Sunday Roast: The Unnecessary Side Project
Web definition: “In popular music, a side project is a project undertaken by one or more persons already known for their involvement in another band. It can also be an artist or a band temporarily switching to a different style.”
We’ve all been there. You’re listening to the radio when a song comes on and you think, ‘Huh, sounds like a new Radiohead track.’ The presenter will later tell you that it’s actually in fact Thom Yorke’s new side project, Atoms For Peace.
The rise of the side project is fast becoming the fashionable thing to do in the music industry today. Perhaps those who have been around for ages – like Radiohead – manage to pull it off, and really, for fans, it can be more of an opportunity to hear new music from their favourite bands and artists.
(Although the cynic would argue it’s the egotistical nature of musicians who think they are the member who makes the band and goes off on their own path, but hey, to each their own, right?)
No country is guiltier of the endless spawning of side-projects than Australia – the healthy music scene here is actually the best example of this increasingly irritating phenomenon.
Perhaps our musical roots are a little too fertile, our scene a little too healthy. The most irksome of examples – and the one that spurred on this debate – comes from a Queensland band by the name of The Medics.
Listening to Triple J one evening and hearing a truly hollow, bland piece of music, it was later named as the new side project by some members of The Medics. All one thought was, “Is that really necessary?”
The Medics have been kicking around for a few years but they’re young, and you’d think they aren’t in any professional position to be more or less starting afresh with a new band name (with a group of mostly the same musicians as well), but creating what is effectively music that sounds just like The Medics? It’s completely redundant.
However, the side project comes in many forms: when one appears and sounds completely pointless, and a waste of radio air time, another can be downright required.
Elsewhere in the Sunshine State we have one of Brisbane’s most well-known bands, Ball Park Music.
While all the members chip in to create their music, 20-something frontman Sam Cromack is the principal songwriter, and simply pumps out too much music for just one band. Case in point, Ball Park Music have just surprised fans and the industry by releasing their second album in just 12 months.
My Own Pet Radio is treated as Cromack’s bedroom recording project, and under that moniker he has even performed a very small handful of solo gigs, occasionally with a small band of friends, in Brisbane. Cromack admits that any of the songs from My Own Pet Radio could serve as a song for Ball Park Music but, “quiet, weird or sad songs – which are usually my favourite – will nearly always end up as My Own Pet Radio songs. That way I don’t have to bore any audiences or band members.”
Considerate and prolific, Cromack’s statement contains none of the democracy that can come with playing in a multiple-membered band; we could be hearing more from that particular side project soon.
Velociprator is another Brisbane band with a number of players and these guys have spawned some of Australia’s favourite music makers, particularly in the form of AIR award-winning rock duo DZ Deathrays, while many more fall under the serene spell cast by solo artist, Jeremy Neale.
A massive 12-piece band seems the perfect breeding ground for multiple spin off bands, whereas a three or four piece, perhaps less so.
Some of these origins may come as a surprise, while others deliberately keep their new projects completely unrelated to the original band from whence they came.
Melbourne band Manor is fast gaining recognition for their electrifying live shows but they see no relevance in revealing that they originate from another, Adelaide-based band (and that’s all we’re saying); particularly because musically speaking they are mining different musical motives.
This is to the discretion of the individual musicians, of course – but then there are the ‘bloodsuckers’: Those members who break off from their very successful band to explore the solo world while still using their former band’s name to up ticket sales, yet sticking safely to similar musical territory.
I can say with confidence that the Workers Club was recently filled with more curiosity than actual fans of Tim Hart, “the drummer of Boy and Bear!”, as the tour promotion for his debut solo album trumpeted.
Which begs the question: should a successful band really have the creative license to spawn as many side projects as they want and always reference the original band to gain more recognition?
At least Hart is able to find the balance between the two – Tone Deaf recently reported on Boy and Bear’s bassist leaving the band, “to pursue other interests,” following stints in Laura Marling’s backing band.
It seems some can’t find the healthy balance and, though there’s probably more to Jake Tarasenko leaving Boy and Bear than their statement gives light to, irreparable differences within the band is just one of many valid reasons for new outfits developing.