Me-> eating, Friend 1 and Friend 2 -> talking
Friend 1: I listen to Indie, most of the times.
Friend 2: Me too! Isn’t it the best? Especially Indie Rock.
Friend 1: I agree. But sometimes, I feel like closing my eyes and losing myself to Indie Pop.
Friend 2: That’s such a great feeling. Always better than Alternative. Don’t know what happened to Alt-rock.
Me: Wait, isn’t that the same thing? Indie and Alternative?
Everyone I know in the whole universe: ARE YOU MAD? THEY ARE SO DIFFERENT.
Me: Huh, okay. (back to eating)
Few days later,
Me: (still wondering) Are they really different?
(looks around, no one answered)
Me: Alright, let’s find out.
I Googled. I learned. I conquered. And now, I’ll tell you.
Question: What’s the difference between Western and Country music?
It feels a little like that being billed as a guide to Alternative and Indie music. Yes, both kinds. The seeming interchangeability of those two words —which, at root, stand more for vague ideals and beliefs than any kind of specific style— may have you wondering something.
So what do you even mean by those 2 terms?
The basic rule of thumb used to be that the difference was only about location. Alternative was the preferred American term, Indie came straight from the British isles. Yes, indie is, at heart, the English expression. In the UK, indie started out, simply, as the trade term for records released on independent record-labels.
In America, indie often means twee, meek, Anglophilic; and it always means retrophonic. To be indie is to do so without distortion, without aggression.
Yet, back in England, birthplace of the word, ‘indie’ has come to mean something else entirely. No longer a term used, often proudly, to describe bands with down-to-earth attitude and do-it-yourself beliefs, indie has come to be shorthand for a most dire form of non-rock.
In Britain, these days indie is routinely used as a catch-all to describe an ever-growing succession of impossibly bland, laddish bands playing inoffensive, melancholy ballad-rock. No wonder Dave Grohl doesn’t like Coldplay. I think being “indie” these days gives you more room for experimentation with your music, which I seriously wish was happening instead of the mellow music and lets-be-safe-and-not-offend-anyone lyrics. Though there are some bands which are actually making good use of this newly-found freedom, and in case if you’re looking for one, check out these lads, The Blue Dawns. Alternative, on the other side, is what’s rock and roll used to be for people back in good old guitar rambling days. It’s still great.
So, yes, there is a distinction between ‘Alternative’ and ‘Indie,’ and now that you know, you too can use each judiciously. As for the differences between indie, indie-pop, and indie-rock, well, um, you’ll just have to use your imagination. Because there aren’t any, really.
Let me leave you with this Alex Turner quote which he said after winning Brit’s award, and don’t you dare tell me he can be wrong, because he isn’t. This is coming from a man who understands that rock’n’roll isn’t about an antiquated idea of “guitar music”, or about any level of genre elitism, but spirit and ethos, excitement and unpredictability.
“That rock’n’roll, eh? That rock’n’roll, it just won’t go away. It might hibernate from time to time, sink back into the swamp… but it’s always waiting there, just around the corner, ready to make its way back through the sludge. Rock’n’roll will never die. And there’s nothing that you can do about it.”
This is everything that rock’n’roll is meant to be: unpredictable, dumb, funny, exciting and attention-grabbing.