Best Indie Rock Bands :: The portal of the largest rankings on the Internet!

Originating in the 1980’s as an alternative style to the typical ‘rock’ genre, indie rock dominated the charts through many unique and interesting bands. Indie rock bands started a trend to be different in the music industry and to sometimes deviate from the normal mainstream music. The name came from the idea that these indie rock bands were owned and managed by independent record labels. From the 1980’s when indie rock bands started, to right in the present day, there have been a number of significant indie bands that have changed the music scene forever. That’s why, we’ve put together the ultimate guide of the top 10 best indie rock bands that have come from America…

The 10 Best Indie Rock Bands of America

Indie Rock Band
1 Pavement After recording 5 full-length albums and around 9 EP’s, the five-man indie rock band eventually spilt, but before they did their decade-long career showed them off as one of the best indie rock bands in history. Consisting of Mark Ibold (bassist), Stephen Malkmus (vocalist), Steve West (drummist), Scott Kannberg (guitarist), and Bob Nastanovich (backing vocalist). Rather than signing to a major label like many of the popular indie rock bands did during the 1980’s, Pavement stayed true to their roots and stayed with their independent label. Although this did then mean they didn’t have as many top hits as some of the other bands as the tried to stay underground with their music. There were many music critiques that named Pavement the best band of the 90’s, due to the creative style and uniqueness. Their split came as a surprise to many fans and their record label, as the band had just embarked on a world tour (spanning over 6 months), but their relationships seemed to fray during the time they were away and then on the 20th November 1999, they played their last performance in London, UK. However, there has been a lot of speculation of the band having a reunion over the last few decades, including in 2015 when the media asked of a possible reunion performance. Pavement had two singles from one of their studio albums which were regarded as on the boarder of mainstream, and it is thought that if they had produced and created more tracks like these they would have broke the mainstream, the singles were; ‘Gold Soundz’ and ‘Cut Your Hair’.

See more information and history on Pavement here:
2 Nirvana Possibly the most successful indie rock band of all time, Nirvana formed in the late 1980’s with three members, despite having multiple drummers through their existence, their most well-known line-up consisted of guitarist and lead singer Kurt Cobain, bassist Krist Novoselic, and drummer Dave Grohl. They’re often regarded as very influential in the rock genre industry and they’re thought of as one of the most important alternative bands in history. Originally established in the Seattle grunge scene, Nirvana suddenly became one of the most popular mainstream bands in the charts. Despite having an alternative sound and not adhering to the chart music style, Nirvana had multiple hit singles that are still loved by millions of people decades later. Songs such as ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, ‘Come as You Are’, and ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ were some of their biggest hits. Leaving a legacy to thousands of future bands, Nirvana took the unconventional route and became popular for expressing themselves like no other band had before, they are regarded as one of the best bands of all time and Kurt Cobains suicide devastated millions of fans all over the world. It is thought that Cobains deep and emotional lyrics resonated with many fans and it’s because of this that they got huge press coverage. Despite only ever releasing 3 studio albums (with ‘Nevermind’ being one of them), their success was like no other band yet. Nirvana essentially created grunge and indie rock music, which is exactly why they’re at the top of this list. Their last ever show took place in Germany (Munich) on the 1st of March 1994, just a few days before Cobain was found unconscious in a hotel room. It was just a month later he was found dead in his Home. Although the rest of that tour was cancelled, the other musicians of the group have gone on to release albums together, and unreleased music has surfaced and been produced into other albums. Their performance at MTV Unplugged in early 1994 was eventually released into an album of the same name and debuted at number one on the charts. They really were one of the most successful bands of the decade and possibly in all of history.

See the official Nirvana website and learn more information here:
3 Sonic Youth Formed in New York City in 1981 with 3 original members, the band soon became a four-man band with Steve Shelley playing drums. The band soon had a series of short-term drummers throughout 1985 before Shelley fully joined the band officially. Before transitioning into a conventional rock band, the group were on the more experimental art and music scene. They have since been regarded as redefining rock by using a wider variety of guitar tunings by experimenting with drum sticks and even screwdrivers. After gaining a large underground following in New York, the band signed to SST records and had a lot of mainstream success during the late 1990’s and 2000’s. They headlined the Lollapalooza festival in 1995 as well as changing their record label to a major one in 1990. Thought of as one of the best indie rock bands of the 20th century, Sonic Youth consisted of Kim Gordon (bassist), Thurston Moore (guitarist and lead vocals), and Lee Ranaldo (guitarist). Between 1983 and 2009, the band released 14 studio albums and although some did better than others, they still had many chart-topping singles including songs like ‘Sugar Kane’, ‘Dirty Boots’, and ‘Superstar’.

Visit the official website of Sonic Youth and find out about current and past tour dates here:
4 The Strokes Another indie rock band formed in New York City named themselves The Strokes, they are currently still actively making music and have been since the band started in 1998. Composed of 5 members; Fabrizio Moretti, Nick Valensi, Julian Casablancas, Albert Hammond Jr., and Nikolai Fraiture. After debuting their first album ‘Is This It’ in 2001, they became known worldwide and have since been seen as one of the most influential garage and indie rock bands of all time. They have since been named as one of the top 10 in the Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Debut Albums, as well as rated second in the Best Albums of the 2000’s. 5 studio albums, around 11 EP’s and side projects, as well as a worldwide tour in different depths of the world, the five man band have stormed the world and currently still do. Smash hits they have released that changed the charts included; ‘Reptilia’, ‘You Only Live Once’, and ‘Last Nite’. All of their songs and style is creative and unique to their band, so no other band sounds like them. They have been praised by the media for always being themselves and creating music that suited their band rather than to please others. The Strokes have made a huge impact on the indie rock industry and changed the way bands make music forever. Their legacy is still becoming bigger as they grow in popularity, and there is a strong possibility they will go on to create some of the best rock music to ever exist.

For more information about current and upcoming music see their official website here:
5 The Pixies The indie rock scene became more popular during the 1980’s and this is one of the main reasons that many bands formed, to create music and try to break the mainstream charts. The alternative rock band The Pixies, were no different, after forming in Boston in 1986, the original 4 members; Joey Santiago, David Lovering, Black Francis, and Kim Deal (soon replaced with Paz Lenchantin). After 7 years making music, the group decided to split but rekindled their band in 2004 with a new member (Paz). In the past, The Pixies have been associated with the boom of alternative and indie rock as well as punk rock. Although they originated in America, they gained a lot more popularity in the UK and throughout Europe. They have been even more popular since they reformed in 2004, they have since been selling out their world tour all over the world. After releasing 6 studio albums, and selling out many arenas, the band are still creating amazing unique music for all of their fans all over the world. Popular songs they have produced include; ‘Here Comes Your Man’, ‘Debaser’, and ‘Where Is My Mind?’. Despite criticism from the mainstream music media, they have become one of the most popular bands of all time.

For more information about the music produced and created by The Pixies, see it here:
6 Talking Heads Thought of as one of the original indie rock bands in all of history, Talking Heads formed in New York City in 1975. They had 16 years making active music but eventually called off their group in 1991 after multiple problems. They have been described by critiques as one of the most critically acclaimed bands of all time as well as being behind the popular rise of rock music. Taking influence from other influential bands, the group released 8 studio albums all over the world, including ‘Little Creatures’ (in 1985), and ‘Naked’ (in 1988). The original line-up consisted of 4 members; Jerry Harrison, David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, and Chris Frantz, with the band having around 9 touring musicians over their career. They were particularly popular due to their experimental songs and change in genre, although they are talked about as an indie style, they also experimented with genres such as art-funk, and pop. Not only this, but they have influenced many other successful bands to become the popular musicians they are today, those such as The 1975, Kesha, and Radiohead are all those who list Talking Heads as their influence. Their fame allowed them to win awards and be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the US in 2002. They have also been listed highly in many other rock charts including for their songs ‘Life During Wartime’ and ‘Psycho Killer’. Ever since their split, there has been speculation of a reunion, but it is yet to happen, in the meantime, they will continue to influence bands to start creating music.

For all things Talking Heads, you can see their official website, it has regular updates that you may find interesting:
7 Dinosaur Jr. Originally known as Dinosaur until the group had to change their band name legally due to issues, the founders of the band include vocalist and songwriter, Joseph Mascis, bassist, Lou Barlow, and drummer, Emmett Murphy. Even though they formed in 1984 and split in the late 90’s, the band decided to join back up again and ever since 2005 have been actively making new music. Their sound is often compared to classic rock artists such as the Rolling Stones, but they use more distortion and feedback than any other typical rock bands, therefore they are classified as indie. Dinosaur Jr. have released 12 studio albums as well as embarking on a world tours, showing their fans how committed they are to producing quality music as well as being true to themselves. Their classic rock influences from the 60’s and 70’s encouraged them to do even better and break the mainstream music industry. Popular songs they released and that smashed the charts included; ‘Tiny’, ‘Hold Unknown’, and ‘Feel the Pain’. All of these songs helped make them into even better musicians and allowed them to have more opportunities later in their music careers. Dinosaur Jr.’s name came from the idea of dinosaurs being strong and mighty, the band wanted to create a place were music could be as strong as it could and be enjoyed by everyone.

If you want anymore information about Dinosaur Jr. or their journey in the music industry then see here:
8 The Postelles After meeting during their school years in 2008, the four-piece rock band began their career of making alternative and indie rock by debuting their popular self-titled album. They have often been compared to other artists such as Alex Winston and The Strokes. Many of their songs have been featured in TV and films such as one of their songs ‘White Night’, being in a number of episodes from Raising Hope. They have been creating music for under ten years have gained a huge following as well as releasing 2 successful albums. The indie rock band consists of four members; Daniel Balk, Billy Cadden, David Dargahi, and John Speyer, who formed in New York (much like many of the other bands on our top 10 indie rock bands list!). Before gaining their own success, the band had played and toured with huge rock musicians such as The Kooks, Interpol, and Kings of Leon. They have also been nominated for different awards such as the Best Rock album. The band have been particularly praised for their riffs and unique song melodies as well as deviating from the mainstream music industry to create beautiful and inspiring music to be listened to all over the world.

For updates on music and general band related information you can keep up with their Twitter here:
9 Neutral Milk Hotel Particularly known for their psychedelic folk sound and take on folk punch music, this band has changed the way that people view indie music. Ever since their first EP release in 1994, the band has gone on to create some of the most influential songs and albums of all time. The band has had many different members over their time being together, but their original line-up was started by vocalist and guitar played Jeff Mangum. They have released 6 demo albums, 2 studio albums, as well as 2 Eps over their time playing and creating music together. Although, they haven’t always had a lot of commercial success with the public and media, over the more recent years they have become a lot more popular with a growing number of fans. The band is also a part of the Elephant 6 Recording Company along with other bands such as The Apples in Stereo. Despite breaking up the band in 1999 due to Magnum’s decrease in mental health, they completed a reunion tour in 2013 and then stayed together for another 2 years (until 2015), until they eventually split up again.

For all things related to Neutral Milk Hotel, including any other reunions and tours, go to their website here:
10 Lady Lamb Although this list is predominantly about the best indie rock bands in America, Lady Lamb is a solo artist who specialises in indie rock and folk music. She is highly influential in the indie rock music industry, so the list wouldn’t be complete without her. Born Aly Spaltro but better known as her stage name of Lady Lamb, she has been in the music business since 2007 and has since taken the world by storm. Lady Lamb is also a song writer and always performs her own music which makes any of her performances special. After starting out recording her own experimental music during late nights on her work shifts, she got signed by Ba Da Bing records who released her first few original songs using the recordings she had made on her own. After moving to New York (to make it big time!), Lady Lamb signed to another record label named Mom + Pop shortly after she made her first debut album. Popular songs Lady Lamb has released include ‘See You’ (in 2016), and ‘All I Really Want to Do’ (2011). The style Lady Lamb projects is always real and positive which means that her fans always resonate with her music which eventually makes her even more popular.

See Lady Lamb’s official website here for more information on upcoming EP’s, albums and tours:

History of Indie Rock

The term originated back in the 1980’s when an abbreviation of the word ‘independent’ came to the lime light and many bands wanted to be ‘indie’, the word referred to a small collection of independent record labels and different bands and how they were represented. Most indie bands were also classified as rock which eventually made indie rock bands what they are today. From the likes of small town indie rock bands, to those who were in the mainstream media, everyone of them is completely different and has something else to offer. Many of the rock bands associated with the major labels were not really as experimental as those who called themselves indie rock bands. Sonic Youth and Nirvana are just some of the biggest and best indie rock bands of all time, and they’re some of the most influential bands of all rock history.

Despite indie rock bands being on the more alternative side, they have been in the mainstream especially during the 90’s and early 2000’s. Seattle band Nirvana, are one of the most influential and successful indie rock bands of all time, they have very much changed the public and media’s perception of what rock bands and especially indie rock bands, actually are. After Nirvana’s success with their album Nevermind, they became one of the best indie rock bands in the world, with many of their songs dominating the charts for weeks, and slowly growing their fan base. This eventually lead to many other indie rock bands being formed including; Mudhoney and Pearl Jam.

The key moments in indie rock history are important to understand more about the music industry and how popular music has changed over the past few decades. Whilst these key moments are important, we must also remember that a lot of other smaller happenings contributed to the success of indie rock bands in the US and UK.

1979 – The beginning and birth of indie rock in the UK started when Alan Horne founded Postcard Records in Scotland. This has been regarded by many fans and followers as one of the key parts in history, especially when indie rock is regarded.

1981 – Sonic Youth is formed by Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon. The band focused on experimental and indie rock sound, they soon gained a lot of popularity and worldwide admiration, including the idea that they were one of the best indie rock bands of all time.

1986 – Sub Pop Records is founded by Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman in Seattle, the record label goes on to become one of the biggest and best indie record labels signing indie rock bands like Soundgarden and Nirvana.

1987 – Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic formed Nirvana in Washington with Dave Grohl joining as a long-term drummer in 1990.

1989 – American indie rock band, Pavement form in California after many other indie inspirations, lead vocalist Stephen Malkmus wants to create another alternative rock band similar to Nirvana.

1991 – Nevermind (Nirvana’s second album) reaches the top spot on the Billboard 200 which helps to secure their presence in the mainstream music industry for the rest of history.

2005 – Most of the top ten records in the charts are classified as indie rock, and there are hundreds of famous bands using the indie rock sound through their music, indie rock has become one of the most popular genres in the industry.