A Lil’ On The Side: A Crash Course In Side Projects
Whether it’s due to the will to take a new direction, a feud with their band, or just having too many songs and not enough time; many musicians have decided to indulge themselves in side-projects. Not to be confused with an artist going solo, or the formation of a supergroup, a side-project can be seen as a separate endeavor undertaken by someone already known for their involvement with another band. With artists ranging from Paul McCartney, Gotye, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Alex Turner, we go through some of the more interesting ventures from music’s best acts, with some even outshining their day jobs…
Taking a step away from his solo career, the former Beatles Bassist chose to experiment with electronic music through collaboration with producer Youth (a.k.a. Martin Glover). The Fireman have released three albums, most recently Electric Arguments, released in 2008.
Mike And The Mechanics
Bassist Mike Rutherford decided to do some work on the side, recruiting some Mechanics along for the ride. Rutherford twice attempted to release solo work during a hiatus from his main outfit Genesis, but has since stated, “I’m not complete on my own... I’m much more creative and inspired when there are other people around me and I’m bouncing ideas off”. Rutherford reformed the group with a whole new crew of Mechanics in 2010.
Striving for an outlet for his passion for heavy metal music that he couldn’t satisfy in his primary concern, Foo Fighters, Grohl created Probot, a one-off album in 2004. The former Nirvana drummer enlisted the expertise of many well-known faces in the metal community to provide vocals, including King Diamond (Mercyful Fate), Max Cavalera (Soulfly/Sepultra) and Motorhead’s Lemmy; while Grohl himself played every instrument.
She & Him
M. Ward may well be the luckiest of our side-project indulgers, collaborating with Zooey Deschanel outside of his extensive solo work and involvement in suitably named indie-folk supergroup Monsters Of Folk. After meeting on the set of 2007 dramedy The Go-Getter, the pair went on to record two albums or ‘Volumes’, as well as a Christmas album. Cute.
Rostam Batmanglij, the exotically named mulit-instrumentalist from Vampire Weekend, and Ra Ra Riot singer Wes Miles abandoned the bouncy indie pop-rock of their main projects, and instead embraced electronics, synth sounds and RnB beats for Discovery. The album also gained contributions from Vampire Weekend lead singer Ezra Koenig, as well as Angel Deradoorian from The Dirty Projectors on the gender-beding ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’.
Mr. Side Project himself, Jack White is known for straying from his primary focuses and venturing out musically. While he rose to prominence as one half of The White Stripes in the early 2000s, White has since formed The Raconteurs and supergroup of sorts, The Dead Weather. Along with his more established side projects, White has also done a number of one-off collaborations with some (seemingly) unlikely partners including Alicia Keyes, and Loretta Lynne.
Figuring that an extensive fictional universe of animated characters probably wouldn’t suit Blur all that well, lead singer Damon Albarn – in partnership with long-term friend, flatmate and artist Jamie Hewlett - chose to create Gorillaz, ‘The Most Successful Virtual Band’ according to the Guinness Book Of World Records. Featuring Albarn alongside an ever-evolving turnstile of hip-hop superstars, eccentric musicians and legendary collaborators, Gorillaz has become an (on-off) entity all its own.
Spencer Krug is quite the fan of a good ol’ side-project, working with Wolf Parade, Swan Lake, Frog Eyes and most notably, Sunset Rubdown. Capturing layered and eclectic sounds, Krug employed epic, mythological-based lyrics, weaving complicated narratives with imagery of dragons and knights. Quite the fun dalliance, no?
Taste-making producer/guitarist Dave Sitek decided he needed a new outlet during downtime between releases from Brooklyn art-rockers TV On The Radio, releasing a solo project under the name Maximum Balloon, featuring the likes of David Byrne and Karen O on vocals. TV On The Radio also produced another side-project from guitarist and singer Kyp Malone, under the moniker of Rain Machine.
James Mercer entertained a more experimental approach with his collaboration with producer Danger Mouse, drifting away from the indie pop of his main work as The Shins’ gentlemanly frontman. Mercer must have enjoyed this new creative outlet, recently announcing that they were working on a follow up to their 2010 self-titled debut record.
The Last Shadow Puppets
Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner and Miles Kane, former scallywag of The Rascals, joined forces with Simian Mobile Disco's James Ford to form the team behind this one-off album. Designed as a love letter to the pair's mutual passion for James Bond and Ennio Morricone soundtracks, but charged with the 60s British invasion energy of their respective outfits - Last Shadow Puppets was the result, and fans have been pining for a follow-up ever since 2008's The Age Of The Understatement.
Eccentric indie frontman Bradford Cox releases his solo work under the moniker Atlas Sound, creating diverse, experimental sounds. Cox began recording as Atlas Sound to get a different sound to move away from the collaborative process, stating that “I have ideas that I can’t make work with a five piece rock band... there’s kind of this palette of sounds that I use that I don’t necessarily get to use with Deerhunter.”
The Basics may well be ruing the astronomical rise of Wally de Backer, aka the world-conquering Gotye. With all his international tours and appearances, his commitments now means that the band’s drummer may now just be somebody that they used to know (sorry).
Aussie wunder-kid Jonathan Boulet wasn’t content with being a successful solo artist, with multiple side projects on the go at any one time. Boulet finds his art-rock outlet drumming with Sydney alternative act Parades, while he discovers his inner-love for the scarily named ‘power-violence’ genre that is hardcore act Snakeface.
Created as a way for Cave to “escape the weight of The Bad Seeds”, Grinderman saw the frontman embracing the guitar (and his inner lothario) like he never had before, creating a raw and powerful sound. Grinderman disbanded, after just two albums, following a standout performance at Meredith 2011.
(Nearly) Everyone From The Strokes
All of New York’s finest bar guitarist Nick Valensi, have embraced various solo endeavours and side-projects during the band’s extended hiatus between 2006 and 2011. Julian Casablancas’ Phrazes For The Young was synth-heavy, Albert Hammond Jr traded under his own name, Nikolai Fraiture gets extra points for the geniusly named Nickel Eye, while drummer Fabrizio Moretti did quite well with Little Joy.
Conor Oberst decided to move away from the indie-folk stardom of Bright Eyes with side-project Desparecidos, focusing more on punk rock stylings and more simplistic lyrics than his primary project. With brutally raw and aggressive sounds, the post hardcore band announced a reunion tour earlier this year.
Atoms For Peace
Now this is how you do a side-project. When Thom Yorke decided to tour his 2006 solo album The Eraser on the road, he recruited Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, his producer Nigel Godrich, Joey Waronker from Beck fame and multi-instrumentalist Mauro Refosco. Recently releasing a new single, and with plans for an album in early 2013, Atoms For Peace proved to be quite the successful side-project.
Though it began as the solo project for bedroom space cadet Kevin Parker, Perth’s psychedelic Aussie rockers have spawned two side-projects, with both Pond and, more recently, Gum. Pond features three Tame Impala members, while Gum is the brainchild of drummer Jay Watson.
The Postal Service
The soundtrack to millions of break-ups, Ben Gibbard found widespread fame with Death Cab For Cutie before embarking on the equally beloved side-project, The Postal Service with Dntel's Jimmy Tambarello. After the release of ‘Such Great Heights’ on debut (and thus far only) album, 2001’s Give Up, Gibbard’s music cred rose. With a follow-up album rumoured to have been in the works since 2007, Gibbard seems to still be giving priority to Death Cab.
Ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr and former New Order frontman Bernard Sumner formed Electronic as a result of Sumners conflicting musical interests with fellow band mates. Sumner’s synth programing interest was not well received by his New Order Band mates, which meant Sumner, had to venture into the world of a solo musician. Sumner and Marr had joined forces after the New Order frontman approached Marr to assist in producing an album, as Sumner was left feeling lonely after branching out as a result of going solo. The pair released four studio albums between 1991 and 2006, as well as touring with Depeche Mode in 1990.
Two Australian musicians from two of Australia’s most renowned rock acts, Spiderbait’s bassist/singer Janet English and boyfriend at the time Regurgitator’s Quan Yeomans, formed the Happyland side-project in 1998. Originally called The Shits, Happyland had a limited existence, only producing one studio album, Welcome To Happyland. The band saw its demise at the hands of the pairs relationship breakup, but this came after the band featured twice in the 1998 Triple J Hottest 100 countdown, with songs ‘Do You Know Who I Am’ coming in at #28 whilst track ‘Hello!’ came in at #71.
Temple Of The Dog
Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell crafted the band, Temple Of The Dog, as a tribute to fallen housemate, Andrew Wood. Wood, the lead singer of Malfunkshun and Mother Love Bone, died from a heroin overdose in 1990, which sparked Cornell’s song writing frenzy, featuring tracks devoted to his friend. Cornell approached former band mates of Wood to join him in crafting a new band, which contrasted the sound of Soundgarden with a slower, more melodic style. The band also featured cameos from future Pearl Jam members, including lead singer Eddie Vedder.
The short-term experimental rock band formed by John Frusciatne, Josh Klinghoffer (who replaced Frusciante as Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist in 2009) and Joe Lally, birthed two albums, Automatic Writing in 2004 and AW II in 2007. The group performed just two shows in their short-lived stint, both in Los Angeles in 2004.
Tom Tom Club
Married couple Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz formed Tom Tom Club in 1981 and was established to work as a side project to their major commitment, Talking Heads. The synth-pop style of the band proved to be a fan favourite, with six studio albums being produced by the group, with 2012’s Downtown Rockers the most recent addition.
Karin Elisabeth Dreijer Andersson, commonly known as Fever Ray, released her self-titled debut in 2009, which blended the Swedish songstress’s electronic and experimental influences into one tripped out experience. The themes are often associated with her musical works with sister, Olof Dreijer, in their band, The Knife. Fever Ray was formed in 2009 as a result of The Knife taking an extended break.
Dinosaur Jr bass player Lou Barlow formed side-project, Sebadoh alongside Eric Gaffney in 1986. The group had a specific stylistic approach involving unique recording and production techniques, often using 4-track recorders to lay down tracks, exploiting the distinguishable sound. July this year saw the release of a new EP, titled Secret, which is only available for physical purchase at the bands live shows or through digital download via Soundcloud.
The Minus 5
REM guitarist Peter Buck, alongside Scott McCaughey, formed The Minus 5 In 1993 with an alternative rock styled approach to their songwriting. Still active, the band most recently released a version of the 1976 hit single by the Sutherland Brothers and Quiver Arms of Mary for a fund raising cd titled Super Hits Of The Seventies.
Gnarls Barkley is the bi-product formed by the soulful vocals of Cee Lo Green and the styling of songwriter and producer Brian Joseph Burton (known professionally as Danger Mouse). The duo formed in 2004 with their debut release, St Elsewhere , receiving a Grammy in 2007 for Best Alternative Album. This coincided with the success of their Grammy award winning single, ‘Crazy’.
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