13 Frontmen With Side Projects That Sound Almost Nothing Like Their Main Bands
Some guys just can’t get enough.
For some frontmen, it goes like this: Form a band; spend thankless years toiling in empty clubs; catch a big break; make it into the mainstream; rise to become a full-fledged, card-carrying rock star; then promptly step aside from the band to completely reinvent yourself with a different sound entirely.
Sometimes it’s creative stagnation that leads to side-projects, other times it’s just boredom. But there’s no shortage of famous frontmen who have recently done double-duty with both their main outfits and more self-indulgent projects on the side.
Since the Strokes‘ Julian Casablancas released his definitely different pseudo-solo album, Tyranny,’ recently, we thought we’d shine a spotlight on some of the side projects frontmen have formed that are only vaguely reminiscent of their day jobs.
And before you point out that Jack White, Radiohead‘s Thom Yorke and Spoon‘s Britt Daniel all have side projects too, the Dead Weather, Atoms For Peace and the Divine Fits all sound just a little too familiar to make this list.
The Strokes weren’t the first band aboard the great garage rock revival of the early ’00s, but thanks largely to the swagger of frontman Julian Casablancas and the massive hooks on 2001’s ‘Is This It,’ they definitely became the genre’s poster kids. While nearly each member of the band has gone onto release some sort of solo album or side project during the band’s up-and-down decade, Julian Casablancas and the Voidz might be among the most disparate from the Strokes. While some songs from the band’s just-released debut contain familiar elements from Casablancas, others are experimental and glitchy electronica more suited for headphones than any garage.
Wisconsin singer-songwriter Justin Vernon will forever be known as the brain behind Bon Iver, but he’s been doing his best to keep from pigeonholing himself within the narrowing world of auto-tuned indie rock. Also a member of Volcano Choir, Gayngs and the Shouting Matches, Vernon recently teamed with rapper Astronautalis for Jason Feathers — a concept-heavy supergroup that allows Vernon to sing lines like, “G—–n, we in the southland now!”
At this point, you’d probably have an easier time finding fans of Gorillaz than Blur, but there’s no disputing which one was originally the side project. Damon Albarn was already a major pop star in Britain and a burgeoning one worldwide in 1998 thanks in part to Blur’s ubiquitous ‘Song 2,’ which dropped the year before. But that didn’t stop Albarn from teaming with artist Jamie Hewlett to create a fictional band of animated characters that went onto release some of the most daring and unconventional songs of the new millennium.
James Mercer will forever have to live with the pressure of Natalie Portman proclaiming that the Shins will “change your life,” so maybe that went into him forming a very different band with producer Danger Mouse. Although Broken Bells sometimes evoke the Shins due to Mercer’s distinctive vocals, the duo are far more inspired by dance music and R&B than the dyed in the wool indie rock of the Shins.
AFI made the mainstream in 2006 with the melodic goth of their seventh full-length, ‘Decemberunderground,’ but vocalist Davey Havok has maintained a steady presence in different scenes through side projects with his AFI bandmate Jade Puget: the New Wave-centric Blaqk Audio and their new straight-edge hardcore act XTRMST.
Arctic Monkeys‘ first album, 2006’s ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,’ was the fastest-selling debut in British music history. But in the thick of their rapid ascent, singer Alex Turner took a step aside to team with the Rascals’ Miles Kane for an album by the Last Shadow Puppets — an orchestral, Scott Walker-inspired homage to ’60s lounge pop.
It the Gaslight Anthem is Brian Fallon at his most Bruce Springsteen, the Horrible Crowes — his side project with guitar tech Ian Perkins — is Fallon at his most Tom Waits. More than just Gaslight unplugged, Fallon has called the duo’s work “dark soul music” and “hymns for lonely people.”
Four years before he joined indie outfit Grizzly Bear in 2004, Daniel Rossen and his then-roommate Fred Nicolaus created the eclectic, lo-fi Department of Eagles — and the pair continued to collaborate on old timey folk juxtaposed with electronica and released the full-length, ‘In Ear Park,’ in 2008.
Daryl Palumbo has been synonymous with NYC hardcore since creating Glassjaw in 1993, so it was more than a little unexpected when he formed the dance-pop collective Head Automatica a decade later. At first joined by hip-hop producer Dan the Automator, the band eventually transitioned into more straight-ahead rock, but still nothing like the heavy sound Glassjaw wields.
Ra Ra Riot burst out of Upstate New York in 2008 with the uber-upbeat ‘The Rhumb Line,’ bringing violin and cello into the dance-driven fray. But three years earlier, he and Vampire Weekend keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij started an electronic project called Discovery. After both their bands broke into the big time, the pair reconvened to release a proper debut called ‘LP’ in 2009.
Blending shoegaze, goth and post-punk, Britain’s the Horrors have been staples of the U.K. scene since 2005. But in 2011, frontman Faris Badwan enlisted Canadian opera singer Rachel Zeffira for Cat’s Eyes — inspired by ’60s girl groups like the Ronettes. Their first show was at a little place called the Vatican (the real one).
No stranger to side-projects, Deftones frontman Chino Moreno has participated in the past with the trip-hop tinged Team Sleep and Crosses — his project with Far’s Shaun Lopez. But it’s with Palms — a spacey collaboration with three members of defunct post-metal outfit Isis — that Moreno stretches his distinct vocals the most.