The 50 Most Influential Indie Rock Bands

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By Caitlin White

Indie rock has transmogrified into one of the hardest genres on earth to define. Bands trying to break through love to title themselves as "indie rock" as though it were a specific sound, while critics love to point back to scions of the underground scene in an attempt to pinpoint when the genre began. Questions of mainstream success and major label affiliation also enter the ring—are there really sell-out points and did bands that cavorted with the majors disqualify themselves from indie status forever?

These debates and many others, (such as my current favorite, what is the line between indie rock and folk, but that's for another piece) are fringing themselves into tinier and more complex questions, even as you are reading this. Here at P&P we may not hold the key to unlocking the mysteries of the indie universe, but we have selected what our 50 most influential bands on the indie rock scene and sound are. In the case of these selections, bands were regarded for their contribution to their present time, as well as the way their sound infiltrated future generations. Bands were not disqualified for signing with the majors (Hello—Sonic Youth even did it guys), but certain levels of mainstream success (read: The Beatles) were taken into consideration.

Is 2013 the year we go post-indie? Is 2013 the year we stop using the prefix post plus an old genre name to describe new things? Only time will tell. For now, read through our picks and get really disgruntled or really happy, then tell us your thoughts—because we know you'll have them—on Twitter.

Click to start the list

By Caitlin White

Indie rock has transmogrified into one of the hardest genres on earth to define. Bands trying to break through love to title themselves as “indie rock” as though it were a specific sound, while critics love to point back to scions of the underground scene in an attempt to pinpoint when the genre began. Questions of mainstream success and major label affiliation also enter the ring—are there really sell-out points and did bands that cavorted with the majors disqualify themselves from indie status forever?

These debates and many others, (such as my current favorite, what is the line between indie rock and folk, but that’s for another piece) are fringing themselves into tinier and more complex questions, even as you are reading this. Here at P&P we may not hold the key to unlocking the mysteries of the indie universe, but we have selected what our 50 most influential bands on the indie rock scene and sound are. In the case of these selections, bands were regarded for their contribution to their present time, as well as the way their sound infiltrated future generations. Bands were not disqualified for signing with the majors (Hello—Sonic Youth even did it guys), but certain levels of mainstream success (read: The Beatles) were taken into consideration.

Is 2013 the year we go post-indie? Is 2013 the year we stop using the prefix post plus an old genre name to describe new things? Only time will tell. For now, read through our picks and get really disgruntled or really happy, then tell us your thoughts—because we know you’ll have them—on Twitter.

  • Brennan Haggstrom

    Where’s Dispatch??

  • Kiana

    you forgot the strokes, vampire weekend, the arctic monkeys, the black keys, the growlers, the velvet underground, kasabian, franz ferdinand, foals

  • k

    I ‘m very shocked that you did not put The Strokes here, seriously they had massive influence on ‘now top ‘ indie bands like arctic monkeys.They were a huge influence on many bands starting in early 2000’s

  • Lily Weather

    I’m really new to indie rock. anyone got anything good that wasn’t on here?

  • LOLFACE MC STUPIDHEAD

    The kinks were here.

  • Gabriel

    Clap your hands and say yeah? The strokes?

  • Gabriel

    Neither are on the list, unfortunately.

  • Adam Young

    Which is probably why They Might Be Giants isn’t on the list! Anyone else agree?

  • Mya

    im in florida and i know about fugazi

  • Mya

    how could they not add The Strokes?

  • Ad Tome

    Hi! Good to hear that at least someone …. Have you seen them performing?

  • Sky

    This is a no good, invalid list. Take this list down immediately.
    This includes a number of influential bands and a lot of the shittiest bands that ever existed. And it omitted many of the most influential bands in indie rock.

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  • Max Brilhart

    Really? Nirvana at #5!?!

  • Max Brilhart

    This is influential bands, not new indie bands you like. The Strokes and VU are the only band of influence that you listed. All of those bands are heavily influenced by their predecessors.

  • Cathy

    I can’t take any list of this type seriously that leaves out Game Theory/Loud Family, the dB’s AND Big Star. WTF?

  • The Commentr

    You missed a lot of good ones
    Nine inch nails
    Gorillaz
    Green Day
    Blink 182
    Foo Fighters
    Soundgarden
    Pearl Jam
    MUSE
    The Black Keys
    The Cure
    Red Hot Chili Peppers
    Artic Monkeys
    Alice in Chains
    Stone Temple Pilots
    Weezer
    Bush
    Kings of Leon
    Queens of the Stone Age
    Etc.
    Etc.

  • Annie

    I think that the Ramones should be on this list… also, maybe Vampire Weekend, even if they are a newer band. But I discovered some cool bands from this list!

  • Garland Yee

    Where the hell is Weezer, way more popular and influential than most on this list

  • Max

    THE BLACK KEYS ARENT EVEN ON HERE, OR ARCADE FIRE

  • kevin

    ..props on most of the bands..very important bands to be sure..to hard to list only 50, list needs to be at least 100…but some important leave-outs….Mission of burma, the jam, archers of loaf, the fall

  • kevin

    ..someone mentioned the Strokes, are you sitting me?..wtf..does that shut head have to with anything relevant. .

  • Sara.

    WHERE ARE THE ARCTIC MONKEYS? This is all wrong.

  • Jack

    Yeah, i can’t believe the strokes aren’t on here!

  • Benjipopkid

    Surely you have heard of The Jesus and Mary Chain? And surely they should be number one

  • Benjipopkid

    This list was brought to you by Caitlin ‘I haven’t got a fucking clue about music’ White

  • Anarchtheist

    When I got to Grizzly Bear I realized that this list would contain Interpol, and as such be garbage. It is clear that whoever wrote this is a hipster with Tv on the Radio beating bands like Bon Iver and Bright Eyes. Also, if we are going to include “indie” bands like Radiohead and REM we should also add U2, Metallica and Katy Perry.

    Also, I think Mineral deserves a place on this list.

  • trust moi!

    Your list is so stupid…even moron!
    Efffing blink 182? You are cheap!

  • Guyton25

    Ween, Nirvana, Radiohead, The Smiths, The White Stripes… all among my all-time favorite bands, but they aren’t Indie. All these lists are ridiculous because no one ever knows what Indie is….. The Shins are one of the best.. Band of Horses, Modest Mouse, Death Cab, Arcade Fire, Grizzly Bear, etc…

  • carlos86

    Why are The Clash, Manic street preachers, smashing pumpkins,oasis and if nirvana are in the list why not Pearl jam and stone temple pilots?

  • Kiana

    okay mr. pretentious

  • Andreas Palmqvist

    ha ha ha ha, this list is a joke? Isn’t it? Its very funny anyway and can’t be taken serius. thanks for the laugh.

  • Juwy

    WHERE ARE ARCTIC MONKEYS

  • headphone purifier

    Agreed!
    I wouldn’t necessarily put all of those but a ‘most influential bands’ list without The Velvet Underground is nonsense

  • right98%wrong the other 3%

    FACE to FACE!!!!!! FU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!