When speaking of rock bands of the 1990s, the Pixies come to mind. Formed in 1986, this band has given us hits like “Here Comes Your Man” and “Velouria.” For decades, they’ve captivated audiences with their indie- and punk-rock-infused alternative rock sound, inspiring countless bands along the way.
If you’re a fan of the Pixies, chances are you appreciate a distinctive sound that pushes the boundaries. In this blog post, we’ve compiled a list of 13 incredible bands similar to the Pixies that carry on their innovative spirit while offering their own twist on underground rock. Read on to learn more!
1. Sonic Youth
Starting off this list is Sonic Youth, an alternative rock band like the Pixies. Formed in 1981 by Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, their music incorporated experimental sounds, avant-garde art influences, guitar experimentation, and noise-rock elements that earned them a significant following.
Their career is punctuated with tracks that manage to both push the envelope and remain accessible to a wide audience. Songs like “Teen Age Riot,” “Incinerate,” and “Superstar” exemplify this.
Sonic Youth’s influence on the music industry and other artists is profound. They inspired a generation of musicians, including bands like Nirvana and Radiohead. For fans drawn toward bands embodying bold creativity akin to the Pixies, exploring the diverse discography of Sonic Youth is undoubtedly rewarding.
One of the bands that helped redefine the music landscape of the early 1990s is Nirvana. They emerged as pioneers of alternative rock and grunge music and were heavily influenced by the Pixies.
Formed in 1987 by Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen, Washington, Nirvana gained international fame with their influential sound that resonated with millions worldwide.
Similarities between Nirvana and the Pixies are evident. Both bands shared a propensity for dynamic shifts in their songs, often alternating between soft verses and loud, explosive choruses. This loud-quiet-loud technique became a defining feature of the grunge and alternative rock genres.
3. Dinosaur Jr.
Emerging from the Massachusetts alternative rock scene in the mid-1980s, Dinosaur Jr. quickly garnered a significant following, fusing punk rock, noise rock, and melodic hard rock.
Dinosaur Jr.’s debut album, Dinosaur (later reissued as Dinosaur Jr.), laid the groundwork for their sound, but it was their second album, You’re Living All Over Me, that truly established them as a force in the alternative rock scene.
This album showcased the band’s musical talent that was both raw and emotive and featured standout tracks like “Little Fury Things” and “In a Jar.”
Just like the Pixies, Dinosaur Jr. played a significant role in shaping the alternative rock sound of the late 1980s and early ’90s. Though the band went on a break in 1997, they returned in 2005 and have continued releasing music since.
4. My Bloody Valentine
Next is My Bloody Valentine, a highly influential shoegaze band that emerged in 1983. Shoegaze music owes much of its inception and evolution to this band. Their signature sound combines swirling guitars, distorted vocals, and shimmering melodies to create a hypnotic listening experience.
My Bloody Valentine’s 1991 album Loveless is often hailed as the quintessential shoegaze record. Tracks like “Only Shallow,” “Loomer,” and “When You Wake, You’re Still in a Dream” showcase the band’s distinctive dreamy sound.
Comparatively, My Bloody Valentine has a different musical style to the Pixies. Nevertheless, both bands have had a significant impact on the alternative rock scene.
5. The Breeders
An alternative rock band, The Breeders, was formed in Dayton, Ohio, in 1989. They came into being as a side project for Kim Deal while the Pixies were on hiatus. However, the band is much more than just another project.
The Pixies’ influence on The Breeders is unmistakable, given Deal’s role in both bands. However, The Breeders have successfully carved out their own identity within the indie rock landscape, distinguishing themselves with their own blend of melodic hooks and gritty guitar work.
Throughout their career, The Breeders have released numerous outstanding works. One of these is Last Splash, dropped in 1993. It was the band’s first album to land on the Billboard chart and soon reached Platinum status. It also featured one of their most popular songs, “Cannonball.”
Up next is Pavement, an indie rock band formed in Stockton, California, in 1989. They are often cited as similar to Pixies due to their unique sound and influence on the alternative rock scene.
Over the span of five albums and nine EPs, Pavement became a decade-defining band. They were widely regarded as essential and game-changing figures in the indie rock scene. Their first album, Slanted and Enchanted, was an instant indie sensation that set the tone for their career.
Pavement disbanded in 1999; however, in 2022, the band announced a reunion. This was met with much excitement from fans and critics alike.
7. The Jesus And Mary Chain
Formed in 1983, The Jesus and Mary Chain is a Scottish music scene icon, and like the Pixies, they are renowned for their contributions to the alternative rock genre. Their sound is quite distinct — fusing chaotic, noisy indie rock with the sunny pop of the Beach Boys and the black-leather cool of the Velvet Underground.
One of their notable releases is Psychocandy, in 1985. This album was a game-changer in the indie rock scene, combining noise-pop with traditional song structures. Over time, the band’s sound evolved, incorporating elements of goth rock, shoegaze, and alternative rock.
The Jesus and Mary Chain is also known for their turbulent live performances. Their concerts were often marked by short sets and destructive behavior, earning them a reputation as one of the most provocative bands of the 1980s.
8. Yo La Tengo
Another band that has similarities with the Pixies is Yo La Tengo. Both bands share a commitment to pushing the boundaries of indie rock that helped shape the alternative music scene.
The band’s sound has evolved significantly over the course of more than a dozen albums, reflecting their commitment to creative growth and exploration.
One of Yo La Tengo’s standout hits is “Autumn Sweater,” from their 1997 album I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One. The song is characterized by its hypnotic organ riff and subtle percussion, creating a warm and nostalgic atmosphere that resonates with listeners.
Today, Yo La Tengo continues to have a significant presence in the music world, having expanded their focus on creating film scores, like in Game 6 and Old Joy.
9. The Smashing Pumpkins
One of the bands that Pixies influenced was The Smashing Pumpkins. This American alternative rock band started making waves two years after the Pixies formed.
Created in 1988 by frontman and guitarist Billy Corgan, the band quickly gained a following their willingness to experiment with different styles and sounds. Throughout their career, they have infused elements of shoegaze, dream pop, and even heavy metal into their music.
Of their 12 studio albums, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness stands out. Now certified Diamond, it features five of their greatest singles, including the “1979.” This track received two Grammy nominations: Record of the Year and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
Despite some turbulence within the band over the years, including lineup changes and personal conflicts, The Smashing Pumpkins have remained a beloved fixture in alt-rock circles.
10. Hüsker Dü
Our next band, Hüsker Dü, started as a hardcore punk band in 1979, but they soon began to incorporate elements of pop and alternative rock into their sound.
During their nine-year existence, Hüsker Dü released six studio albums, along with numerous EPs and singles. One of their most acclaimed albums is Zen Arcade, a double album that is considered a landmark in alternative rock.
This album showcased the band’s ability to blend different musical styles, from punk to pop to folk, creating a cohesive and compelling narrative.
Despite disbanding in 1988, Hüsker Dü played a crucial role in shaping the direction of rock and roll in the ’80s; their influence on the genre has been profound. Many bands that emerged after them, including Nirvana and the Pixies, have cited Hüsker Dü as a major influence.
Next up is Radiohead. This English rock band and the Pixies share a significant connection in the world of alternative rock. Both bands are hailed for their distinctive sounds and groundbreaking approaches to music, and the influence of the Pixies on Radiohead is well-documented.
Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has spoken openly about the impact the Pixies had on him. In an interview, he once said, “The Pixies changed my life.” He expressed that their use of contrasting dynamics significantly influenced Radiohead’s sound.
Alt-rock fans might know Radiohead’s most popular song, “Creep,” sometimes considered their signature piece. Released in 1993, it became a worldwide hit.
But this isn’t the only notable work Radiohead has. The albums OK Computer, Kid A, and In Rainbow are chart-topping albums worth exploring.
The alternative rock band from Los Angeles, Weezer, has been around since 1992. Their music has often been described as a mix of power pop and punk, which makes them similar to bands like Pixies.
The band has released multiple albums and singles over the years, including hits like “Buddy Holly,” “Say It Ain’t So,” and “Island in the Sun.”
Over the years, Weezer has continued to experiment with different musical styles, ranging from pop-punk to more pop-oriented sounds. Their discography includes several other self-titled albums, each identified by different color schemes like the Green Album, the Red Album, and the White Album.
Despite the varying reception of their later work, Weezer has maintained a dedicated fan base and continues to be a staple in the alternative rock scene.
13. The Velvet Underground
Formed in 1964, you might be surprised why The Velvet Underground is included on this list. Though not as commercially successful as contemporary rock groups, this band’s influence was extensive, and the Pixies were one of the bands influenced by them.
The Velvet Underground’s music was a captivating blend of art, rock, and poetry. Their lyrics often explored themes that were considered controversial at the time, such as drug use and sexual deviance.
One of their most notable albums is The Velvet Underground & Nico, which was released in 1967. Known for its iconic banana cover designed by pop artist Andy Warhol, the album initially didn’t perform well in terms of sales and critical reception.
However, it has since become a cult classic and is now recognized as one of the most influential albums in popular music. Some of its standout tracks include “Sunday Morning,” “I’m Waiting for the Man,” and “Heroin.”
Summing Up Of Our List Of Bands Similar To The Pixies
Our sonic journey through the world of alternative rock comes to a close. We’ve explored the echoes of bands that share a common thread with the iconic Pixies.
From the raw energy of Nirvana to the melodic intricacies of Radiohead, these bands offer an exciting exploration for any Pixies fan looking to broaden their musical horizons.
Remember, music is an ever-evolving landscape — always changing, always surprising. Perhaps we’ve missed a band or two that deserves a spot on this list. If so, we’d love to hear your suggestions!