an American rock band based in New York City
Founding members Thurston Moore (guitar, vocals), Kim Gordon (bass guitar, vocals, guitar) and Lee Ranaldo (guitar, vocals) remained together for the entire history of the band, while Steve Shelley (drums) followed a series of short-term drummers in 1985, and rounded out the core line-up.
Sonic Youth emerged from the experimental no wave art and music scene in New York before evolving into a more conventional rock band and becoming the most prominent of the American noise rock groups. Sonic Youth have been praised for having “redefined what rock guitar could do” using a wide variety of unorthodox guitar tunings and preparing guitars with objects like drum sticks and screwdrivers to alter the instruments’ timbre. The band is considered to be a pivotal influence on the alternative and indie rock movements.
After gaining a large underground following and critical praise through releases with SST Records in the late 1980s, the band experienced mainstream success throughout the 1990s and 2000s after signing to major label DGC in 1990 and headlining the 1995 Lollapalooza festival. In 2011, Ranaldo announced that the band was “ending for a while” following the separation of married couple Gordon and Moore. Thurston Moore updated and clarified the position in May 2014: “Sonic Youth is on hiatus. The band is a democracy of sorts, and as long as Kim and I are working out our situation, the band can’t really function reasonably.” Gordon refers several times in her 2015 autobiography Girl in a Band to the band having “split up”.