The 2000s were widely known for being the revival of indie, and the decade spawned some of the best bands to hit the scene in decades, and perhaps for many years to come. Indie in the 2000s was more than a genre or just a moniker for bands not signed to major labels; for many, it was a way of life. Though a list could easily run 25 long, these are the 10 best indie bands to emerge from the era.
10. The Cribs
Entering the scene from Wakefield, England, The Cribs are one of the 2000s best under-the-radar bands, who maintain a devoted cult following. Consisting of the three Jarman brothers (Ryan, Gary and Ross), and, for awhile, Johnny Marr of The Smiths fame, The Cribs broke away from their peers as they continued to grow and develop a unique sound. When they debuted in the early 2000s, record labels and press were looking to lump The Cribs into the group of other UK bands who were being labeled “the second British invasion.” The Cribs were able to use their trademark lo-fi pop riffs and scruffy look to escape this stereotyping, and remain popular and quite relevant today.
9. Kaiser Chiefs
One of the leaders of the pack in the second British invasion, Kaiser Chiefs first formed in 2000, drawing inspiration from both 1980s new wave and punk. Their debut album Employment rode the waves of the indie explosion it debuted right in the midst of, spawning the top 10 hit “I Predict A Riot” and earning the band a shortlist nomination for the Mercury Prize. Kaiser Chiefs’ follow up record, Yours Truly, Angry Mob was also a success, featuring the band’s only number one hit to date, “Ruby.” Their subsequent albums and tours send them into arena touring and mainstream popularity, before the band faced some internal fracturing and a brief hiatus. 2016 saw Kaiser Chiefs still putting out music, releasing Stay Together, which was a departure from their expected sound. Their contribution to pushing indie into the mainstream spectrum, as well as a catalogue of impressive albums, earn them a solid place in the top 10.
8. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The only female-helmed band band to make the top 10 cut, and one of the few to break mainstream in the 2000s, Yeah Yeah Yeahs are a 3-piece New York City outfit with four excellent albums to their name. The band’s breakout release Fever To Tell followed up a strong start they already had rolling after opening for The Strokes and The White Stripes. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs track “Maps” was a part of nearly every 2002 mix tape, and remains popular amongst fans today. The band are currently on hiatus, but many have their fingers crossed that we aren’t yet done hearing from Yeah Yeah Yeahs yet.
One of the three New York indie groups featured on this list, Interpol took on the darker side of indie compared to their comrades. The long term lineup of Paul Banks, Daniel Kessler, Carlos Dengler and Sam Fogarino was one of the best known hip bands of the mid-2000s, until their future reached a question mark. It hasn’t been an entirely smooth ride for Interpol since the departure of famously hedonistic bassist Dengler, as they have yet to officially replace him or to settle firmly on a direction for their sound to take. The 2000s were certainly the glory days for Interpol, however, seeing the release of both fan favorite Turn On The Bright Lights and commercial success Antics, alongside copious successful tours. Paul Banks has recently concluded his latest side project Banks + Steelz, and has hinted across Twitter that Interpol would return to the studio in late 2016 to craft their sixth studio album.
6. Franz Ferdinand
Though often defined as an English group, Franz Ferdinand hail proudly from Glasgow, Scotland, where they got their start playing art parties in an abandoned warehouse nicknamed The Chateau, until the police shut them down. The band famous for making “music for girls to dance to” grew from niche band to indie rock notability in part due to their hit “Take Me Out,” which for much of 2004 was featured on MTV and VH1 on tubes across the country. Beating out more mainstream acts like Snow Patrol and Keane, Franz Ferdinand took home the Mercury Prize, and continued along a steady path of indie notability throughout 2014. Most recently, they released an album and toured as FFS, or Franz Ferdinand + Sparks, partnering with the 1970s pop band consisting of the Mael brothers. In 2016, they announced the departure of guitarist Nick McCarthy, who as of now has still not been replaced.
5. The Killers
Anyone who was into music as of 2004 likely owned a copy of The Killers popular debut Hot Fuss, or at the least sang along to the band’s catchy hit single “Mr. Brightside” at some point in time. Snowballing into one of the most popular rock bands of the 21st century so far, the little band from Las Vegas truly resonated with fans in the mid-2000s and on. The Killers have been critic darlings, alongside their popularity with audiences, having snatched up four NME awards, alongside seven GRAMMY nominations, and showing just how successful they were outside of the US, won the 2006 BRIT Award for “Best International Band.” Surviving what has often been dubbed the indie junkyard effect, The Killers will continue on, with a fifth studio album confirmed for 2017.
4. The White Stripes
Detroit duo Meg & Jack White, as The White Stripes, were most famous for their genre breaking, minimalistic sound and intentional styling. The group was permeated with controversy, ranging from the incest rumors that surrounded them as the married couple pretending to be siblings, to lyrics that on occasion featured satanic mentions. The questionable aspects of The White Stripes’ career did not prevent the band from becoming multi-GRAMMY winners, nor inspiring a plethora of subsequent acts for years to come who drew from the band’s conglomeration of blues, punk and classic rock. The White Stripes officially parted ways in 2011, but Jack White has remained a star within the music industry, jumping from The Raconteurs to The Dead Weather to, most recently, a solo career.
3. Arctic Monkeys
Though they could easily be placed into a top 10 list of the 2010s instead, Arctic Monkeys’ time as an indie act was actually a product of the mid-2000s, when the band members were only teenagers. Their debut album, Whatever People Say, That’s What I’m Not, was released in 2006 and spawned what is today still one of the band’s top tracks, “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor.” Arctic Monkeys’ ability to break out of their native city Sheffield, England has been attributed to popularity across the internet, marking them one of the first bands to get their start in this way. Seeing both local success and gaining popularity across MySpace, Arctic Monkeys got picked up by key indie label Domino, which they have remained signed to. The amazing success of Arctic Monkeys continued not just in the 2000s, but as most of their peers suffered through what has been called by many the “slow painful death of indie,” the band found their greatest success yet. The release of 2013’s AM saw Arctic Monkeys’ success skyrocket, and in the span of just a few months they moved from club shows to headlining Madison Square Garden and some of the world’s biggest festivals. Arctic Monkeys are currently on hiatus, but their ability to transcend the decade that swallowed most indie bands whole and come out the other side as top of the pack solidifies their importance to the genre and decade in question.
2. Arcade Fire
Who knew that, by the end of the decade, Arcade Fire would no longer be indie, but solidly mainstream, with a GRAMMY award to their name, multiple Saturday Night Live performances, and a shift into playing arenas. Depending on who you ask, Arcade Fire’s success in taking indie mainstream make them either the best in their class, or the worst. The six-piece multi-talented Canadian outfit emerged with the sleeper hit album Funeral in the front half of the 2000s, picking up fans both in the indie scene and beyond, as even U2 and David Bowie took to praising them. By 2010’s release, The Suburbs, there was no stopping Arcade Fire, and all that remains to be seen now is how their speculated fifth album will top an already stellar catalogue.
1. The Strokes
At first listen in their early days, many have mistaken The Strokes for a band from the late 1970s post-punk scene. The Strokes, part of the trifecta of exceptionally talented New York bands (see previously noted Interpol and Yeah Yeah Yeahs) that were from the 2000s indie scene, perfected a throwback and altogether modern sound rolled into one leather-jacket-and-Converse-clad package. In addition to success as a collective unit, while some of their peers have attempted side projects, most of those floundered; members of The Strokes, on the other hand, have found their footing outside of the framework of the band. Frontman Julian Casablancas (as himself), bassist Nikolai Fraiture (as Nickel Eye and the pending Summer Moon), Albert Hammond Jr. (as himself), and guitarist Nicholas Valensi (as CRX and with a half dozen other groups and artists) have all put out a plethora of solo and side projects, primarily met with critical acclaim and success. What sets The Strokes just a peg above the rest of their generation is not just the music they are producing themselves, but the many bands they have inspired in the next generation, and even some of their own: The Killers, Arctic Monkeys, The Orwells, The Libertines… the list goes on and on, and it is through each new band that listened to The Strokes and went on to make a record that the group's legacy will live on.