Sonic Youth was an American rock band based in New York City, formed in 1981. Founding members Thurston Moore (guitar, vocals), Kim Gordon (bass, 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, rounding out the core line-up. Jim O'Rourke (bass, keyboards, guitar) was also a member of the band from 1999 to 2005, and Mark Ibold (guitar, bass) was a member from 2006 to 2011.
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 a prominent member of the American noise rock scene. Sonic Youth have been praised for having "redefined what rock guitar could do" using a wide variety of unorthodox guitar tunings while preparing guitars with objects like drum sticks and screwdrivers to alter the instruments' timbre. The band was 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, following the separation and subsequent divorce of Gordon and Moore, the band played their final shows in Brazil. Since the split, the members have said the band is finished and would not reunite.