Sonic Youth is an influential experimental rock band which formed in New York City, New York, United States in 1981. The current lineup consists of Thurston Moore (vocals, guitar), Kim Gordon (vocals, bass, guitar), Lee Ranaldo (vocals and guitar), Mark Ibold (bass) and Steve Shelley (drums).
In their early career, Sonic Youth was associated with the No Wave art and music scene in New York City. Part of the first wave of American noise rock groups, the band carried out their interpretation of the hardcore punk ethos throughout the evolving American underground that focused more on the DIY ethic of the genre rather than its specific sound. As a result, Sonic Youth was pivotal in the rise of the alternative rock movement.
Sonic Youth have expressed a wide variety of influences, ranging from the influential protopunk musician Patti Smith to composer John Cage. The band has been praised for having “redefined what rock guitar could do”, using a wide variety of unorthodox guitar tunings, and preparing guitars with objects like drumsticks and screwdrivers to alter the instruments’ timbre.
Formation and early history: 1977-1981
Sonic Youth’s history began when guitarist Thurston Moore moved to New York City in early 1976. Interested in punk, Moore joined The Coachmen, a guitar-based quartet, after arriving in the city. Lee Ranaldo, an art student at Binghamton University, became a fan of the Coachmen, and he and Moore were soon friends. Ranaldo was a member of Glenn Branca’s electric guitar ensemble, touring throughout the United States and Europe. After the breakup of the Coachmen, Moore began jamming with Stanton Miranda, whose band, ckm, featured local artist Kim Gordon.