Indie rock is special and stands out from all other music styles, as it is created outside of the studio system. The name indie rock comes from the abbreviation independent rock, which means that musicians do not belong to labels and do not hire producers but promote themselves independently. They begin their journey as unknown people, but with their talent, determination, and ability to advertise themselves, they become as successful as musicians who use the services of producers and record their tracks in professional studios. Despite the fact that it is much easier for groups that have the opportunity to promote with a producer, create their own style with the help of stylists and record their music in studios to achieve success and become recognizable in a short period of time, some musicians put their talent and independence at the forefront, which makes them even more attractive than ordinary groups.
It is hard to determine exactly when the direction of indie rock was first introduced as a genre of music. Back in the 50s, independent groups began to form. It was difficult for musicians to promote themselves, as they were immediately absorbed by the major record labels, but people wanted to listen to the new music, and this helped independent musicians in their development. There are two main areas of indie rock development: the United Kingdom and the United States. It is believed that the United Kingdom marked the birth of the genre, and the United States took it and made it more popular. In the United States, indie rock was a follower of college rock and became an alternative genre. Under the influence of indie rock, various new types of musical groups began to form, such as self-made experimental, hard grunge, punk-folk, and others. The history of the formation of indie rock and the development of rock bands that chose this direction is wide, some people are still fans of this genre, and some young musicians select this direction of performance.
The indie rock band Nirvana was formed in 1987 by vocalist and guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic. Their first album Bleach was recorded for Seattle-based independent record label Sub Pop (Savage, 2019). The peculiarity of their performance was that a sharp and loud chorus broke into the melancholic and sad melody of the main verse, and this feature brought the group great success.
Cobain and Novoselic were boys with complicated childhoods who began their careers performing at a barbershop run by Novoselic’s aunt, never knowing that they would be able to change the music forever. Cobain, who had long been burning with the idea of starting a band, tried to convince his friend and even let him listen to his demo track recorded while participating in another band. In the end, Cobain managed to persuade Novoselic, but the young musicians were looking for their niche for a long time because their listeners did not like the peculiarity of their performance.
Work on their first album Bleach began in 1988; with the financial support of their guitarist, they paid for the recording, and the album sold out well, even with a complete lack of advertising. In the 90s, with the help of independent record companies, Nirvana recorded their next album Nevermind, which, according to Grierson (2018), brought the band huge success. Only three albums have been officially released since bandleader Kurt Cobain committed suicide; Edwards (2018) stated that he was found in his home with a gunshot wound to the head and high levels of heroin in his blood. Perhaps the band could have pleased their fans with new albums and songs for a long time, but after Cobain’s death in 1994, it ceased to exist. Nirvana chose the direction of grunge, which in comparison with rock and roll is a more rough and “dirty” style of rock with a dark content of the text.
Prominent representatives of the indie rock of the 2000s were The Strokes, whose frontman, songwriter, and vocalist was Julian Casablancas. Nikolai Fraiture and Casablancas started playing as schoolboys, and as they got older, they invited Nick Valenci and Fabrizzio Moretti to form a band together and called it The Strokes. They rehearsed while continuing to stay at their jobs. The band started out playing in clubs on New York’s East Side, where they quickly became local favorites. The burgeoning band impressed fans with their style: they wore leather jackets and skinny jeans, and Phull (2017) believes that they were incredibly talented and beautiful rockers in a city that had been deprived of anything like this for the past decade.
Since the city was mostly filled with underground bands, The Strokes made an incredible impression and influenced many musicians by their example, forcing them to pick up guitars. Later on, The Strokes’ receivers achieved great commercial success, based on the cultural changes brought by the band. The band continued to rehearse and write new songs without the help of producers, promoters, and other promotion professionals.
Then, at one of the performances, the band was noticed by a producer and taken by him as clients. Being produced, the band released the album Is This It, which was a resounding success, but after this success, other albums were released that disappointed the public and critics. Nguyen (2016) claims that in recent years The Strokes released their most unsuccessful songs, which led the band to apathy. It can not be concluded that the work of the producer negatively affected the perfomance of the group, but the formation of the band took place without outside help and aided The Strokes become the favorites of the public and the group that potential musicians look up to.
A popular indie rock band of modern time is the British band Arctic Monkeys, which was formed in 2002. They first released the track in 2005 on the band’s own label, which was distributed through online resources, and later, performing on stage for little-known bands, gathered a large number of fans and members of the press. Later, the musicians signed a contract with an independent label, the owner of which worked only with those bands that he personally liked. On this label, they recorded only two songs, which, according to the versions of different music charts, became the most popular despite the fact that these tracks were not advertised.
Having achieved public recognition, the band began to record tracks that formed into whole albums, which occupied the first lines of the charts. After recording their fifth album, Arctic Monkeys became the label’s first independent band with five consecutive albums, which were the most popular in the UK. Not every band can boast of such success, but the talent of the musicians made this band recognizable and beloved, even without the help of producers.
Fans never lost interest in the band precisely because Arctic Monkeys always surprised them with something new in their sound. Sometimes there were periods when people were disappointed with the update, which attracted the media, and the band continued to thrive, proving that the changes were natural and had no purpose of alienating their fans. Despite the periodic criticism, the songs released by Arctic Monkeys become hits, and this strengthens their determination to do things their own way, not giving in to external influences and not allowing success to change them (Jenke, 2020). Perhaps this is the main criterion for evaluating real musicians.
Arctic Monkeys hired tour managers to plan their tours and social media managers to promote them on the Internet, but from the very beginning, the band earned its popularity by playing to a small audience and recording their songs with the help of independent producers. The band continues to give concerts and record new songs until now, and they are also an example for future young musicians.
The approach to performing the songs of these three indie rock bands differs from the approach of bands that were developed from the very beginning with the help of professionals. It is more difficult to attract the attention of the public being unknown, here the key role will be played by the talent of the musicians, their attitude to criticism, and their determination and hard work. These qualities made the participants listed in the previous paragraphs famous, but in addition to these characteristics, they were distinguished by another important quality, such as the desire to produce songs that people will love and which will change the audience’s perception of music.
Some artists dream of fame and recognition of people, others want to make money by releasing songs, but in the case of indie rock bands, there is a desire to create a high-quality product, make their own style and be special, and not listen to the imposed proposals of producers and stylists. These groups adhere to the do-it-yourself theory, unlike those who aim to get commercial benefits. Paying attention to the songs that are released by indie rock bands, it can be seen that they have many different facets, sensual lyrics, and experimental combinations since the performers are not limited by a single frame set by the producer and have the opportunity to surprise their fans and create unique works.
In conclusion, indie rock is more melancholic and does not have a clear definition as rock and roll, which means a fast and rhythmic genre. Nowadays, once-popular indie rock bands are reluctant to associate themselves with this undefined genre. Although their formation took place in the direction of indie rock, now the musicians want to more clearly identify themselves as performers of a particular genre. It seems that indie rock has already outlived itself as a genre, but it continues to thrive, as it does not have clear boundaries and includes a large number of different directions. Indie rockers give themselves absolute freedom to experiment with sound, emotions, and lyrics. This is fundamentally different from the methods of record companies that focus primarily on the mainstream and take into account the tastes of the audience when creating a product.
Edwards, B. (2018). Nirvana: Everything you need to know. Louder. Web.
Grierson, T. (2018) Nirvana biography profile. Liveaboutdotcom. Web.
Jenke, T. (2020). We explore how Arctic Monkeys have stood the test of time. Tone Deaf. Web.
Nguyen, K. (2016) Was that it? GQ. Web.
Phull, H. (2017). The inside story of the band that defined the 2000s. New York Post. Web.
Savage, J. (2021). Nirvana. American rock group. Britannica. Web.