United States and Europe. With the creation of Spotify and other music streaming services, it has been easier for musicians to stay afloat by spreading their music across a massive potential audience.
Andrew Paul Dost (born April 10, 1983) is an American musician, singer and current member of the indie rock band Fun., in which he plays several instruments, mainly the piano. He was formerly a member of the indie rock band Anathallo from 2003 to 2007.Beggars Banquet Records
Beggars Banquet is a British independent record label that began as a chain of record shops owned by Martin Mills and Nick Austin, and is part of the Beggars Group of labels.Creation Records
Creation Records Ltd. was a British independent record label founded in 1983 by Alan McGee, Dick Green, and Joe Foster. Its name came from the 1960s band The Creation, whom McGee greatly admired. The label ceased operations in 1999, although it was revived at one point in 2011 for the release of the compilation album Upside Down.
Over the course of its sixteen-year history, Creation predominantly focused on alternative rock, releasing several influential indie rock, shoegazing, and Britpop records, but also featured bands performing various other styles of rock, including indie pop and post-punk, as well as some electronic, folk, and experimental artists.Dischord Records
Dischord Records is a Washington, D.C.-based independent record label specializing in punk rock. The label is co-owned by Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson, who founded Dischord in 1980 to release Minor Disturbance by The Teen Idles. With other independent American labels such as Twin/Tone, Touch and Go Records, and SST Records, Dischord helped to spearhead the nationwide network of underground bands that formed the 1980s indie-rock scene. These labels presided over the shift from the hardcore punk that then dominated the American underground scene to the more diverse styles of alternative rock that were emerging.The label is most notable for employing the do-it-yourself ethic, producing all of its albums and selling them at discount prices without finance from major distributors. Dischord continues to release records by bands from Washington D.C., and to document and support the Washington D.C. music scene. As of October 2016, the label employs four people.Dischord was a local label in the early days of hardcore, and is one of the more famous independent labels, along with the likes of Alternative Tentacles, Epitaph Records, SST Records, and Touch & Go Records.The logo of the label was created by Nelson, who has an associate degree in advertising design.Drag City (record label)
Drag City is an American independent record label based in Chicago, Illinois. It was established with a Royal Trux single release ("Hero Zero" - DC1) in Chicago in 1990 in by Dan Koretzky and Dan Osborn. It specializes in indie rock, experimental rock, psychedelic rock, folk rock, and alternative country.Frankie Muniz
Francisco Muniz IV (born December 5, 1985) is an American actor. He is best known for playing the title character in the Fox television family sitcom Malcolm in the Middle, which earned him an Emmy Award nomination and two Golden Globe Award nominations.
In 2003, he was considered "one of Hollywood's most bankable teens." In 2008, he put his acting career on hold to pursue an open wheel racing career. He competed in the Atlantic Championship. From 2012 to 2014, he was a drummer in the band Kingsfoil.Jack Antonoff
Jack Michael Antonoff (born March 31, 1984) is an American singer, musician, songwriter and record producer. Antonoff is the lead singer of indie pop band Bleachers, and a guitarist and drummer in the indie rock band Fun. He was previously the lead singer of the indie rock band Steel Train. Aside from his work with Bleachers and Fun, Antonoff has worked as a songwriter and record producer with various artists, including Taylor Swift, Lorde, St. Vincent, Lana Del Rey, and Troye Sivan. Antonoff has been nominated for a Golden Globe Award and won four Grammy Awards: two for his work with Fun, one for production on Taylor Swift's album 1989, and one with St. Vincent for writing the title track on Masseduction. He also started his own music festival, Shadow of The City, which takes place annually in New Jersey.List of indie rock musicians
This is a list of notable indie rock artists. Individual musicians are listed alphabetically by their last name.Matador Records
Matador Records is an independent record label, with a roster of mainly indie rock, but also punk rock, experimental rock, alternative rock, and electronic acts.Merge Records
Merge Records is an independent record label based in Durham, North Carolina. It was founded in 1989 by Laura Ballance and Mac McCaughan. It began as a way to release music from their band Superchunk and music created by friends, and has expanded to include artists from around the world and records reaching the top of the Billboard music charts.New West Records
New West Records is a record label based in Nashville, Tennessee, and Athens, Georgia. It had offices in Burbank, California, and Beverly Hills, California. The label was established in 1998 by Cameron Strang "for artists who perform real music for real people" and has been home to indie rock, alternative country, and Americana bands. The label's records in the US were previously distributed by Alternative Distribution Alliance beginning in 2013 through to 2018 when Redeye Distribution assumed distribution in 2018. The PIAS Group handles the distribution in Europe.Noise pop
Noise pop is a subgenre of alternative or indie rock that developed in the mid-1980s in the United Kingdom and United States. It is defined by its mixture of dissonant noise or feedback with the songcraft more often found in pop music. Shoegazing, another noise-based genre that developed in the 1980s, drew from noise pop.Rough Trade Records
Rough Trade Records is an independent record label based in London, England. It was formed in 1978 by Geoff Travis who had opened a record store off Ladbroke Grove. Having successfully promoted and sold records by punk rock and early post-punk and indie pop bands such as the Smiths and Desperate Bicycles, Travis began to manage acts and distribute bands such as Scritti Politti and began the label, which was informed by left-wing politics and structured as a co-operative. Soon after, Rough Trade also set up a distribution arm that serviced independent retail outlets across Britain, a network that became known as the Cartel.
Interest and investment of major labels in the UK indie scene in the late 1980s, as well as overtrading on behalf of Rough Trade's distribution wing, led to cash flow problems, and eventually to bankruptcy, forcing the label into receivership. However, Travis resurrected the label in the late 1990s, finding success with the Libertines, the Strokes and Antony and the Johnsons. The roster has been diverse, ranging stylistically through alternative rock, post-punk and new wave, garage rock, and psychedelic rock, but also art pop, folk, electronica, and soul.Sebadoh
Sebadoh () is an American indie rock band formed in 1988 in Northampton, Massachusetts, by Eric Gaffney and Dinosaur Jr. bass player Lou Barlow. Along with such bands as Pavement and Guided by Voices, Sebadoh helped pioneer lo-fi music, a style of indie rock characterized by low-fidelity recording techniques, often on four-track machines. The band's early output, such as The Freed Man and Weed Forestin' (both released 1990), as well as Sebadoh III (1991), was typical of this style. Following the release of Bubble & Scrape in 1993, Gaffney left the band. His replacement, Bob Fay, appeared on Bakesale (1994), but was fired before the sessions for the band's major label release The Sebadoh (1999).
The band then went on a 14-year recording hiatus, during which time members pursued other projects while occasionally touring as Sebadoh. The group, fronted by singer Lou Barlow, returned in 2013 with the Secret EP and a full-length album titled Defend Yourself, which were both self-recorded.Sky Ferreira
Sky Tonia Ferreira (born July 8, 1992) is an American singer, songwriter, model, and actress. As a teenager, Ferreira began uploading videos on Myspace of herself singing songs she had written, which led to her discovery by producers Bloodshy & Avant and an eventual recording contract with Parlophone in 2009. She released her first extended play, As If!, in 2011, which combined elements of electropop and dance music. Ferreira's second extended play Ghost (2012), however, incorporated pop with more stripped-down song structures and featured collaborations with Jon Brion and Shirley Manson, as well as the critically acclaimed track "Everything Is Embarrassing", which she composed with Dev Hynes.
After multiple delays and disputes with her record label, Ferreira's debut studio album Night Time, My Time was released on October 29, 2013, and marked a departure from her former style, incorporating more experimental indie rock with synth-pop elements. The album was preceded by its lead single "You're Not the One". That year, she ventured into the film industry after appearing in Eli Roth's The Green Inferno and garnered media attention after being arrested for drug possession. She was exposed to a mainstream audience after having been announced as an opening act for the international Bangerz Tour, headlined by Miley Cyrus, which began on February 14, 2014.
Ferreira's earlier work incorporated elements of dance-pop, while her recent projects experiment with acoustic, new wave and primarily indie rock musical styles. Her lyrical content originally incorporated themes of rebellion and teenage romance, and has since evolved to discuss personal insecurities and more mature romantic themes. Outside her work in the entertainment industry, she has modeled for several brands and magazines, including serving as the spokeswoman for the hair care brand Redken in 2014.Slowcore
Slowcore is a subgenre of alternative rock and indie rock. The music of slowcore artists is generally characterized by bleak lyrics, downbeat melodies, slower tempos and minimalist arrangements. Slowcore is often used interchangeably with the term sadcore.The Kills
The Kills are a British-American indie rock band formed by American singer Alison Mosshart ("VV") and English guitarist Jamie Hince ("Hotel"). They are signed to Domino records and their first four albums, Keep On Your Mean Side, No Wow, Midnight Boom, and Blood Pressures all reached the UK album chart. Ash & Ice, their fifth and most recent studio album was released on June 3, 2016 and reached the UK Top 20 album chart.Touch and Go Records
Touch and Go Records is an American independent record label based in Chicago, Illinois. After its genesis as a handmade fanzine in 1979, it grew into one of the key record labels in the American 1980s underground and alternative rock scenes. Touch & Go carved out a reputation for releasing adventurous noise rock by the likes of the Butthole Surfers, Big Black, and The Jesus Lizard. Along with other independent American labels such as Twin/Tone, SST Records, and Dischord, Touch & Go helped to spearhead the nationwide network of underground bands that formed the pre-Nirvana indie rock scene. These labels presided over the shift from the hardcore punk that then dominated the American underground scene to the more diverse styles of alternative rock that were emerging.Western Vinyl
Western Vinyl is an independent record label founded in 1998 and based in Austin, Texas.