Music

The Best Indie Bands & Artists  

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List Rules Bands that are on independent music labels - bands that started on indie labels, but later signed with big labels are okay too

Before the genre became mainstream (which in itself is paradoxical) indie bands meant that a particular group was signed to an independent record label. Over time, indie music, and thus, the best indie bands, have come to be defined as a particular sound that strays from the mainstream and experiments with new sounds, melodies, and lyrics. Making some of the best indie songs of 2018, many of the top indie rock bands do remain loyal to the labels that took a chance on them when they were up-and-comers and stay on independent labels. Most good indie bands (and fans of the genre) are proud to say that they've eschewed the mainstream and have maintained their freedom as an indie artist. It's a great perk to have, and all of the best indie rock bands may not have the biggest album sales - but by retaining their indie cred, it allows them to become popular beyond the scope of indie music.

So, what are the best indie bands? Any list of of indie bands has to include the likes of The Strokes, Alt-J, Cage the Elephant, Bon Iver, Vampire Weekend and Florence and the Machine. These indie bands are singers widely known for their popularity and bringing indie music to the mainstream. They've headlined arenas and festivals and even with this widespread success, they're true to their indie ethos and remain the best indie rock bands.

That said, it's up to you to determine what are the best indie bands - whether old classics or indie bands popular today. If you know indie music, feel free to chime in and vote on this list. If you notice that a band isn't on this list and should be, feel free to add them. This list answers the questions "who are the best indie bands of all time?" and "who is the greatest indie musician ever?" If you know enough about the genre, please vote based on the quality of the band's music instead of just voting for the most popular indie musicians that you might've heard of.

list ordered by
1
Arctic Monkeys is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Arctic Monkeys is an English rock band formed in Sheffield in 2002. The group consists of Alex Turner (lead vocals, guitar, piano), Matt Helders (drums, vocals), Jamie Cook (guitar, keyboards) ...more
2
Radiohead is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Radiohead are an English rock band formed in Abingdon-on-Thames in 1985. The band consists of Thom Yorke (vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards), brothers Jonny Greenwood (lead guitar, keyboards, ...more
3
The Strokes is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
The Strokes are an American rock band formed in New York City in 1998, consisting of Julian Casablancas, Nick Valensi, Albert Hammond, Jr., Nikolai Fraiture and Fabrizio Moretti. Upon the ...more
4
The Killers is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
MarioArley added
The Killers are an American rock band formed in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2001 by members Brandon Flowers (lead vocals, keyboards, bass) and Dave Keuning (lead guitar, backing vocals). Mark Stoermer ...more
5
The Smiths is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
The Smiths were an English rock band formed in Manchester in 1982. The group consisted of vocalist Morrissey, guitarist Johnny Marr, bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce. Critics have ...more
6
Arcade Fire is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Arcade Fire is a Canadian indie rock band, consisting of husband and wife Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, along with Win's younger brother William Butler, Richard Reed Parry, Tim ...more
7
Tame Impala is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Tame Impala is the psychedelic recording project of Kevin Parker, from Perth, Australia, and signed to Modular Recordings. The band rose to prominence in 2010 with the release of its debut album ...more
8
Muse is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
MarioArley added
Muse are an English rock band from Teignmouth, Devon, formed in 1994. The band consists of Matt Bellamy (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Chris Wolstenholme (bass guitar, backing vocals), and ...more
9
Florence and the Machine is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Florence and the Machine (stylised as Florence + the Machine) are an English indie rock band that formed in London in 2007, consisting of vocalist Florence Welch, keyboardist Isabella Summers, ...more
10
Modest Mouse is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
ShaneBird added
Modest Mouse is an American rock band formed in 1992 in Issaquah, Washington and currently based in Portland, Oregon. The founding members are lead singer/guitarist Isaac Brock, drummer Jeremiah ...more
11
Pixies is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
muzziac added
The Pixies are an American rock band formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1986. The group currently consists of founders Black Francis, Joey Santiago, and David Lovering. Co-founder Kim Deal left ...more
12
Vampire Weekend is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Vampire Weekend is an American rock band from New York City, formed in 2006. They are currently signed to XL Recordings. The band consists of lead vocalist and guitarist Ezra Koenig, ...more
13
The Black Keys is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
The Black Keys is an American rock band formed in Akron, Ohio, in 2001. The group consists of Dan Auerbach (guitar, vocals) and Patrick Carney (drums). The duo began as an independent act, ...more
14
Cage the Elephant is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Cage the Elephant is an American rock band from Bowling Green, Kentucky, that formed in 2006. The group currently consists of Matthew "Matt" Shultz, Brad "Dave" Shultz, Jared ...more
15
Franz Ferdinand is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Franz Ferdinand are a Scottish rock band formed in Glasgow in 2002. The band's original lineup was composed of Alex Kapranos (lead vocals and guitar, keyboard), Nick McCarthy (rhythm guitar, ...more
16
Joy Division is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Joy Division were an English rock band formed in Salford in 1976. The group consisted of vocalist Ian Curtis, guitarist/keyboardist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook and drummer Stephen Morris. ...more
17
Sonic Youth is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
muzziac added
Sonic Youth was an American rock band based in New York City, formed in 1981. Founding members Thurston Moore (guitar, vocals), Kim Gordon (bass, vocals, guitar) and Lee Ranaldo (guitar, vocals) ...more
18
R.E.M. is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
R.E.M. was an American rock band from Athens, Georgia, formed in 1980 by drummer Bill Berry, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist/backing vocalist Mike Mills, and lead vocalist Michael Stipe. One of ...more
19
Mumford & Sons is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Mumford & Sons are a British rock band from London, England, formed in 2007. The band consists of Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett, Winston Marshall and Ted Dwane. Mumford & Sons have released ...more
20
Foster the People is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Foster the People is an American indie pop band formed in Los Angeles, California in 2009. The group is composed of Mark Foster, Jacob "Cubbie" Fink, and Mark Pontius. The group's ...more
21
The Kooks is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
CatalinaEspinoza added
The Kooks are a British rock band formed in Brighton, East Sussex, in 2004. The band currently consists of Luke Pritchard, Hugh Harris, Alexis Nunez, and Peter Denton. The original bassist was ...more
22
Two Door Cinema Club is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Two Door Cinema Club are a Northern Irish indie rock band from Bangor and Donaghadee, County Down, formed in 2007. The band consists of Alex Trimble, Sam Halliday, and Kevin Baird. The band's ...more
23
MGMT is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
MGMT is an American psychedelic rock band founded by Benjamin Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden. After the release of their first album, the members of their live band, Matthew Asti, James ...more
24
Interpol is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Interpol is an American rock band from New York City. Formed in 1997, the band's original line-up consisted of Paul Banks, Daniel Kessler, Carlos Dengler and Greg Drudy. Drudy left the band in ...more
25
Wilco is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
WarrenMitchell added
Wilco is an American alternative rock band based in Chicago, Illinois. The band was formed in 1994 by the remaining members of alternative country group Uncle Tupelo following singer Jay ...more