Music

The Best Indie Bands & Artists 

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Updated October 2, 2019 152.2k votes 14.9k voters 414k views 596 items

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
The Smiths is listed (or ranked) 1 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

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#103 of 2,218 The Best Rock Bands of All Time #60 of 284 Musicians Who Belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame The Best Smiths Songs of All Time

2
Arctic Monkeys is listed (or ranked) 2 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

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#191 of 2,218 The Best Rock Bands of All Time #3 of 570 The Most Hipster Bands The Best Arctic Monkeys Songs of All Time

3
Radiohead is listed (or ranked) 3 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

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#36 of 2,187 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #155 of 465 The Best Current Pop Groups/Singers The Best Radiohead Songs of All Time

4
Cage the Elephant is listed (or ranked) 4 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

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#1,855 of 2,187 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #326 of 2,218 The Best Rock Bands of All Time The Best Cage The Elephant Songs

5
Tame Impala is listed (or ranked) 5 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

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#26 of 570 The Most Hipster Bands The Best Tame Impala Albums, Rankedlisted on List of Famous Bands from Australia

6
The Strokes is listed (or ranked) 6 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

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#236 of 2,187 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #8 of 570 The Most Hipster Bands The Best Strokes Songs of All Time

7
Foster the People is listed (or ranked) 7 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

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#1,020 of 2,187 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #20 of 23 The Best Band Name Origins Stories

8
Pixies is listed (or ranked) 8 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

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#102 of 284 Musicians Who Belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame #274 of 381 The Best Pop Artists of the 1980s The Best Pixies Albums of All-Time

9
The Cure is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
The Cure is an English rock band formed in Crawley, West Sussex in 1976. The band members have changed several times, with guitarist, lead vocalist, and songwriter Robert Smith the only constant ...more

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#70 of 2,187 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #78 of 2,218 The Best Rock Bands of All Time A Timeline Of Robert Smith's Beef With Morrissey

10
The Killers is listed (or ranked) 10 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

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#168 of 2,218 The Best Rock Bands of All Time #242 of 350 The Greatest American Rock Bands The Best Killers Songs of All Time

11
Florence and the Machine... is listed (or ranked) 11 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

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#795 of 2,218 The Best Rock Bands of All Time #77 of 465 The Best Current Pop Groups/Singers The Best Florence and the Machine Albums, Ranked

12
Two Door Cinema Club is listed (or ranked) 12 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

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#1,338 of 2,187 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #1,013 of 2,218 The Best Rock Bands of All Time The Best Two Door Cinema Club Albums, Ranked

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

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#388 of 2,187 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #187 of 2,218 The Best Rock Bands of All Time The Best Black Keys Albums of All Time

14
Joy Division is listed (or ranked) 14 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

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#142 of 2,187 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #45 of 284 Musicians Who Belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame All Joy Division Songs: Ranked Best to Worst

15
Of Monsters and Men is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Of Monsters and Men is a five-member, English-language indie folk-pop band from Iceland, formed in 2010. The members are lead singer/guitarist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, ...more

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#1,276 of 2,218 The Best Rock Bands of All Time #75 of 570 The Most Hipster Bands #6 of 231 The Very Best Indie Pop Bands & Artists

16
Gorillaz is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Gorillaz are a British virtual band created in 1998 by musician Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett. The band primarily consists of four animated members: Stuart "2-D" Pot, Murdoc ...more

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#129 of 570 The Most Hipster Bands #23 of 329 The Best Bands With Animal Names The Best Gorillaz Songs of All Time

17
R.E.M. is listed (or ranked) 17 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

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#124 of 2,187 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #60 of 381 The Best Pop Artists of the 1980s #100 of 854 These Poetic Geniuses Wrote Your Favorite Songs of All Time

18
Arcade Fire is listed (or ranked) 18 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

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#239 of 465 The Best Current Pop Groups/Singers #36 of 101 The Best Musical Groups Featuring Brothers, Ranked The Best Arcade Fire Albums, Ranked

19
Oasis is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Oasis were an English rock band formed in Manchester in 1991. Developed from an earlier group, the Rain, the band originally consisted of Liam Gallagher (lead vocals, tambourine), Paul ...more

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#127 of 2,187 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time The Best Oasis Songs of All Timelisted on The Best English Boy Bands

20
Bon Iver is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Bon Iver () is an American indie folk band founded in 2006 by singer-songwriter Justin Vernon. Vernon released Bon Iver's debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago, independently in July 2007. The ...more

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#555 of 854 These Poetic Geniuses Wrote Your Favorite Songs of All Time #31 of 58 All the Best New Artist Grammy Winners, Ranked The Best Bon Iver Songs

21
Vampire Weekend is listed (or ranked) 21 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

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#1,062 of 2,218 The Best Rock Bands of All Time #13 of 570 The Most Hipster Bands The Best Vampire Weekend Songs

22
Bastille is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Bastille are an English indie rock band formed in 2010. They began as a solo project by singer-songwriter Dan Smith, who later decided to form a band. The four-piece is completed by Chris ...more

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#164 of 465 The Best Current Pop Groups/Singers #21 of 231 The Very Best Indie Pop Bands & Artists

23
Alt-J is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
alt-J is an English indie rock band formed in 2007 in Leeds, England, by Gwil Sainsbury, Joe Newman, Gus Unger-Hamilton and Thom Green. The band's debut album An Awesome Wave was released in May ...more

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#1,728 of 2,218 The Best Rock Bands of All Time #29 of 570 The Most Hipster Bands

24
The Kooks is listed (or ranked) 24 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

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#681 of 2,218 The Best Rock Bands of All Time #19 of 36 The Best Bands Named After Songs The Best The Kooks Albums, Ranked

25
Modest Mouse is listed (or ranked) 25 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

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