Geek rock

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Geek rock (also known as nerd rock or dork rock[1]) is a musical subgenre derived from alternative rock within the nerd music group. It is a sister-genre to the chiptune-influenced rock subgenre nintendocore and related to other branches of nerd music such as hip hop's nerdcore and contemporary folk's nerd-folk. Geek rock is characterised by the standard instruments of rock music often combined with electronic and unusual instruments; references to geek culture and specialised, yet often mundane, interests; and an element of humour. Specific subgenres of geek rock range from those related to elements of geek culture, such as the Harry Potter-based wizard rock, and those related to elements of rock music, such as the punk rock variant called nerd punk.


Geek rock is characterised by strong use of both electronic instruments and more atypical musical instruments, such as accordions or ukuleles.[2]

Lyrically, the genre is generally characterised by subject matter that covers topics such as geek media pop culture (including science fiction, comic books and video games), academia, technology and related topics. Kyle Stevens of Kirby Krackle expands this to include any passionate interest, saying in a 2013 interview: "To us now, what we consider or genre of 'nerd' or 'geek' rock means anything we are really passionate about, whether that be traditionally geeky subject matter or a song about how we’re really into tacos. In essence, they’re love songs directed to whatever we’re really passionate about."[3] Irony, self-deprecation and humour are major elements.[1]

While mainstream rock music tends to be aspirational, representing things the average male audience member wants or wants to be, geek rock celebrates the mundane, common things that its audience members would find familiar.[4]


Photograph of two women singing and playing instruments on stage.
The Doubleclicks – Aubrey Turner and Laser Malena-Webber – performing onstage at JoCo Cruise Crazy 3

The first band to describe themselves as "geek rock" is believed to be Nerf Herder.[5] The success of They Might Be Giants' 1990 album Flood may have begun making geek culture and geek rock more mainstream.[5] Billboard has referred to They Might Be Giants as "Nerd-Rock Kings".[6] Similarly, Weird Al Yankovic has been called the king of nerd rock.[7]

The label "proto-geek rock" covers both similar musicians performing before the term was established and those that were adopted by geek culture but were not strictly part of it themselves.[5] Alex DiBlasi contends that Frank Zappa is the archetypical geek rocker and antecedent of geek rock.[4]

Earlier filk music was based around fans performing at science fiction conventions. Geek rock, however, is not necessarily connected to conventions in the same way and, while often still connected to fandom, is more adjacent to the fan community than an out-growth of it.[5] Geek rock musicians are professional rather than amateur and band members need not be fans themselves. For example, Chicago Doctor Who-based band Time Crash was started by Doctor Who fan Ronen Kohn but the band's drummer, Andy Rice, had not seen the TV series until some time after the band started.[5] This was made possible by equipment becoming more affordable and the growth of the internet.[5]

The term "nerd rock" was previously used as the title of a 1977 sketch on the American sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live, named by writer Anne Beatts after Elvis Costello appeared as the musical guest star. She is on record as thinking, while watching his performance, "this isn't punk rock; this is nerd rock." The sketch was the first in their "The Nerds" series following the same "nerd" characters.[8][9]

Geek rock, and related genres, have grown large enough to support music festivals such as Rock Comic Con.

Derivative forms[edit]

Some subgenres and derivative forms of geek rock are focused around specific parts of geek culture and fandoms. Others are based on subgenres of rock music.

Nerd punk[edit]

Nerd punk is a fusion of nerd music and punk rock. It shares the characteristics of geek rock with the fast-paced songs, hard-edged melodies and singing styles of punk. Bands include Thundering Asteroids!.


Twi-rock (or twirock) developed from Twilight fandom with bands such as the Bella Cullen Project.[5][10] While initially successful, and entering into a rivalry with wizard rock, the twi-rock genre turned out to be short lived.[11][12]

Time Lord rock[edit]

Time Lord rock (or trock) was developed by British band Chameleon Circuit in 2008. It was directly inspired by the existence of wizard rock.[5][1][13][14] Time Lord rock was initially dominated by British and Australian bands but the genre has spread to the United States with groups such as Time Crash, Legs Nose Robinson [15][16] and singer Allegra Rosenberg.[17][18]

Wizard rock[edit]

Wizard rock (or wrock) developed from Harry Potter fandom in the United States with Harry and the Potters in the early 2000s.[5] The subgenre has since expanded internationally with hundreds of bands and established its own music festival, called Wrockstock.

List of geek rock bands and solo artists[edit]

Photograph of a group singing and playing instruments on stage.
I Fight Dragons performing at Martyrs', Chicago, in 2009
Photograph of a group playing instruments in an amphitheater.
Harry and the Potters performing in June 2007
Photograph of a group singing and playing instruments on stage.
They Might Be Giants performing in October 2010

Sorted alphabetically and by decade of establishment.

1980s and earlier[edit]





  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Weisbard, Eric (December 2000). "Geek Love". SPIN. pp. 158–162.
  2. ^ Danesi, Marcel (2010). Geeks, Goths, and Gangstas. Canadian Scholars’ Press. p. 96. ISBN 9781551303727.
  3. ^ a b Selinker, Mike (2013-01-08). "Geek Love: Kirby Krackle, The Doubleclicks, and the soul of nerd rock". Wired. Retrieved 2015-03-08.
  4. ^ a b DiBlasi, Alex (2014). "Frank Zappa: Godfather of Geek Rock". In DiBlasi, Alex; Willis, Victoria (eds.). Geek Rock: An Exploration of Music and Subculture. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781442229761.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Chaney, Keidra (January–February 2015). "The Evolution of Nerd Rock". Uncanny. No. 2. pp. 129–133.
  6. ^ a b Blistein, Jon (November 16, 2012). "They Might Be Giants Q&A". Billboard.
  7. ^ a b Bell, Mike (April 24, 2013). "Weird Al Yankovic leads parade of geek music at Calgary's Comic Expo". Calgary Herald. Not so with Weird Al Yankovic, the true, unabashed and remarkably enduring king of a now growing genre of nerd rock — a man who’s had a pretty remarkable 30-year career wearing his uncoolness on his accordion strap.
  8. ^ Nugent, Benjamin (2008). American Nerd. Simon and Schuster. pp. 61–62. ISBN 9781416565512.
  9. ^ Hill, Doug; Weingrad, Jeff (2011). Saturday Night. Untreed Reads. ISBN 9781611872187.
  10. ^ Carroll, Larry (July 8, 2008). "'Twilight' Tribute Band The Bella Cullen Project: From 'Sexy Vampire' To Debut Album". MTV. Retrieved 2015-03-23.
  11. ^ Vineyard, Jennifer (August 18, 2008). "'Harry Potter' Vs. 'Twilight': Battle Of The 'Bands About Books'". MTV. Retrieved 2015-03-23.
  12. ^ McKenna, Bree (November 16, 2011). "The End for Twi-Rock?". The Stranger. Retrieved 2015-03-23.
  13. ^ a b Wilkes, Neil. "Introducing Trock: Songs about 'Doctor Who'". Retrieved 2015-03-15.
  14. ^ Harvison, Anthony. "Chameleon Circuit review and interview". Retrieved 2015-03-15.
  15. ^ "'Doctor Who's Day Roundup: Between a Rock and a Hard Place". BBC America. Retrieved 2015-11-04.
  16. ^ "'Doctor Who' lands in Clarksville". The Leaf Chronicle. Retrieved 2015-11-04.
  17. ^ Kirby, Megan (November 19, 2013). "Time Crash brings Time Lord rock across the pond". Chicago Reader.
  18. ^ Borrelli, Christopher (December 14, 2011). "Allegra Rosenberg is all plugged in, ready to Trock". Chicago Tribune.
  19. ^ a b c Cantrell, Paul Alexander (2014). "'A Very Subtle Joke': T. S. Eliot, J. D. Salinger and the Puer Aeternus in God Shuffled His Feet". In DiBlasi, Alex; Willis, Victoria (eds.). Geek Rock: An Exploration of Music and Subculture. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 79–98. ISBN 9781442229761.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Freed, Nick; Salgado, Christina (March 14, 2014). "The Greatest Nerd Rock Records of All Time". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 2015-03-15.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h Topić, Martina (2014). "Taste, Kitsch, and Geek Rock: A Multiple Modernities View". In DiBlasi, Alex; Willis, Victoria (eds.). Geek Rock: An Exploration of Music and Subculture. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 25–44. ISBN 9781442229761.
  22. ^ McDonald, Christopher J. (2009). Rush, Rock Music, and the Middle Class. Indiana University Press. p. 182. ISBN 9780253004048. In questionnaires, several fans openly admit that Rush produces 'geek rock' with a significant constituency who might be described in such terms.
  23. ^ Linn, John (December 11, 2008). "The Aquabats". Phoenix New Times.
  24. ^ Peter, Taylor (2014). "'My God, What an Infantile Gesture': The Mountain Goats as Emblematic of Geek Rock's Relationship with the Authentic". In DiBlasi, Alex; Willis, Victoria (eds.). Geek Rock: An Exploration of Music and Subculture. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 147–160. ISBN 9781442229761.
  25. ^ Fosco, Molly (January 22, 2013). "Alt-J: Making Nerd Rock Sexy". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-03-15.
  26. ^ Kendall, Len (February 9, 2009). "Geek Rock: I Fight Dragons". Chicago Tech Report. Retrieved 2015-03-15.
  27. ^ Mohan, Marc (January 21, 2015). "The Doubleclicks kick off a busy 2015, including a pair of weekend Portland shows: The Week in Geek". Oregon Live. Retrieved 2015-03-20.
  28. ^ Barron, Joe (September 26, 2014). "The Doubleclicks' nerd rock in Ardmore Oct. 5". Ticket Entertainment.
  29. ^ "How a Fully DIY Band Has Booked Over 500 Shows in 16 Countries: Advice From Double Experience".

Further reading[edit]

  • DiBlasi, Alex; Willis, Victoria, eds. (2014). Geek Rock: An Exploration of Music and Subculture. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781442229761.