Despite much dance, electronica, metal and country musics released on independant labels from the 1980s onwards, indie has come to evoke noncommercially driven, ‘songled’ and ‘guitaroriented’ music embracing DIY aesthetics. It’s texturally lighter than classic rock, mostly featuring earnest, emotive and realist -borderline pessimist -lyrics with strong ‘sociopolitical’ and arts references. Subsequently, liberal labels are probably historically and aesthetically aligned to niche genre, as Sun earlier examples and Motown illustrate. Free record labels have been barometers of musical authenticity as long as artists tend to retain more creative control over their musical and aesthetic direction than if signed to a big label.
Remember, the label turned out to be synonymous with grunge music, largely since raw, distortionladen sound of its most famous signing. Founded in 1986 by Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman in Seattle, Sub Pop pioneered a heavier brand of US alternative indie. Anyhow, liberal music recordists have as well played a key role in constructing the sonically identifiable character of indie music.
Record producer John Leckie, Southern Records’ late founder John Loder and stateside recording engineer Steve Albini have been 3 whose maverick recording methods shaped indie as a distinct musical contrast to constructed, polished mainstream pop.
By the mid 1980s, Manchester band Smiths came to exemplify indie, no doubt both musically and culturally.
Together, lead singer Morrissey’s observational, experiential and socio national lyrics delivered in deathlike pan, poetic monologues over Johnny Marr’s jangly, ‘multitextured’, mostly tremolo and reverbsoaked guitar were an authentic, ‘culturallyresonant’ antidote to superficial, big label manufactured pop. Independant US labels Def Jam, Tommy Boy and Death Row were synonymous with 1980s golden age and 1990s ‘hip hop’. Notice that Sun Records’ country and blues and Motown’s soul canon was an essential disseminator of late 1980s ska punk fusion.