- Vocals (usually male)
- Backing Vocals
- Two guitarists – Lead and Rhythm
Performance and Arrangement:
- Guitar as the main harmonic instrument
- Guitar sounds commonly associated with indie are often referred to as jangly – a fairly light tone, often picked, sustained arpeggios with effects
- Vocals are often fairly understated, with a melancholy or introspective feel
- Backing vocals are not usually a big feature, so the music tends to be relatively sparse
- Some songs are long and loosely structured, almost like extended jams around a groove
- Solos do not form a very important part of the music
Technology and Production:
- Guitar amplifiers and effects play a big part in the sound of Indie music – The light, sustained tone and use of delays is common in many bands
- DIY production ethic, low budget recordings based on simple capture of live performances.
- UK Rock (The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks)
- Velvet Underground and Psychedelic Rock
- Punk Rock
The Development of Indie Rock Music
Indie rock is a genre of alternative rock that originated in the United Kingdom and the United States in the 1980s. Indie rock is extremely diverse, with sub-genres that include indie pop, jangle pop, C86, and lo-fi, among others. Originally used to describe 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 then 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, a number of indie rock acts began to enjoy commercial success, leading to questions about its meaningfulness as a term.
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.
In the mid-1980s, the term “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 bands rejected the dominant synth pop 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 sceneas 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 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.
1990s: Alternative enters the mainstream
The 1990s brought major changes to the alternative rock scene. Grunge bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden,Hole, 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.
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. (Continue reading this article)
Resources and Sources:
- Indie Rock wiki – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indie_rock
Indie Rock Listening Quiz
Audio examples: Please note that you must stop all audio tracks before moving onto the next question.
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- Question 1 of 10
Which of these are not sub-genres of Indie Rock Music?CorrectIncorrect
- Question 2 of 10
How would you describe the harmonic structure of this piece of music?
- Question 3 of 10
Rough Trade and Factory Records are two of the main record labels associated with Indie rock in the UK but where are they based?CorrectIncorrect
- Question 4 of 10
Which of the following artists were signed to Factory Records?CorrectIncorrect
- Question 5 of 10
Which of the following artists were signed to Rough Trade Records?CorrectIncorrect
- Question 6 of 10
Which of the following instruments are not commonly used in Indie Rock music?CorrectIncorrect
- Question 7 of 10
Describe the arrangement / structure of this song?CorrectIncorrect
- Question 8 of 10
Which of these songs is a famous Smiths song?CorrectIncorrect
- Question 9 of 10
Which of these songs is a famous Pulp song?CorrectIncorrect
- Question 10 of 10
Which of the following statements describes The Happy Mondays?CorrectIncorrect
Genre Review Essay question
In your own words describe the development of Indie Rock music and take into account the key features discovered in this lesson. For this short essay there is a maximum of 15 marks. Your writing should be well structures and approximately 150 words in length.
- Fingerprints – Give a mark for each fingerprint that has been described IN DETAIL WITH EXAMPLE (maximum of 5 marks)
- The Development of the style – Give a mark for each detailed reference made to the development of the style (Maximum of 5)
- Give a mark for referencing an Artist, Song or Album (Maximum of 3 marks)
- Written Communication – Is the essay well written and structured (Maximum of 2 marks)