What Does Indie Rock Music Mean?

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


What does indie rock music mean? This question has been asked by music lovers for years, and there is no one definitive answer. However, there are some elements that are typically associated with indie rock, such as DIY ethos, experimentalism, and a focus on songcraft over production values.

Origins of Indie Rock

Indie rock is a subgenre of alternative rock that originated in the United Kingdom and North America in the 1980s. Indie rock is characterized by a DIY ethic, which emphasizes independent record labels, self-released recordings, and underground music scenes.

Punk Rock

Punk rock is a type of rock music that originated in the 1970s. Punk rock bands are typically characterized by their use of simple, hard-edged melodies and lyrics that often express anti-establishment or anti-mainstream views.

The punk rock movement was started by bands like The Ramones and The Sex Pistols, who established the punk rock sound and aesthetics. Punk rock quickly spread around the world, with Punk scenes developing in countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States.

Punk rock has had a significant influence on subsequent genres of rock music, including alternative rock, post-punk, and indie rock. Many punk rock musicians have also found success outside of the punk scene, in fields such as pop music, hip hop, and electronic music.


Post-punk (originally called new musick) is a broad type of rock music that emerged from the punk movement of the 1970s, as a reaction against the constraints of punk rock.

Stylistically, post-punk borrowings from a variety of sources, including funk, disco, krautrock, dub, and situationism. Post-punk is often characterized by an alienated lyrical sensibility,oozing with irony and sarcasm; intelligent and literary lyrics; repetitive structures and rhythms; angular guitars; and a healthy dose of experimentation.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, post-punk bands such as Wire, the Raincoats, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Public Image Ltd., piL), the Pop Group, Gang of Four, Joy Division, Cabinet of Curiosities (aka Cabaret Voltaire), Throbbing Gristle ,the Slits ,the Fall ,the Cure ,the Chameleons UK , Echo & the Bunnymen , Bauhaus , Magazine , Tubeway Army , Killing Joke , XTC released influential records.

New Wave

New Wave is a subgenre of indie rock that became popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s. New Wave music is characterized by its efficient melodies and arrangements, as well as its use of synthesizers and other electronic instruments. While it initially developed as a reaction against punk rock, New Wave artists were influenced by a wide range of musical styles, including disco, pop, soul, reggae, and even jazz. As a result, the sound of New Wave music is highly eclectic.

The term “New Wave” was first used to describe the music of bands like the Talking Heads and the Ramones in a 1976 issue of Creem magazine. However, it wasn’t until the release of the debut album by the English band The Sex Pistols in 1977 that New Wave really began to take off. The Sex Pistols’ mix of raw energy and catchy melodies quickly made them one of the most popular bands in England, and their success helped to spark a whole new musical movement.

In the United States, New Wave music was embraced by college radio stations and quickly found its way into the mainstream thanks to hits like Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” and Devo’s “Whip It.” By the early 1980s, New Wave was one of the most popular genres in America, giving rise to such iconic bands as Duran Duran, The Police, and Talking Heads.

Although it has largely faded from popularity in recent years, New Wave remains an important part of indie rock history.

The Development of Indie Rock

Indie rock music is a genre that developed in the 1980s. Indie rock is a genre that is characterized by its DIY ethic, independent record label status, and nontraditional song structures.

The C86 Compilation

In 1986, a group of music journalists published a compilation cassette of new bands that they felt were creating an exciting new wave of guitar-based, jangly pop music. The cassette, which was given away free with the NME (New Musical Express) music magazine, was entitled C86 and featured bands such as The pastel outfit Primal Scream, The Jesus and mary Chain, and Teenage Fanclub.

The C86 cassette helped to define the sound of what would later be called indie rock, and the term “indie” quickly became synonymous with the DIY (do-it-yourself) ethic of many of the bands on the cassette. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, “indie rock” came to refer specifically to music made by small, independent record labels.

Today, “indie rock” is used to describe a wide range of guitar-based rock music made by both independent and major labels. While the term “indie rock” is now used very broadly, it still carries connotations of DIY ethics and an aesthetic preference for lo-fi production values.

The Creation of Sub Pop Records

In the late 1980s, a new type of rock music was emerging from the American underground. This music, which came to be known as “indie rock,” was characterized by its do-it-yourself ethos, its experimental aesthetic, and its DIY approach to marketing and promotion.

One of the most important players in the development of indie rock was Sub Pop Records, a small independent label based in Seattle, Washington. Sub Pop was founded in 1986 by Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman, two music fans who wanted to document the growing punk and alternative scene in the Pacific Northwest.

Sub Pop’s first release was a compilation album called Sound columbine office – The Singles (1989), which featured early tracks by Nirvana, Mudhoney, andSoundgarden. This album is often cited as the first true “indie rock” release, and it helped to put Seattle on the map as a hotbed for new music.

Over the next few years, Sub Pop released albums by some of the most important bands of the era, including Nirvana (Nevermind), Pearl Jam (Ten), and Soundgarden (Badmotorfinger). These albums were hugely successful commercially, but they maintained an indie sensibility that was true to the label’s roots.

Today, Sub Pop is still going strong, and it remains one of the most important independent labels in America. It has helped to launch the careers of many groundbreaking artists, including Fleet Foxes, Beach House, and even Lorde.

The Rise of Grunge

runge was a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged in the early 1990s. It was characterized by fuzzy guitars, angst-ridden lyrics, and a general feeling of disenchantment. Grunge bands were often signed to independent record labels and made a point of not conforming to the prevailing trends in popular music. Some of the most popular grunge bands included Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. Grunge’s popularity faded in the late 1990s, but its influence can still be felt in many modern rock bands.

Characteristics of Indie Rock Music

Indie rock music is a genre of rock music that originated in the United Kingdom in the 1970s. Indie rock is characterized by a DIY ethic, independent record labels, and a disdain for the mainstream music industry. Indie rock music is typically guitar-driven and features experimental song structures, unusual sounds, and lyrical themes about everyday life.

Lo-Fi Recording

One of the most commonly used techniques in indie rock music is lo-fi recording. This involves using lower quality equipment to produce a rougher, more “authentic” sound. In some cases, it may also involve recording in less than ideal conditions (e.g. in a bedroom or garage).

This approach is often used to create a more ” DIY” aesthetic, and to imbue the music with a feeling of intimacy or closeness. It can also help to mask any imperfections in the performance, giving the music an endearingly human quality.

Do-It-Yourself Attitude

Indie rock music is typically characterized by a DIY (do-it-yourself) attitude. This means that bands and artists often produce, record, and release their own music without the help of major record labels. Indie rock bands sometimes use alternative methods of distribution, such as the internet, to get their music out to the public.

The DIY attitude of indie rock is often tied to the genre’s punk roots. Punk rock bands of the 1970s and 1980s were also characterized by a DIY ethic. They often produced and released their own music without the help of record labels. Punk rock bands also played an important role in developing the independent music scene. Many punk rockers went on to start their own independent record labels in order to release punk rock music and other types of independent music.

The DIY ethic is also evident in indie rock bands’ approach to live performances. Many indie rock bands play small venues, such as clubs, bars, and coffeehouses, rather than stadiums or arenas. They often put on their own shows rather than going on tour with larger acts.

Eclectic Tastes

Indie rock is known for its eclectic tastes, do-it-yourself attitude, and DIY ethic. Indie rock encompasses a wide range of styles, including lo-fi, post-rock, math rock, emo, noise pop, and more. Indie rock is generally thought to have started in the mid-’80s with bands like the Pixies and Sonic Youth.

Notable Indie Rock Bands

Indie rock is a genre of rock music that originated in the United Kingdom in the 1970s. It typically has a guitar-driven sound and is influenced by punk rock and new wave. Indie rock bands are usually independent musical artists who record and release their own music without the support of a record label.


Pavement was an American indie rock band that formed in Stockton, California in 1989. The group mainly consisted of Stephen Malkmus (vocals and guitar), Scott Kannberg (guitar and vocals), Mark Ibold (bass), Steve West (drums) and Bob Nastanovich (percussion and vocals).

Pavement’s musical style was influenced by a wide range of genres, including classic rock, country, folk, jazz, surrealism and punk rock. The band was also known for their lo-fi aesthetic and use of found sounds and samples.

Pavement released their debut album Slanted and Enchanted in 1992 to critical acclaim. The album helped to establish the band as one of the leading names in the American indie rock scene. Pavement’s follow-up albums Wowee Zowee (1995) and Brighten the Corners (1997) were also well-received by critics and cemented the band’s reputation as one of the most important indie rock groups of the 1990s.

Pavement officially disbanded in 1999, but have since reunited for several reunion tours. The band’s influence can be heard in the work of a number of subsequent indie rock artists.

Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth was an American rock band from New York City, formed in 1981. Originally a no wave band, Sonic Youth eventually embraced punk rock and alternative rock to become one of the most influential bands of its time. The band comprised Thurston Moore (guitar, vocals), Kim Gordon (bass guitar, vocals, guitar), Lee Ranaldo (guitar, vocals), Steve Shelley (drums) and later Jim O’Rourke (guitar).

Sonic Youth found critical acclaim with their 1986 album EVOL and their 1987 album Sister. The latter album was ranked number one on NME’s “The 100 Greatest Albums of the 1980s” list. The group signed to DGC Records in 1990 and released Goo, which received mixed reviews. Afterward, the group released Dirty in 1992; despite strong reviews, it sold poorly compared to their previous albums. In 1994 the group released Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star to generally positive reviews; however, substantial mainstream success still eluded them.

The following year saw another line-up change when Ranaldo left the band due to creative differences; he was replaced by O’Rourke for the remainder of Sonic Youth’s recording career. Washing Machine (1995) marked a return to critical acclaim for Sonic Youth; Dirty Boots EP was also released that year. A harder-edged guitar sound characterized A Thousand Leaves (1998). In 2000 the group released NYC Ghosts & Flowers which found them experimenting with new sounds and textures; critics divided in their opinions of the album. Jim O’Rourke left the band in mid-2001; he would be replaced by Mark Ibold for their next album Murray Street (2002). With Ivalenge including live performances and outtakes—was issued in 2004 as a bookend to Murray Street.”

Modest Mouse

Modest Mouse is an American rock band formed in 1992 in Issaquah, Washington, and currently based in Portland, Oregon. The founding members are lead singer/guitarist Isaac Brock, drummer Jeremiah Green, and bassist Eric Judy. Strongly influenced by Pavement, Pixies, and XTC, the band rehearsed intensely after forming and quickly began earning a local following for their energetic live shows. Since 1996, Modest Mouse has released six studio albums and two EPs. Their 2004 album Good News for People Who Love Bad News peaked at number four on Billboard’s US Top 200 chart and crossed over into mainstream radio play..The group’s most recent album is 2015’s Strangers to Ourselves.

The Influence of Indie Rock

Indie rock music is a genre that is known for its independent artists and unique sound. This type of music often has a DIY ethic and is created outside of the mainstream music industry. Indie rock music can be traced back to the 1970s with bands like the Velvet Underground and the Stooges.

The Indie Rock Explosion of the 2000s

The indie rock explosion of the 2000s was a period of increased popularity and success for the genre. A number of factors contributed to this, including the rise of digital music platforms, the popularity of hipster culture, and the commercial success of a number of key bands.

The 2000s saw a major influx of new bands and artists into the indie rock scene. This was largely due to the fact that it was now easier than ever for aspiring musicians to create and release their music. Platforms such as MySpace and Bandcamp made it possible for anyone with a computer and an internet connection to put their music out there for the world to hear.

This increase in supply coincided with a growing demand for indie rock music. Hipster culture became increasingly popular in the early 2000s, and indie rock was seen as an authentic and cool alternative to mainstream pop music. A number of key bands also found commercial success during this period, including The Strokes, The White Stripes, and Arcade Fire. This helped to raise the profile of the genre and bring it into the mainstream consciousness.

The indie rock explosion of the 2000s was a period of significant growth for the genre. The rise of digital platforms made it easier than ever for new artists to get their music out there, while the popularity of hipster culture created a demand for authenticity and coolness that indie rock was able to provide. A number of key bands also found commercial success during this time, helping to raise the profile of the genre even further.

The Mainstreaming of Indie Rock

With the massive success of bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam in the early ‘90s, the major record labels began to take notice of the popularity of indie rock. They began signing indie rock bands to their rosters and releasing their albums on a wider scale. This increased exposure led to a growth in popularity for indie rock, and by the mid-‘90s, it had become a fully mainstream genre.

Despite its newfound mainstream status, indie rock retained its independent spirit. Most indie rock bands continued to be signed to independent record labels, rather than major ones. And they continued to produce music that was outside of the mainstream norms. This embrace of independence is what has kept indie rock fresh and exciting over the years, even as it has become more popular.

The mainstreaming of indie rock did have some negative consequences, however. As more people began to listen to indie rock, some of its originality was lost. In addition, many bands that were once considered “indie” (such as Nirvana) achieved massive commercial success. This led some people to argue that these bands were no longer “indie” at all.

But despite these criticisms, indie rock remains an incredibly popular genre today. It continues to evolve and change, incorporating new sounds and styles. And it continues to be a place where independent artists can find an audience for their music.

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