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hookers with machineguns 01-15-2006 11:33 AM

The Indie Education Thread
The Indie Education Thread

Written by Hookers with Machineguns, IndiElectronica, and Sweet Jane

What is indie?
“Indie” is commonly thought of as music that is released on independent (or non-major) record labels. In principle, an indie artist would be more likely concerned with innovation and determination, rather than commerciality or following tradition/trends. Thus in a broader sense, indie has also been defined by some as music that is independent of mainstream/popular music trends in general. For instance, bands like Radiohead, Sonic Youth, The Flaming Lips, and more recently The White Stripes and Modest Mouse are commonly referred to as “indie” bands due to their independent spirit, despite being on major labels.

In recent years, indie has perhaps mistakenly been associated with a particular sound, specifically New Wave influenced bands like The Killers, Hot Hot Heat, The Bravery, and Franz Ferdinand. However, indie hardly encompasses only one genre or sound. The influences of today’s indie artists vary between traditional punk rock, pop, new wave and post-punk, garage rock, electronica and synth pop, psychedelic rock, country, emo, post-rock, noise rock, grunge, and folk. In the past, terms like “college rock” and “alternative” have been commonly used (perhaps mistakenly in certain instances) to describe many “indie” bands.

Indie music often breaks away from commonly accepted music “design” and format. The vocals tend to be mild and/or mellow. Instrumentation tends to be abstract and lo-fi, with distorted guitars typically supported by melodic pop-style rhythms and lyrics.

“Indie”, in itself, has acquired its own social identity, despite the intention of being “trendless” and “anti-mainstream.” There are many who no longer acknowledge a band as “indie” upon even the most minor amounts of commercial exposure. Often, the “indie” community embraces obscurity and has thus received much scrutiny for its apparent hipster attitude and elitist-type approach. Critics also have pointed out that the indie movement is increasingly becoming more commercialized, market and image oriented, and formulaic.


The fundamentals of indie music began with the punk-influenced new wave and alternative rock movements of the late 1970s and 1980s. European bands like The Cure, Bauhaus, Joy Division/New Order, Gang of Four, The Depeche Mode, Wire, Echo and The Bunnymen, The Pogues, and The Smiths. were among the first batch of alternative rock groups that emerged from the onset of the punk attitude. The prominent American scene standouts included Minutemen, Husker Du, Television, Meat Puppets, R.E.M., Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., The Violent Femmes, and the Flaming Lips. By the mid-1980s, bands like My Bloody Valentine, The Melvins, Yo La Tengo, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Stone Roses, Galaxie 500, Television, Pavement and The Pixies emerged into the scene.

“Indie” was previously used in Britain to describe numerous Britpop and new wave bands of the 1980s (during the days when NME used to release their C-86 cassettes). By the 1990s, “indie” basically became the new buzz-word for “alternative” upon the introduction of alternative rock to mainstream radio play. “Alternative” has different implications in today’s media. It is often representative of youth angst/rebellion anthems or progressive rock and metal varieties.

Meanwhile, many different regions were sprouting breeds of innovative indie bands. Scenes include...

New York: Radio 4, Television, TV On The Radio, The Strokes, Interpol, The French Kicks, The Walkmen, Les Savy Fav, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Ambulance Ltd., The Fiery Furnaces, Fischerspooner, The Rapture

Portland: The Decemberists, Quasi, Menomena, Hazel, Sprinkler, The Crabs, Elliott Smith, The Dandy Warhols, The Thermals, Blue Skies For Black Hearts, The Tuftees

Canada: The Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, Broken Social Scene, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, The Unicorns, Magneta Lane, The Dears, Death From Above 1979, Metric, New Pornographers, Stars, The Weakerthans, Do Make Say Think, Cowboy Junkies, The Birthday Massacre

Chicago: Tortoise, Wilco, Andrew Bird, Sea and Cake, Red Red Meat, Low, The Jesus Lizard, New Black, The Reputation, The Ponys, Califone, Pelican, L’Altra

California: Moving Units, The Blackheart Procession, Autolux, Pavement, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Rilo Kiley, Xiu Xiu, Red House Painters, Beulah, Le Shok, Comets on Fire, Deerhoof, Anything Box

U.K.: Gang of Four, Wire, Echo & The Bunnymen, Teenage Fanclub, The Stone Roses, Radiohead, Super Furry Animals, Stereolab, The Boy Least Likely To, Trembling Blue Stars, The Subways, Arctic Monkeys, The Libertines, Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party, Nine Black Alps, Art Brut, The Go! Team, 65 Days of Static, Four Tet, Portishead, Frou Frou

Omaha, Nebraska: Bright Eyes, The Faint, Tilly and the Wall, Cursive, Son Ambulance, Azure Ray, Now It’s Overhead, Desaparecidos,

Scotland: Sons and Daughters, Belle & Sebastian, Snow Patrol, Teenage Fanclub, Jesus & Mary Chain, Franz Ferdinand, Mogwai, Primal Scream, The Delgados

Washington – Nirvana, Mudhoney, Alice in Chains, Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie, Pedro The Lion

Austin, Texas – Spoon, American Analog Set, Explosions in the Sky, …And you Will Know Us By the Trail of the Dead

hookers with machineguns 01-15-2006 11:37 AM


Indie Rock (or simply “indie”) follows the conventional rock music design, but characteristically incorporates a more distorted and abstract guitar sound and mellow or soft vocals. Many of today’s indie rock bands are heavily influenced by the new wave, grunge, and post-punk movements of the past. Subgenres of indie rock include:
Examples: Neutral Milk Hotel, TV On the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Pedro The Lion, The Decemberists, Spoon, Pavement, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Built To Spill, Arcade Fire, Death From Above 1979

Shoegaze- characterized by a blend of melody and very long, noisy guitar riffs with cascades of distortion and feedback. Performers were often motionless onstage. The sound is originally a late 1980s UK movement.
Examples: My Bloody Valentine, Ride, The Boo Radleys, Chapterhouse, Lush, Jesus and Mary Chain, Slowdive, Catherine Wheel

Twee pop- characterized by simple and often bittersweet lyrics and catchy melodies. Twee pop can be characterized as soft and innocent, and has jokingly in the past been referred to as “cuddlecore”. Much of twee-pop has its routes in 60’s pop music.
Examples: Belle and Sebastian, Talulah Gosh, Trembling Blue Stars, The Boy Least Likely To, Camera Obscura (Scotland), and Sodastream

Garage Rock revival
- characterized by very simple and short chords and lyrics, with a raw rock n’ roll sound (sneering vocals and fuzzy guitars). Most of today’s garage rock revival bands are equally influenced by the original punk movement and the grunge movement along with the original garage rock movement of the 1960s.
Examples: The Strokes, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The White Stripes, The Subways, The Hives, The Vines

New Wave/Post-Punk Revival- Similar to garage rock or the post-punk style of the 1980s, including bands like Gang of Four, Wire, The Talking Heads, The Psychedelic Furs, and Joy Division. The music tends to be slightly more artsy, experimental, and consistent with conventional pop music design compared to punk rock. Some of the modern bands have a funk or dance element in their beat.
Examples: Franz Ferdinand, Interpol, Arcade Fire, Klaxons, Arctic Monkeys, Moving Units, Art Brut, The Dead 60s

Synth Pop and Electro-pop
- Essentially pop songs with simple, melodic choruses and danceable beats from electronic instruments. Unlike electronica, electro-pop incorporates more songwriting along with the synthesizer dance beats.
Examples: The Faint, Ladytron, Fischerspooner, Le Tigre, The Postal Service, Shiny Toy Guns, Figurine, Freezepop, The Rapture, LCD Soundsystem, The Unicorns

Post-rock- Typically ambient or experimental (and sometimes with elements of jazz, rock, or electronica), with emphasis on instrumentation and sound timbres rather than riffs, chords, or in most cases vocals. Today’s post-rock is heavily influenced by Stereolab, Mogwai, and Tortoise.
Examples: Explosions in the Sky, Do Make Say Think, Godspeed! You Black Emperor, 65 Days of Static, Sigur Ros, Broken Social Scene, Shalabi Effect, Amusement Parks on Fire

Indie pop- Can be best described as conventional pop or pop-rock with unconventional lo-fi qualities. Generally an ambiguous term, considering many of its inherent bands can fit under other sub-categories.
Examples: The Dresden Dolls, Tegan and Sara, Stars, Mates of State, Metric, Death Cab For Cutie, Architecture in Helsinki, Tilly and the Wall, Islands, The Fiery Furnaces, Rilo Kiley, New Pornographers, Of Montreal, Frou Frou

Dream pop- characterized by soft, echoed, and often mumbled vocal delivery. Dream pop is closely related to twee pop and shoegaze, with slightly more ambience. Some bands, like Low, are considered “slowcore”, which typically contains more minimalist arrangements.
Examples: Mazzy Star, Galaxie 500, Red House Painters, Mercury Rev, Magnetic Fields, Flaming Lips

Trip hop- A combination of hip-hop breakbeats, downtempo electro or house music, and/or acid jazz.
Examples: Portishead, Sneaker Pimps, Bjork, Massive Attack, Martina Topley-Bird, Tricky, Zero7, Kosheen, Morcheeba

Noise Rock- Characterized by loud, heavy, and distorted guitars and minimal (or lack of) musical structure. Along with post-rock, noise rock is often labeled as “avante garde.” It began around the 1980s, progressing from the punk movement and straying from the usual indie/rock 4/4 beat. More recent bands are often almost entirely instrumental.
Examples: The Melvins, The Jesus Lizard, Shellac, Arab on Radar, US Maple, Melt Banana, Zeni Geva, Unsane, Deerhoof, Black Dice, Tad, Comets on Fire, Lightning Bolt, Shellac

Indie folk/Singer-Songwriters- Typically composed of acoustic instruments and basic drumming (if any) with a lot of harmony and strong choruses thoughout. The singers (often unusual) voice and acoustic guitar being the primary instruments of music.

Phil Ochs, often overshadowed by Bob Dylan, started out singing political protest songs such as ‘I Ain't Marching Any More’ supporting the anti-war movement and songs about civil rights and other injustices. Although similar to simple acoustic, folk seems to often thrive on the political element. Bert Jansch, from Scotland, took the American folk structure and made it more eclectic. That's what indie folk is - taking folk music, famous for being simple, acoustic-based music, and adding something, taking away from its simplicity and making it your own style. For most, this means becoming bigger and badder, adding electric guitar, drums, and other less classically ‘acoustic’ instruments to customize their own individual sound using folk. Examples of this are Bob Dylan’s second album, using electric guitar. Going heavier still, Jimmy Page even noted folk musician Bert Jansch as one of his main influences in his picking; while Tim Buckley fused jazz into his folk-style to make his own indie-folk sylings.

Examples: Azure Ray, Regina Spektor, Feist, Beirut, Kimya Dawson (The Moldy Peaches), Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Phil Ochs, Elliott Smith, PJ Harvey, Iron & Wine, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Sufjan Stevens, Nick Drake

riseagainstrocks 01-15-2006 02:40 PM

I would identify Camera Obscura more with Synth Pop, than Twee Pop. By the way, Twee Pop? oi...

Urban Hat€monger ? 01-15-2006 02:42 PM

Threads like these made me wish I knew enough about one genre of music enough to be able to write something like this myself :(

cardboard adolescent 01-15-2006 08:16 PM

I think it's worth mentioning that Velvet Underground set a lot of the standards for indie music, with Velvet Underground & Nico serving as the basis for most indie pop. Most guitar-based indie rock, like Husker Du and Sonic Youth, was heavily influenced both by hardcore punk, as well as the noise-style freak outs found both in VU's White Light/White Heat, as well as the Stooges' albums. Sonic Youth grew out of the no wave scene, which is where a lot of their guitar experimentation came from, and bands that started to use a lot of distortion and noise in their music, like Dinosaur Jr. and eventually Green River, were also influenced by no wave and the Stooges.

TrampInaTux 01-16-2006 04:33 AM

I agree with Urban. Then again, I'm not really bothered. I listen to the music, I feel like I don't have to know everything about a genre to be described as a huge fan. You listen, no need to learn. But well done anyways, a lot of time spent on it. Even though I flicked through most of it. Sorry.

IndiElectronica 01-16-2006 08:03 AM


Originally Posted by riseagainstrocks
I would identify Camera Obscura more with Synth Pop, than Twee Pop. By the way, Twee Pop? oi...

Which Camera Obscura you referring to? The Scottish group is what I meant on that list and they are most certainly Twee :)

Redkez 02-15-2006 07:00 AM

So many genres!!!
Phew! Good piece, and very knowlegeable. But so many genres! And so many arguments we could all have about where each act crossed the genre boundary. My favourite story of crossing borders is the one about David Gray (welsh chappie with a guitar who writes great songs and then sings them whilst waggling his head a lot). When he started out he was classified by the mainstream stores and media as 'Folk/Acoustic'. As things picked up for the welshman, he was then moved into 'Alternative/Indie'. As soon as success started to happen, his records were moved into the 'Pop' section. And finally he ended up in the 'Charts' section.
Genres are dead. Long live genre.
Of course at indie label MVine we don't bother with genres at all. You can just listen and decide if you like it.

mosesandtherubberducky 02-15-2006 04:16 PM

Nice guys.

*is going to consult with this thread for lots of new music*

I got some of The Jesus Lizard can anyone suggest some bands that are similar to them?

Urban Hat€monger ? 02-15-2006 04:18 PM


Originally Posted by mosesandtherubberducky

I got some of The Jesus Lizard can anyone suggest some bands that are similar to them?

Butthole Surfers & Big Black would be a good start

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