A friend of mine asked me this morning what the purpose of a side project was, as far as music and the workings of an artist or a band goes. In all honesty, it’s a good question.
Obviously, there are many different reasons a side project might be useful. One example is, say, a band has done nothing but touring and they’re sick of it and the members want to take a break. Some may take a break from doing music entirely for a while to relax, and others may still need to find an outlet for some creativity that had been buried or unable to come out while touring or recording with the original band.
Other times, it’s a way for an artist to get some material recorded that may not otherwise work with the sound the band is using currently. An example of this would be the Dark Matter side project that Helios Creed created. Obviously, the ambient music there would not have worked on a typical Helios Creed release.
Sometimes, these side projects can evolve into full time projects. Two members of the progressive rock group Ozric Tentacles found an outlet for their ambient trance musings under the name Eat Static. Eventually, the project grew in popularity and their music took off, forcing them to focus more on the project than the original band. The duo did leave the band and made Eat Static a full time venture.
Sometimes, side projects can be confusing to the average listener. This is especially true if the lead singer of one band is the singer in another. An example could be the lead singer of Death Cab for Cutie, and, The Postal Service (Ben Gibbard). Both are great, but at times, I can’t tell the two apart (it would help if I owned material from both projects).
Some side projects are radically different. Arguably, Future Sound of London’s alias, Amorphous Androgynous is one such project. Though, this project was first used after the initial success of FSOL’s single, ‘Papua New Guinea,” to test the waters for more ambient and experimental material. At the time, FSOL’s music was a true fusion of ambient and house, but they were moving on musically since its initial release. To sample the responsiveness to their new sound, they created Amorphous Androgynous and released “Tales of Ephidrina.” The album still leaned a bit on house rhythms but dwelt mostly in the ambient field. This became the launch pad for FSOL’s more genre bending brand of ambient, up until they revived this project in 2003 or so with a more psychedelic sound. Three albums thus far have been released in that vein, “The Isness,” “The Otherness,” and “The Peppermint Tree.”
I guess in summation, side projects are a good way to get creativity out and experiment with different genres. Though sometimes, it can drive collectors nuts trying to find each project from certain artists (like Dave Grohl’s early work in Dain Bramage since that album is so damn expensive now, or, the umpteen project Charles Uzzel-Edwards has been involved with).