Contrary to popular opinion, “indie” music is actually quite accurate when produced by bands not signed to major labels. It’s not just about how big a group is but more importantly their sound that matters most.
The indie genre was birthed from punk rock bands like Buzzcocks and continues to influence mainstream artists today. It’s a movement that began much earlier than many people realize.
Buzzcocks are one of the UK’s most beloved punk bands. Formed in 1976, they are widely considered one of the founding fathers of punk music in this country; their catchy guitar-driven songs often deal with topics such as love and heartbreak; their legacy continues to inspire young musicians today.
School friends Howard Devoto and Peter McNeish formed the band Velvet Underground after seeing Sex Pistols perform in London. Convinced they could make it big in Manchester, the duo quickly recruited bassist Steve Diggle and drummer John Maher for their rhythm section.
They released their debut single, “Are You Happy Nowadays” in June 1976, signed to United Artists and producing some of the most beloved music of punk’s era.
Though their first album failed to sell well, they soon embarked on a tour with Joy Division and signed with 4AD and Mute Records. Their third and final studio album, A Different Kind of Tension, was released in 1979.
Frontman Pete Shelley (born Peter Campbell McNeish) was also a poet renowned for his groundbreaking explorations of sexuality, taboo subjects and nihilism. Later in life he gained notoriety through his electronic pop experiments such as the song “Homosapien,” which reached number one on Billboard Hot 100 in 1981.
Following their breakup in 1989, Buzzcocks reunited in 1989 and have since toured with Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Green Day. Recently they recorded Buzzkunst – an album that plays off of the German word for “art.”
Buzzcocks released numerous albums and singles during their active years. The band consisted of Howard Devoto on vocals; Steve Diggle on guitar; John Maher on drums; and Peter Shelley on guitar. Touring extensively since 2018, lead singer Pete Shelley passed away in 2018, leaving guitarist Steve Diggle as lead vocalist. Recently the group reformed for a world tour to commemorate their 40th anniversary – celebrating alternative indie music while continuing to create popular hits today. Their influence can still be felt across alternative rock scenes today.
Vampire Weekend, formed in 2006 at Columbia University, quickly made their mark with their upbeat blend of pop hooks, quirky lyrics and soukous-influenced vibes. Comprised of guitarist/singer Ezra Koenig, drummer Chris Tomson and keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij, they achieved success with their self-titled debut in 2008 before following it up with 2010’s Contra.
As they rose to fame, the group reworked and reinvented their sound by adding elements of ska and hip-hop while still maintaining the vibrant visual style they were known for. This led to a series of critically acclaimed albums such as GRAMMY-winning Modern Vampires of the City and Father of the Bride.
Vampire Weekend not only revolutionized their sound, but they also helped define alternative indie music during the late 2000s and 2010s. Not only were they one of the most influential acts within this genre, but they were among the first artists to break into popular culture.
Their success was due to the internet buzz they generated, which made them targets of cultural appropriation and class disparities. But their vibrant pop tunes, which combined well-read indie rock with joyful Afro-pop and calypso rhythms, helped them transcend these issues.
At a pivotal juncture for this genre of music, it emerged at an age when traditional taste boundaries no longer applied. The internet had revolutionized many categories but it wasn’t until music bloggers started championing indie bands that mainstream media began paying attention.
Vampire Weekend wasn’t alone in 2009: Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective all reached the peak of their popularity; however, these acts had more of an intellectual bent than Vampire Weekend’s music, making their appeal harder to digest than that of a Hot New Band.
Vampire Weekend have seen considerable success over the years, yet their fame has dimished somewhat. Despite releasing multiple albums, spawning numerous solo projects and losing a member, they remain as popular today as when they first formed back in 2008. Their influence on alternative indie music continues to be felt today.
Fever 333 is a politically engaged rapcore band founded in 2017 by former Letlive vocalist Jason Butler, former The Chariot guitarist Stephen Harrison and Night Verses drummer Aric Improta. Their sound blends rock/metal, rap and punk elements while their lyrics express social awareness with subversion at their core.
The trio released their debut EP, Made an America, earlier this year. It included the title track and Top 10 rock radio hit “Walking in My Shoes,” plus an official remix featuring Vic Mensa and Travis Barker. Furthermore, the group was nominated for Best Rock Performance at the 61st Grammy Awards and recently took part in a demonstration at The Forum in Los Angeles (see itinerary below).
Since then, they’ve been on an extensive tour schedule supporting Bring Me The Horizon across Europe and the UK. Additionally, they performed at Download Australia & U.K., Lollapalooza Argentina, Brazil & Chile as well as North America’s Sonic Temple Festival.
Roadrunner/333 Wreckords Crew’s debut LP, STRENGTH IN NUMB333RS, continues their socially-conscious mission and delivers a powerful mix of punk, metal, rap and thrash that’s set to become their signature sound. Filled with powerful riffs and heavy lyricism, this album has ignited the rock music scene – and beyond!
The lead single “One Of Us,” with its powerful chorus that takes aim at poverty, police brutality and inequality, serves as an introduction to the band’s distinctive sound. It’s accompanied by a music video directed by Jason Aalon Butler and Djay Brauner that sees them performing alongside allies on the streets of downtown Los Angeles.
Fans of Fever 333 won’t want to miss this powerful track. In the meantime, check out their previous single, “Burn It,” below!
Dexter Tortoriello’s drum-and-bass inspired EP Drugstore Heaven has been steadily climbing the Billboard Alternative Songs chart for eight weeks, suggesting it could be one of the more unexpected top 10 entries. The captivating lead track “Fast Talk” has seen steady progress since its release and it appears the song may have a bright future ahead.
Automatic is an all-female trio that creates indie pop with post-punk influences and soulful hooks. Their sound harkens back to the 80s, drawing inspiration from cassette demos and punk energy for an alternative music experience that’s as enjoyable to dance to as listen to.
Since mid 2015, this East London trio has been garnering recognition from notable artists such as LIBERTINES and Gary Powell. Drawing heavily from old school punk riffs and lyrics while adding a modern indie pop aesthetic, their sound combines elements of both.
Ten Knowledges is a prime example of this, as it seamlessly blends the best elements from both worlds: the nostalgic emo-rock sound of the late ’80s with catchy adlibs from today’s teenage pop stars. Furthermore, it manages to fit an impressive amount of information into its three minute duration.
There are countless acts that have contributed to the evolution of alternative indie music, but Automatic stands as one of the pioneering pioneers. Their all-female trio consists of Izzy Glaudini (vocals, synths), Lola Dompe (drums & vocals) and Halle Saxon-Gaines on bass.
They create music with an old school vibe, bridging the gap between hissy indie rock of years past and brightly-crafted pop of today. Their latest album Antisocialites is an exquisite masterpiece sure to enchant and motivate listeners everywhere.
The indie music world has always been at the cutting edge, with new technology helping to push its limits. This trend can be seen in how bands are increasingly using technology to promote themselves and build an audience online. From websites offering free downloads to music news sites and reviews sites, musicians now have access to a wider audience than before. As a result, more musicians are releasing their work publicly, while even mainstream artists are looking to break into this community in search of recognition for their musical message.