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25 Best Scottish Indie Bands of the 2010s
The 2010s produced some great music—much of which came from Scottish indie rock bands. This article includes 25 of the best Scottish indie rock bands from the decade. Read on for some of the top albums and songs produced by each band, as well as some facts and figures.
1. Admiral Fallow
This band was formed in 2007 by singer-songwriter Louis Abbott. He described it as "an indie band with orchestral leanings". The rest of a talented line-up are Sarah Hayes, Kevin Brolly, Philip Hague, Joseph Rattray and Tom Stearn.
With four singers, a clarinet, double-bass flute and violins, they have a classical style overlaid with vocal harmonies—influenced by the likes of Midlake, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waites. They appeared at the T in the Park festival in 2009. Their first album, Boots Met My Face, was released in 2010 and was an autobiographical collection of songs about Abbott's early life.
During a busy summer in 2011, they played many festivals—including the SXSW in the USA and Glastonbury in England. Their second album Tree Bursts in Snow came out in 2012. Their third album Tiny Rewards was released in 2015 and marked a change in style as the band experimented with new sounds in a bid to freshen things up.
2. The Amazing Snakeheads
The Amazing Snakeheads are a powerful trio from Glasgow who started up in 2010 and went on to become one of the most explosive acts in the city. they started gigging in 2011, fronted by Dale Barclay and with William Coombe on bass and Jordan Hutchison battering the drums.
They only recorded one album, the 2014 release Amphetamine Ballads, which was on the Domino record label. Their debut single 'Where is my Knife' sprinted in at 73 seconds long, and they specialised in a brutal Rockabilly onslaught of sound and fury.
Just like their music, their career was short and intense. Coombe and Hutchison left the band, and although replaced, Barclay announced the end of the band in 2015.
Sadly, Dale Barclay was later stricken with brain cancer and died in 2018.
3. Casual Sex
Casual Sex is a band from Glasgow with Sam Smith on lead vocals and guitar, Edward Wood on guitar, Peter Masson on bass and Chris McCrory on drums. A product of the Green Door recording studio, they had already been on the local music scene as individuals before coming together.
They have been described as a minimalist post-punk band with a deliberately stripped-back sound. Orcadian Sam Smith's lyrics covered a wide range of topics from the personal to the international, with humour and invention.
They toured the USA supporting Franz Ferdinand in 2013, but the band didn't last long, and the members went their separate ways soon after.
Top tracks include 'Stroh 80', 'What's Your Daughter For?', 'We're All Here Mainly For The Sex', 'Bastard Beat', 'National Unity', 'A Perfect Storm' and 'Nothing On Earth'.
This synth trio from Glasgow activated in 2011 by versatile artists Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty. Compared with Depeche Mode and New Order, their electro-pop style was once described as "a godless hurricane of kinetic pop energy".
Their back catalogue of chart singles suggests a more modest record, but there is doubting the quality of their accessible brand of music. Their first album, The Bones of What You Believe, came out in 2013 to satisfying reviews.
They have played live on TV in the UK on 'Later...with Jools Holland' and in the USA on 'Late Night with Jimmy Fallon'. They have also appeared on numerous festival stages throughout the world, including Reading and Leeds in England, SXSW in America and Sziget in Hungary among many others.
Their second album Every Open Eye was released in 2015, and a third album Love is Dead came out in 2018.
Early in the following year, they collaborated with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra for the launch of the new BBC Scotland television channel. The channel's official launch on 24 February featured an orchestral performance of Chvrches song 'Miracle'.
Described as a post-electro band from Glasgow, Errors was founded in 2004 by Simon Ward, Greg Paterson and Stephen Livingstone. They impressed their fellow Scots musicians in Mogwai that the latter signed them up to their Rock Action Records label.
This produced the single 'Hans Herman' followed by the E.P. How Clean is your Acid House? in 2006. The following year, they gained a useful support slot with the famous band Underworld playing throughout the UK.
Their debut album It’s Not Something But It Is Like Whatever arrived in 2008, and they spent that year and the next touring extensively. Gigs included playing alongside the Mogwai, who had taken them under their wing.
In 2010, their second album Come Down With Me was released, and again, their hard work ethic continued as they went on the road across the UK and Europe, including a co-headline tour with another renowned Scots band The Twilight Sad.
They were busy in the studio too with two more albums Have Some Faith in Magic in 2012 and Lease of Life in 2015, with an eight-track mini-album New Relics sandwiched in between them.
Formed in Glasgow in 2012, the band is a female duo of Stina Tweeddale on vocals and guitar and Cat Myers on vocals and drums. Original drummer Shona McVicar left in 2014 to be replaced by Myers.
That same year saw their first album release, the eponymous Honeyblood that reached the lower end of the UK album charts, just scraping into the Top 100.
Their second album Babes Never Die, which came out in 2016, fared better by reaching No.50 in the charts. It marked a change into a more aggressive Punk style from the previous "crunch-pop" of their debut record.
The album also got nominated in the Scottish Album of the Year awards for 2017. Among other highlights were a support slot with the Foo Fighters and appearances at the T in the Park and the South by South West festival in Texas. Their third album In Plain Sight was released in 2019.
7. Indigo Velvet
This band is from Edinburgh and was formed in 2014 by Darren Barclay on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Jason Tucker on lead guitar, Laurie Adam on bass and Billy McMahon on drums.
Their sound is a form of upbeat and catchy indie rock, which has also been described as 'Tropical Pop' in some quarters due to their colourful clothes and African rhythms in their music. Indigo Velvet has had strong support from the musical press including BBC Radio Scotland and have built up a solid fan following
They played T in the Park in 2016, and in that same year toured to sell-out crowds across the UK and released their first single called 'Sunrise'. Then a 5-track E.P., entitled Vol.1, arrived in late 2017. Fellow Scots artist Lewis Capaldi is a big fan of their music and invited them to support his show.
8. Little Eye
Little Eye is a Glasgow band formed in 2008 by frontman Allan Sieczkowski and joined by Euan Malloch on guitar, Marcus Cordock on bass and Jay Hepburn on drums. They described their sound as "balancing edgy, guitar-based rock reminiscent of early U2 with silky smooth pop melodies" and they gained quick recognition.
In 2009, they were the winners of the In Demand Band of the Year Award from local radio station Clyde 1 and the Young Scot organisation's 'Best Unsigned Band' of 2011. But studio product took some time to reach the ears of the public. Their first single 'Choked Up' didn't appear until 2013, but there were further releases entitled 'Fighting the Future' and 'End Game' in 2014, then 'Contagious' in 2016.
Their first album, also called Fighting The Future, came out in the summer of 2014 to good reviews. Highlights of their live career have been supporting Blondie in Glasgow, opening the main stage at the Isle Of Wight Festival in 2014, and two short but successful tours of Western Europe between 2015 and 2017.
However, despite plans for a second album in 2017, they split up later that year "due to creative differences", although Allan Sieczkowski would carry on performing as a solo artist using the 'Little Eye' moniker.
9. Miniature Dinosaurs
A band from Stirling established in 2009 with Barry Maclean on vocals and guitar, Andrew McAllister on guitar and synthesiser, Alban Dickson on bass and Sam Waller on drums.
In a strange chronology, their first single '(I Want to watch) Top Gear' was aired on BBC Radio 1 before the group had even played a gig. In the following year, they also made an unusual move by signing up for a clothing endorsement with fashion house Police-883.
In 2011, they were picked up by the Electric Honey record label who issued their next single 'Fight or Flight'. Miniature Dinosaurs went from strength to strength with 2012 seeing them nominated for Best Live Act at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards, as well as securing a deal with Integrity Records.
The curious sequence of their career saw the digital download release of their debut album In the Spirit of Everything in 2014, which sadly came out after the band had broken up.
10. North Atlas
North Atlas is a Scottish electronic rock band, based in Glasgow. Formed in 2015 by brothers Leon and Cam Hunter—originally from Dalbesttie in Kirkcudbrightshire—and joined by guitarist Drew Leslie and bassist Kai Carney.
They play a blend of industrial and alternative rock, but augmented by electronic sounds played on drum pads and also activated by the bass guitar. There have comparisons with a band like Nine Inch Nails and certainly inspiration from their compatriots Biffy Clyro.
Their first single called ‘Hal’ was released in 2016. Other top tracks are 'Orange', 'Volcanoes' and 'Another Ocean'. Their music is accompanied by imaginative videos with atmospheric shoots in places like the cold wilderness of Iceland as well as Norway, Japan and the USA. North Atlas is an original band developing a strong following and enjoying critical acclaim.
11. Olympic Swimmers
This band hails from Glasgow. They hit the waves in 2009 and are often described as an Indie Folk band. Musical siblings Simon and Susie Liddell hooked up with bassist Graeme Smillie and drummer Jonny Scott, with a second guitarist following in the shape of Jamie Savage.
Keyboard player Susie later became Mrs. Smillie after marrying the bass player. Their music is replete with atmosphere in the 'dreamy' rock and pop mode with heady, wandering guitar and ethereal vocals from Susie. Therefore, it's no surprise that chief among their influences they have cited fellow Scots The Cocteau Twins and Aereogramme plus the Canadian band The Besnard Lakes.
Their first album No Flags Will Fly was released in 2012 on the band's own Green, White, Violet label. The Olympic Swimmers have performed at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow as well as other events such as the Hebridean Celtic Festival. They are not averse to involvement in many other projects and feel no pressure to tour intensively or release material frequently.
This band took their first steps into the music scene in 2010 and initially comprised Phil Taylor from Tain in the Highlands, Josh Swinney from Edinburgh and Matthew Scott from Glasgow.
Basing themselves in Glasgow, they released their first single in 2011, a double AA side called 'Lekker/Booger', and appeared on the festival scene that summer at T in the Park as well as Wickerman, the Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival and others.
A breakthrough came in 2012 when the band signed Fat Cat Records, which led to their debut album Cokefloat! in the same year. In the following year, bassist Ryan Drever replaced Matthew Scott. Back in the studio, a further two albums quickly followed—Youth Culture Forever in 2014 and No Grace in 2016. The latter was produced by Mark Hoppus of American superstars Blink 182.
In between, they headed overseas and supported We Are Scientists on a 2014 tour of Europe, the USA and Canada. Drever left the band in 2016 after touring for the No Grace album, and subsequently, the band continued as a duo for a while until the arrival of John Bonnar. The year 2017 saw a new double-A sided single called 'Omaha/Eventual Hell', followed by a Scottish tour in early 2018. Their fourth album Your Church On My Bonfire was released in 2019.
Prides is a Glasgow band formed in 2014 by Stewart Brock on vocals and keyboards, Callum Wiseman on guitar, keyboards and backing vocals with Lewis Gardiner on drums.
Although initially focused on synthesiser-driven electronic rock, the sound of Wiseman's guitar has come more to the fore in their music. They have been compared to fellow Scots artists Chvrches and Simple Minds.
They gained instant fame by performing their song 'Messiah' at the closing ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The band has also appeared at T in the Park and the Glastonbury Festival, which gave them great exposure to new fans.
They signed up with Island Records and in the summer of 2015 saw the release of their debut album The Way Back Up, which hit the Top 30 in the UK. However, the following year Gardiner left to concentrate on his production career, as he was involved with several bands in the studio. He was replaced for live gigs by Adam Parker, but the act remains a duo.
14. Randolph's Leap
Randolph's Leap is a large ensemble cast from Glasgow, formed by singer/guitarist Adam Ross in 2006. Also on the roster were Gareth Perrie on keyboards, Vicki Cole on bass, Andrew MacLellan on guitar, Heather Thikey on violin and Iain Taylor on drums and guitar.
Described by Folk Radio as a "ramshackle, whimsical, indie style", their music is enlivened by witty and intelligent lyrics by Ross.
Their first EP, entitled Battleships and Kettle Chips, came out in 2010. In 2011, they added some brass to their sound with the addition of Ali Hendry on trumpet and Fraser Gibson on trombone.
They were busy in the following year with two album releases, The Curse of the Haunted Headphones came out in February 2012 and Introducing Randolph's Leap in July of the same year.
In 2013, Gareth Perrie left the group and was replaced on keyboards by Pete MacDonald. He played on their third album Clumsy Knot, which was released in 2014 on Lost Map Records.
It is regarded as their first official album, as it included re-workings of previous tunes with a production makeover. More personnel change was to come in 2016, with Adam Florence replacing Iain Taylor on drums. Another two albums can in 2018—an original release called Worringly Okay and a compilation Isle of Love.
15. Saint PHNX
This band from Glasgow is comprised of two brothers, Stevie Jukes on vocals and multi-instruments with Alan Jukes on the drums. After playing in bands for several years, they decided to form a duo in 2016—thus Saint PHNX was born.
They have been described as a mix between Arctic Monkeys and Queens of the Stone Age. But their influences have been diverse, from Bruce Springsteen and Ryan Adams to Kasabian and Imagine Dragons, with their drum sound taking inspiration from hip-hop music. Their music is distinguished by its explosive energy and rousing choruses
Their first single was 'Reload' and they played their debut gig in Glasgow in July of 2016. Since then, they have played at the Reading and Leeds Festival in England and also supported Imagine Dragons in London. Another single called 'Magic' came out in 2017, and their music has been picked up by both Spotify and Apple. The year 2020 saw their debut album DDMN released.
16. Spinning Coin
Spinning Coin is a Glasgow band formed in 2014 as a four-piece of Glasgow raised singer and guitarist Jack Mellin and bassist Cal Donnelly—as well as singer and guitarist Sean Armstrong from the Hebrides and drummer Chris White from Alloa. They later added a fifth member, the Canadian Rachel Taylor, on keyboards and backing vocals.
They spent their first two years working hard performing countless shows around Scotland and elsewhere, including an invitation to the South by South West Festival in Texas. In 2016, they released their first single, a double-A side called 'Albany/Sides', followed the next year by Raining 'On Hope Street', and an album was soon on its way.
Released in late 2017, their Permo album was partly produced by Edwyn Collins with a sound described by The Guardian as a mixture of Scots Indie of the 1980s and the "gauzy, dreamy indie of the US in the early '90s". Their second album Hyacinth appeared on the shelves in 2020.
17. The Spook School
This band from Edinburgh formed at university in 2012 by brothers Nye and Adam Todd, who teamed up with bassist Anna Cory and drummer Niall McCamley. Although they were from the capital, their name comes from a group of artists and designers from Glasgow of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The band's lyrics, sung by Nye Todd, delve into issues of gender and sexuality—in particular, the "fluidity and the lack of a binary in gender" and trans-identities. Therefore it's perhaps not surprising that they cite the great androgyne David Bowie as an influence. With regards to their music, comparisons have been made with the likes of The Shop Assistants, The Undertones and The Buzzcocks.
They didn't waste time getting their music recorded. Their E.P. was released in 2012 with the less than succinct title of I Don't Know, You Don't Know, We All Don't Know The Spook School.
Their debut album followed soon after. Dress Up came out the following year. Their second album, Try To Be Hopeful, was released in 2015, and their third, Could It Be Different, in 2018. However, early in 2019 the band announced their break up and ended the year with a farewell tour.
18. Tango in the Attic
Tango in the Attic is from Glenrothes, or the Kingdom of Fife, as they like to call their region. They were formed in 2008. The band originally consisted of brothers Daniel Craig on vocals and Jordan Craig on guitar, with the rest of the group being James Crook on bass, Jonathan MacFarlane on keyboards and Paul Johnson on drums.
The band played T In The Park in 2009 and their performance was described by The Herald newspaper as "laden with afrobeat rhythms and angular New York guitar shapes". This appearance was followed by an invitation to play a live session on BBC Radio Scotland.
Their debut album Bank Place Locomotive Society was released in 2010, with the follow-up disc called Sellotape in 2012. Daniel Craig had by then decided to leave the band in 2011 due to the pressures of combining touring with other pursuits. His brother Jordan took over as front-man continuing with the Scottish accent on the vocals.
Ironically, the actual song 'Sellotape' is not on the second album but appeared later in their Crushed Up E.P. of the following year. One of their songs, 'Jackanory' was also used on a Schuh TV commercial in the UK. Among other top tunes are 'Mona Lisa Overdrive', 'Seven Second Stare', 'Swimming Pool' and 'Blunderground'.
19. Teen Canteen
This band is an all-female group from Glasgow, led by singer and keyboard player Carla Easton. They were formed in 2012 from the remnants of her previous band, Futuristic Retro Champions. She enlisted Emma Kullander on guitar, bassist Sita Pieraccini and drummer Deborah Smith. However, in 2015, guitarist Emma Kullander was replaced by Chloe Philip of the BMX Bandits.
They play bright and breezy Indie with multiple melodies and vocal harmonies reminiscent of the optimistic 1960's music of West Coast America. Their first single 'Honey' appeared in 2013 followed by the double-A side 'You're Still Mine/ Vagabond' before their debut album Say It All With A Kiss came out in 2016. Then they released the Sirens E.P. in 2017.
Influential fans include BBC Radio 6 DJ Marc Riley, Eugene Kelly from The Vaselines and Stevie Jackson of Belle and Sebastian. Plus Duglas T. Stewart of BMX Bandits has played guitar on many of their tracks.
20. Three Blind Wolves
Three Blind Wolves is a Glasgow band that consisted of Ross Clark on vocals and guitar, David Cleary on guitar, Kevin Mackay on bass and Fhearghas Lyon on drums. In 2011, they released two mini-albums called Sound Of The Storm and The Maybe Forest, with all songs written by Ross, who was the creative hub of the band.
Their prize was an appearance at T in the Park that summer, and since their early music was heavily infused with the sound of Americana, they gathered fans from across the Atlantic as well as in the UK and Europe.
Therefore, it was no surprise that they were invited to play at the South By Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas in 2012 as well as making an appearance at the Canadian Music Week festival and Eurosonic in the same year.
They then went on a European tour, supporting the Canadian Rock group Wintersleep prior to the release of their first full-length album, Sing Hallelujah For The Old Machine, which came out in 2013. While still retaining some of the folk inclinations of the USA, the band had added more rock with narratives in the spirit of Springsteen and musically inspired by Neil Young Top songs from the album include 'Parade', 'In Here Somewhere' and 'Farmer With a Pulse'.
However, after going strong for eight years playing good music and winning many fans, Three Blind Wolves decided to call it a day. The financial pressures and onerous time commitments allied to the insecurity of working in the competitive music business took its toll, and they played a farewell gig in Glasgow in early 2017
21. The Twilight Sad
This band appeared on the scene in 2003. Hailing from the town of Kilsyth, north of Glasgow, the band members met at high school and cut their teeth playing cover versions.
Named after an expression written by the poet Wilfred Owen, they recorded demos and an E.P. before making their first album. It took four years, and finally, in 2017, they released Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters in April of 2007.
It was well-received by critics, but commercial success still awaited. Their next two albums performed well, but it was the third, Nobody Wants to be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave, released in 2014, that marked their first entry into the UK Top 20 charts.
They went from strength to strength and a big highlight was being chosen to support The Cure on a tour of America in 2016. Their fifth album, It Won't Be Like This All The Time, came out in 2019.
22. Twin Atlantic
Twin Atlantic is a Glasgow band that kicked off in 2000 and comprised a collection of musicians that had played in other local bands in the area. They were a slow-burner, but they gradually gathered momentum and built up a strong following.
By 2007, they had become more established in the minds of the public and the media, touring regularly and appearing at festivals including T in the Park in 2008.
Their first album, the exotically titled Vivarium, came out in 2009 to good reviews, and their inexorable commercial rise continued with a linear progression of steady if not spectacular advance.
Their third and fourth albums, Great Divide in 2014 and GLA in 2016 saw them shoot into the UK Top 10 album charts. The song 'Heart and Soul' was their first UK Top 20 single.
They continued to receive invites to all the major festivals including Donington, Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds. Their fifth studio album Power was released in 2020.
23. The Van T's
This group was formed in 2013 by twin sisters Hannah and Chloe Van Thompson, hence the name of the band. They both feature on guitar and vocals, with Joanne Forbes on bass and Shaun Hood on drums. All the ladies were born in Dundee, with Hood coming from Clydebank, near Glasgow.
Originally, the Van Thompson sisters were an acoustic duo influenced by folk music, but then they decided to become a four-piece and crank up the electrics.
Highlights of their career so far have been airplay on BBC Radio 1, a support slot with fellow Scots The Jesus and Mary Chain and appearances at T in the Park, Wickerman and Glasgow's TRNSMT festival. In 2018, they were selected for Festival Republic’s 'ReBalance' initiative and appeared at Community Festival that summer.
In the studio, they have released the 2015 E.P., Laguna Babe, followed by another called A Coming of Age in 2016. The singles ‘Fresh Meat’ and ‘BitterSweet' and 'Seeing Stars' followed shortly.
Their brand of music has attracted a lot of interest for its combination of 1960s surf and garage rock with the 1990s sound of Seattle grunge.
24. We Were Promised Jetpacks
This band with an unusual name came from Edinburgh and formed in 2003 as a school band. The group includes Adam Thompson on vocals and guitar, Michael Palmer on guitar, Sean Smith on bass and Darren Lackie on drums.
In the early days, they headed west and based themselves in Glasgow where a healthy live scene welcomed their talents onstage. Their first recorded studio material didn't see the light of day until 2009 after much hard work gigging which included a support slot with Frightened Rabbit.
This led to a deal with Fat Cat Records and their debut album, These Four Walls, in the summer of that year. Strangely, it fared better commercially in the USA than back home and so tours across the pond were in order. They performed as headliners and also opened for Jimmy Eat World.
Further albums followed the same pattern as they were more recognised in America than in the UK. Some of their songs have also featured on the soundtracks of several top US TV shows, such as Sons of Anarchy and One Tree Hill.
But they have still built up a solid following on their own territory and received great fan appreciation and many plaudits from the critics.
25. The Xcerts
This three-piece band is originally from Aberdeen and was formed by school friends Murray MacLeod on guitar and lead vocals, Jordan Smith on bass and backing vocals and Ross McTaggart on drums. Their sound has been described as a "combination of loud, distorted riffs and soaring pop-edged choruses" and has been compared to the likes of Idlewild, Biffy Clyro and Weezer.
They moved to Brighton in the south of England in 2006, and soon after McTaggart left the band, he was replaced by Tom Heron who came from Exeter. The band then released two singles 'Breathtaking Fight' and 'My Book Laughs', which did well and led to another two releases 'Just Go Home' and 'Do You Feel Safe?'. This brought airplay and session recordings with MTV and BBC Radio.
The summer of 2008 was a busy time for them, as they played several prestigious festivals including T in the Park, RockNess, Belladrum Tartan Heart and the Connect Music Festival. They have also released four albums—In the Cold Wind We Smile (2009), Scatterbrain (2010), There Is Only You (2014) and Hold On To Your Heart (2018).