Can You Identify These Indie Rock Musicians?


By: Robin Tyler

7 Min Quiz

Image: WikiCommons via Y2kcrazyjoker4, Raph_PH, Bene Riobó

About This Quiz

Indie rock music. What is it exactly? One thing we know for sure is that it is fairly difficult to define. In fact, music that fits into a very specific niche, let's say math rock, still then falls under the greater indie rock banner as well. 

The term indie rock really came to the fore in the 1980s, however, and was used on both sides of the Atlantic. For example, in Britain, The Smiths were certainly falling under the indie banner. At the same time, in the United States, a band like R.E.M. was most definitely indie rock. But if you tried to classify it by just a certain sound, then you would be getting it wrong most of the time.

Let's just say that indie rock is never going to be played on mainstream radio. Now, on to the task at hand. Your love of the indie rock genre has brought you here, has it not? Today, we will see just how much you know about the indie rock genre. Are you able to identify not only some of the biggest bands but those that paid their dues for years before striking it rich?

And all you have is an image to aid you! Let's see how well you do!

Good luck!

Hailing from New York, this band is fronted by Julian Casablancas and formed in 1998. Can you name them?

The Strokes were at the forefront of the New York indie music explosion in the early 2000s. Their debut album "Is this It?" was was ranked by Rolling Stone as the eighth greatest debut of all time.


Formed in Las Vegas in 2001, can you name the band known for the indie hit, "Mr Brightside."

Formed by Brandon Flowers in 2001, The Killers have achieved huge success worldwide with their indie sound. Their first album, 2004's "Hot Fuss" was critically acclaimed and they have followed it up with four other albums as well as other recordings.


Fronted by Thom Yorke, can you name the band pictured here?

Radiohead has achieved worldwide acclaim since they burst on the scene in the 1990s. Their second album, "The Bends" was critically acclaimed but it was their third, 1997s "OK Computer" that launched them into superstardom.


One of the best British bands of the '80s, this group broke up at the height of their powers. Who are they?

The Smiths formed in Manchester in 1982. They lasted just five years, breaking up in 1987. During those five years, they released four critically acclaimed albums filled with the acerbic wit of leader singer Morrissey and brilliant melodies from guitarist Johnny Marr.


Can you name the American indie band pictured here?

In the late '80s and early '90s, Pixies burst onto the indie music scene fuelled by a loud/quiet song structure. The band was an immediate success with hits such as "Where is my mind" and "Gigantic".


Formed in 2002, the band pictured here has the fastest-ever selling debut album of all time in the British charts. Who are they?

The Arctic Monkeys arrived on the British music scene in 2006 and immediately built up a huge following thanks to their catchy guitar-based tunes. The band continues to push the envelope of their sound and are still one of the most popular British bands in the world today.


Can you name this Canadian indie band fronted by Win Butler?

Acknowledged as one of the most inventive indie bands in music today, Arcade Fire formed in 2000 in Canada. Their debut album "Funeral" was a massive success, establishing the band as one of the shining lights in the indie music scene.


This British band released their debut album in 1999. Can you name them?

Fronted by Matt Bellamy, Muse first hit the headlines with their debut "Showbiz" in 1999. It was 2001's "Origin of Symmetry" that really announced them to the indie music world. Driven by Bellamy's brilliant guitar work and impressive voice, Muse are one of the top acts in the world today.


From New York, are you able to identify this indie band acclaimed for their world music influences?

Hailing from New York, Vampire Weekend burst on the scene in 2008 with their self-titled debut album. Fronted by Ezra Koenig, Vampire Weekend remains a very popular indie music act.


Do you have any idea as to the name of this British indie band?

Led by Florence Welch (vocals), Florence and the Machine were formed in London in 2007. The quickly received critical acclaim thanks to Welch's impressive voice.


Hailing from the 1980s, what British indie band is pictured here?

A massive influence on the British indie rock scene, Echo and the Bunnymen, led by Ian McCullough were at the peak of their powers in the early to mid-1980s. Even today, many indie bands cite them as an influence.


A family affair, can you name this band from England?

The Cribs comprise brothers Gary, Ryan and Ross Jarman. Between 2008 and 2011, former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr was also part of the band. Their last four albums have charted in the UK Top 10.


With Michael Stipe on lead vocals, this band was one of the biggest in the world in the 1990s. Who are they?

Formed in 1980, R.E.M. quickly became a much-loved indie band thanks to albums such as "Murmur", "Document" "Green" and "Automatic for the People". The band eventually ended touring and recording in 2011.


One of the pioneers of the noise rock sound, can you identify this band?

Formed in New York City in 1981, Sonic Youth are revered in indie music circles for their unique sound. Pioneers of what is known as noise rock, Sonic Youth were largely driven by Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon. After their marriage ended in 2011, the band split.


Pioneers of the "Madchester" sound, can you identify this indie group from the late '80s and early '90s?

The Stone Roses' self-titled debut album is acknowledged as one of the greatest debuts in history. Their second album wasn't as well received but probably because it took five years to release. The band broke up in the mid-1990s but reformed in 2011 with the promise of new material that has yet to arrive.


Along with The Strokes, this band, led by Karen O helped push New York to the center of the music universe in the early 2000s. Who are they?

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Strokes were certainly the most successful bands from the New York music explosion in the early 2000s. Fronted by Karen O, the band includes Nick Zinner and Brian Chase. Although moving in indie rock circles, Yeah Yeah Yeahs are often described as art rock.


Can you please name the indie band featured in this image?

Led by Marcus Mumford, Mumford and Sons exploded onto the indie music scene in 2009 with the release of their debut album "Sigh No More". The album was so well received it garnered six Grammy Award nominations.


Do you know this indie band best know for their hit "Float On"?

Paying their dues since the early 1990s, Modest Mouse struck it big with their fourth album, "Good News For People who Love Bad News" which produced the hit "Float On" in 2004. Interestingly, former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr joined the band for a three-year period from 2006 to 2008.


This band was formed in 2001 by childhood friends Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney. Who are they?

The Black Keys formed in 2001 in Akron, Ohio. Focusing on a more bluesy rock sound, the pair built up a cult following thanks to relentless touring before their album "Brothers" brought commercial success. To date, they have won five Grammy Awards.


This Scottish band hit the headlines with their first single, "Take Me Out". Who are they?

Formed in Glasgow, Franz Ferdinand had a breakout hit with "Take Me Out" from the self-titled debut album in 2004. It was such a success that Franz Ferdinand won the 2005 Mercy Prize for their effort.


Pictured here is a band whose debut album, "Turn On The Bright Lights" from 2002 was critically acclaimed. Can you name the band?

Another band to come from the New York music scene, Interpol released their critically acclaimed debut album, "Turn on the Bright Lights" in 2002. A heavy touring schedule saw Interpol attain mainstream success with their second album, "Antics". They continue to have success to this day.


Do you know who the band in this image is?

Formed in 1989, Pavement is the brainchild of Stephen Malkmus. Initially, the band recorded, never playing live, but still produced a cult following which saw them enjoy 10 years of underground success before splitting in 1999.


This British band was formed in London in 1978. Who are they?

Formed in 1978, Killing Joke quickly established themselves as a thinking man's doom and gloom mongers. By using controversial imagery, the band members were able to get their name out into the mainstream. Many bands, including Metallica, have cited Killing Joke as an influence.


Cited as an influence by many indie bands from the 1990s, can you name this band pictured in this image?

Formed in 1984, Dinosaur Jr is an acclaimed indie rock band that is cited as a major influence on many bands that enjoyed success in the 1990s. The driving force behind the band was singer/songwriter/guitarist J Mascis. After splitting in 1997, the band has since reformed and released four further albums.


Known for their hit "Ruby," can you name this British indie band?

Originally known as Parva, Kaiser Chiefs then changed their name to that of a South African soccer club but then spelled it WRONG! That said, the band has proved to be very popular in Britain, especially on the festival circuit. Their first album, "Employment," which was released in 2005, sold over 3 million copies.


Can you name this indie singer/songwriter from the United States?

Liz Phair burst on the scene in the 1990s, releasing her angsty songs on albums such as "Exile in Guyville", "Whip Smart" and others. A big label breakthrough followed in 2003, but saw her initial songs rejected by Capital records and Phair forced to work with songwriters assigned by the label. It alienated much of her original fan base.


With just a guitar and drums, this band proved that sometimes a few good riffs can go a long way! Who are they?

Brother and sister? Husband and wife? No one was really sure about Meg and Jack White. What we do know is that from the late 1990s until they split in 2011 they produced some of the finest garage rock on the planet. The White Stripes were one of the biggest bands in the indie music scene over this period.


Fronted by Jeff Tweedy, can you identify the band shown in this image?

WIlco is acknowledged as one of indie music's bubbling under bands. Although they have never had massive commercial success, those in the know will tell you that they are a superb band. And two Grammy awards for their 2004 album "A Ghost Is Born" will attest to that.


Tell us which band is shown in this image, please?

American indie rock band The Shins were formed in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1996. After the relative success of their first two albums, it was 2007's "Wincing the Night Away" that introduced them to a bigger audience when it reached No 2 on the Billboard Hot 200.


Any ideas as to the name of the American band found in this image?

Cited by many other bands as an influence, Fugazi had a very unique sound and two vocalists. Fugazi were the ultimate DIY musicians and managed to build a massive following without much record company help.


Formed from the demise of Joy Division, what is the band featured in this image?

After the suicide of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis in 1980, the rest of the band decided to carry on in another form. Calling themselves New Order, the remaining members, Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris, went on to have massive success in the 1980s and 1990s.


Conor Oberst leads this American indie rock band. Who are they?

Formed by Conor Oberst in 1995, American indie rock band Bright Eyes have released seven albums up until this point. They are highly regarded in the American indie music scene.


A side project of Jack White, can you name this band?

Formed in 2005, The Raconteurs are a side project of Jack White of the White Stripes. The band features Brendan Benson, Jack Lawrence, and Patrick Keeler. The band released two well-received albums between 2005 and 2011 but then took a break until 2018.


Name these acclaimed indie rockers, please?

Comprised of Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince, The Kills were formed in 2000. To date they have released five acclaimed albums.


Perhaps best known for their stellar hit, "Wolf Like Me" can you name the band pictured here?

Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, TV on the Radio formed in 2001. Difficult to track to a single style of music, their influences and therefore output is very eclectic.


Starting out as a solo project, can you name this British band?

One of the new wave of indie rock bands that have come to the fore over the past few years, Bastille was formed in London in 2010. In 2014, they were named the Best Newcomers at the Brit Awards.


Any ideas as to the name of this indie band?

Formed in 2002, MGMT has had much success in the second decade of the 2000s. They have had plenty of success on both sides of Atlantic with their unique brand of indie rock.


At the forefront of Brit Pop in the 1990s, their later work is certainly more indie. Who are they?

Together with Oasis, Blur were Brit Pop in the 1990s. Their two releases in the 2000s, however, are certainly more indie rock. Blur are fronted by Damon Albarn, a man with many different side projects.


Formed in 2000 by Colin Meloy, can you identify this band?

The Decemberists were formed in 2000 in Portland, Oregan. They are known for their incredible live shows, which are big on crowd participation.


Can you identify this British band, formed in the late 1970s?

Robert Smith formed The Cure in 1976, initially as a punk band. Through the 1980s, however, The Cure were one of the bands at the forefront of the British indie rock scene and built themselves a following all over the world.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!