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Dolphin Music Guide to: Indie Rock

Published: Tue February 03, 2009  News Feed

smiths

Indie Rock is a term given originally to artists of independent status. In other words bands who ran themselves, smalltime labels, small distribution and with no help from major labels. Like all things in the end the corporate moved on this term like a rash, and started to brandish the term ‘indie rock’ referring to younger, newer artists, typically playing retro guitars and amps and shying away from the modern look, a small leather jacket is standard.

Indie rock is a genre of alternative rock that most notably exists in the independent underground music scene. It primarily refers to rock musicians that are or were unsigned, or have signed to independent record labels, rather than major record labels. Genres or subgenres often associated with indie rock include lo-fi, post-rock, sadcore, C86, and math rock, to list but a few; other related (and sometimes overlapping) categories include shoegazing and indie pop. Indie rock artists place a premium on maintaining complete control of their music and careers, releasing albums on independent record labels (sometimes their own) and relying on touring, word-of-mouth, and airplay on independent or college radio stations for promotion. Some end up moving to major labels, often on favorable terms won by their prior independent success.

radiohead

Radiohead - One of the few major bands who control their output

In the United Kingdom, indie music charts have been compiled since the early 1980s. Initially, the charts featured bands that emerged with a form of guitar-based alternative rock that dominated the indie charts, particularly indie pop artists such as Aztec Camera and Orange Juice, the C86 jangle-pop movement and the twee pop of Sarah Records artists. Some definitive British indie rock bands of the 1980s were The Smiths, The Stone Roses and The Jesus and Mary Chain, whose music directly influenced 1990s alternative rock movements such as shoegazing and Britpop.

In the United States, the music commonly regarded as indie rock is descended from an alternative rock scene largely influenced by the movements of the 1970s and early 1980s and their DIY ethic. In the 1980s the term “indie rock” was particularly associated with the abrasive, distortion-heavy sounds of Hüsker Dü, Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth, Big Black, and others that populated American indie labels, separating them from jangly college rock bands like R.E.M. and 10,000 Maniacs, who, by the end of the decade, were signed to major labels. The late eighties band Pixies is said to be the main influence in 1990s-present indie rock

chicagoguide_shellac1

Shellac Yesterday

With Arts Council funding for some independent bands, and an increasing range of advertising and commercial opportunities to distribute music, few popular acts are wholly independent. However indie music in the UK has perhaps benefited from the relatively broad overlap between ‘mainstream’ and ‘indie’ music genres. Radiohead release their music independently, do not accept corporate sponsorship and continue to make music which is experimental. They are also popular and well-known. There are many artists who make original, distinctive music, without aiming for mainstream success, in genres such as grime music. In this sense, the UK retains a tradition of creating original, experimental music, which has one eye on achieving mainstream success without being subsumed by major music corporations.

Indie Band Equipment

Often artists will record on old or poor recording equipment, ostensibly out of financial necessity but also due to the unique aural association such technologies have with “authenticity”, an association created in listeners by exposure to years of demo, bootleg, and field recordings, as well as to older pop studio recordings produced more simply. The growth in lo-fi coincided with the growth of extreme slickness and polish associated with the multitrack pop recording techniques of the 1980s. Cassette technology such as Tascam’s four-track Portastudio became widely available. Prime early exponents included Daniel Johnston, New Zealand bands such as the Tall Dwarfs, who recorded on Tascam 4-tracks.

Guitars & Amps

The guitar simply cannot be an Ibanez, a Dean or anything spikey for that matter!, Fender , Gibcon, Gretsch all the traditional names. It helps if it  looks like it was possibly bought in a thrift shop circa 74′. The amplifier must be valve, preferably a Fender Twin, a Vox AC30 or something of that nature, a modelling POD just will just not cut the scene!

Lets take a look at Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead (circa200)

radiohead_jonny_1997-copy

White Lies Gear Guide:

Here’s the White Lies equipment that we managed to spot: Roland A-37 MIDI Controller, Fender Telecaster with Bigsby, Fender Thinline Telecaster, Gibson ES-335, Boss RV-5 Delay Reverb, Boss TU-2 Tuner, Electro Harmonix Graphic Fuzz, Electro Harmonix Big Muff, Line 6 DL4 Delay and an Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail (sadly now discontinued, replaced by the Holy Grail Plus). Guitarist Harry McVeigh also uses a Hiwatt Hi-Gain Head Amp into a white Marshall 412 cab. Cool.

wlcolour

* Post-punk revival: Placebo, Arctic Monkeys, The View, Maxïmo Park, Franz Ferdinand,Editors, The Cribs, Razorlight, Royal Joker, The Killers, Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party, The Futureheads, Interpol, Boy Kill Boy, Dirty Pretty Things, The Wombats, TV on the Radio,The Fratellis, Spoon, The Bravery
* Garage rock revival: The White Stripes, The Vines, The Strokes, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Subways, The Libertines, The Hives, Ikara Colt, Motel Motel, Mclusky, Mooney Suzuki, The Horrors, The Von Bondies, The Black Keys, Dirty Little Rabbits, The Raconteurs, Johnossi, Modest Mouse, Little Joy
* Dance-punk: Death From Above 1979, Metric, MGMT, The Rapture, Klaxons, The Presets, MSTRKRFT, You Say Party! We Say Die!, Shitdisco, Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem, New Young Pony Club, !!!, Q and Not U, Foals, Does It Offend You, Yeah?, Cut Copy, VHS or Beta, The Faint
Additional, less clearly defined genres include:
* Baroque pop: Arcade Fire, Danielson Famile, Sufjan Stevens, The Decemberists, Dry Paint, John Vanderslice, Broken Social Scene, Stars, Cloud Cult, Vampire Weekend, Ra Ra Riot
* New prog: Mew, Porcupine Tree, a.P.A.t.T., Muse, The Mars Volta, Coheed and Cambria, The Secret Machines, Los Hermanos, Battles, People in Planes, Doves,Mystery Jets,Oceansize, Pure Reason Revolution
* Post-rock: Explosions in the Sky, Pelican, Sigur Rós, Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Slint, Tortoise, Mono, 65 Days Of Static, iLiKETRAiNS, God Is an Astronaut
* Indie folk: The Dodos, Iron and Wine, Fleet Foxes, Motel Motel, Mount Eerie, Beirut, Bright Eyes, Vetiver, Feist, Bon Iver, Noah and the Whale, Damien Rice, Okkervil River

Get in touch on our forums and visit our artist pages

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