20 side projects you should already be listening to by now
Side projects have the special ability to give artists the chance to express themselves in whatever manner they choose without snobby genre lords or the (sometimes self-imposed) shackles of their previous works confining their sonic decisions. Sometimes these new bands go in an intentionally more mainstream direction, while other times the word “commercial” is never considered in any way, shape or form.
Regardless of their potential for moving units, these 20 unique side projects certainly stand out from the pack, and, in general, we’re more than happy to bring side pieces to the forefront. Let’s go.
While recording Underoath’s eventual No. 2 Billboard-charting album, Define The Great Line, in 2005, drummer/vocalist Aaron Gillespie started writing songs for his eventual straight-ahead rock side project the Almost. Just two short years later, the Almost released their debut album as a joint effort on both indie Tooth & Nail Records and major Virgin Records. Three albums and EPs later, the Almost are still active, though they take a back seat to the recently reformed Underoath, which is steering the Gillespie ship full throttle at this juncture.
Jeff Rosenstock, who also has played in more prolific bands than most (Bomb The Music Industry!, the Arrogant Sons Of Bitches, the Bruce Lee Band and more) joined forces with the like-minded Chris Farren (formerly of Fake Problems) in 2014 to form Antarctigo Vespucci. In doing so, the duo created perfect power pop that both indie kids and punk rockers could equally enjoy. Also, the band have the best album title of all time with 2018’s Love In The Time Of E-mail.
Anyone familiar with AFI knows they incorporate a lot of electronic elements into their aggressive rock songs. The duo of Blaqk Audio (featuring two members of AFI: vocalist Davey Havok and guitarist Jade Puget) took this songwriting influence one step further and flipped the switch, incorporating aggressive rock elements into their electronic tunes. Four albums later, their blend of synth-pop shows no sign of slowing down (on the band’s own terms, of course), and the duo’s die-hard fans await a fifth LP with bated breath.
Box Car Racer
In 2001, blink-182 were one of the biggest bands in the world. Singer/guitarist Tom DeLonge wrote a lot of songs that he felt were too dark for the then sunny-pop-punk trio to use and formed a heavier side project called Box Car Racer as an outlet to get them out. Their debut (and sole) self-titled LP features blink-182 drummer Travis Barker on every track and bassist Mark Hoppus on one vocal feature (“Elevator”).
Talk about alternative-rock royalty: Kim Deal of Pixies and Tanya Donelly of Throwing Muses formed the Breeders as a side project to their busy buzzing bands in the late ’80s. Donelly eventually left the band to focus on her new act Belly in 1992, and Kim’s twin sister Kelley Deal joined just before she departed, making the Breeders a true grunge family affair. The band then released a platinum album called Last Splash in 1993 and cannonballed away till the following century.
Vocalist/cult hero Chino Moreno of Deftones and former guitarist for Far (and the Revolution Smile) Shaun Lopez formed Crosses with bassist Chuck Doom in 2011 to a plethora of underground buzz from fans and notable musicians alike. Unlike the other three bands mentioned above, there’s absolutely no screaming in Crosses, plus a lot of electronic elements unheard in the other projects. The mysterious group released their first and only self-titled full-length in 2014, and we’re overdue for some more tunes.
The Damned Things
The Damned Things started with members of metalcore titans Every Time I Die (Keith Buckley), pop-punk kings Fall Out Boy (Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley) and thrash metal giants Anthrax (Scott Ian) in their fold, thus making the group a universally confirmed legit-as-fuck supergroup. They became even more of a supergroup 11 years later when Alkaline Trio’s bassist Dan Andriano joined for the band’s second LP, High Crimes.
The Dead Weather
Jack White, of the White Stripes and a million other bands, can do it all, and he proved such with his drum work for the Dead Weather. The Dead Weather also features vocalist Alison Mosshart from the Kills and Discount, lead guitarist Dean Fertita of Queens Of The Stone Age and bassist Jack Lawrence of the Raconteurs (one of White’s other projects that almost made this list) and City And Colour. You know a band are good when they release a live record, so check it out and dig into their three studio LPs.
As Motion City Soundtrack were on the brink of becoming one of the bigger and universally respected Warped Tour bands of the mid-2000s, singer/guitarist Justin Pierre wanted another outlet for songs in a far less poppy and much more indie-rock vein. Enter the Minneapolis, Minnesota, project Farewell Continental, who released two EPs and one full-length before departing without saying farewell.
Vocalist/producer Karin Dreijer had more indie cred than every band on Coachella with her family duo the Knife. When the Knife went on hiatus, Dreijer created Fever Ray, a solo side project that should and could be listed as an example in the dictionary underneath the term “electronic pop.” Two studio albums and two live albums later, Fever Ray continues to drown their listeners in a sweet form of sickness.
Jaret And Kelly
What do you get when you add a Dollyrot to a Bowling For Soup-er? Most people don’t know this, but Jaret And Kelly, of course. The collaboration is far less punk rock and much more of a ’60s-ish power-pop outlet than both the Dollyrots and Bowling For Soup, but Kelly Ogden and Jaret Reddick’s two distinct voices blend super well together, so it completely makes sense in the best way ever.
After the Revolution Radio tour cycle ended in 2018, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong put together a quartet of friends and ex-GD crew members called the Longshot to make four of the most buzzed-about EPs and one of the most revered rock LPs of the last decade. If you had a chance to catch the elusive band on their brief mini-tour around this time, you’re one of the few and the proud.
Mariachi El Bronx
The Bronx pulled a complete 180 on the punk-rock world when it formed a side project that literally no one expected but those in the band’s inner circle called Mariachi El Bronx. The effort is a surprisingly authentic and enjoyable mariachi side project with all of the Bronx’s members in tow (and some new additions), many of which on different instruments. And they have almost as many albums as the Bronx now. How fucking punk rock is that?
Matt Skiba And The Sekrets
What do you get when you add the guitarist/vocalist of Alkaline Trio (and eventually blink-182), the bassist for AFI and the drummer for My Chemical Romance? Matt Skiba And The Sekrets. The alternative trio (Matt Skiba, Hunter Burgan and Jarrod Alexander) currently have two full LPs out, and they’re not that different from Alk3’s later catalog, but they’re musically unique and lyrically biting enough to satisfy a fan of any of the bands listed above.
A Perfect Circle
To all those musicians reading, there’s hope for you. A Perfect Circle are easily one of the larger acts on this list, and it all started when Tool’s former guitar tech Billy Howerdel played his compositions for Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan. Shortly after, the band were formed, and various members from Failure and Primus joined the fold to create their dark (but much more accessible than Tool’s catalog) debut LP, Mer De Noms. Now the Smashing Pumpkins’s James Iha is involved, making it a perfect supergroup.
The Postal Service
If you made it through 2003 without hearing “Such Great Heights,” the gold-certified single from the Postal Service’s platinum debut album, Give Up, you must have been sleeping in throughout the year. The viral (before viral was a term) group consisted of Death Cab For Cutie vocalist/guitarist Ben Gibbard, Rilo Kiley vocalist/guitarist Jenny Lewis on backing vocals and producer Jimmy Tamborello at the boards. Although the group have only one LP, it seems that their legacy will not give up.
The Prize Fighter Inferno
Fans of Coheed And Cambria are another breed of obsessive prize-fighter advocates for the band, and they proved such with the underground inferno demand for singer/guitarist/guru Claudio Sanchez’s unconventional side project the Prize Fighter Inferno. If you ever listened to C&C and were like, “Man, this shit is truly great, but the songs need to be way weirder and encompass so many more genres,” then TPFI are certainly for you.
Fans of Less Than Jake who deviate more toward their brash punkier selections than the sunny ska tunes in their catalog will love Rehasher. Less Than Jake’s bassist/co-lead vocalist Roger Lima switched to guitar for this band and doesn’t share the lead vocal spotlight with anyone in this four-piece. It must be unusual for the guy not to be onstage with a horn section, but it works just as well.
Every member of Silverstein and every member of Beartooth joined together to form the largest (in size) screamo supergroup of all time called Silvertooth. And what a romp it was and always will be. The few Warped Tour audiences who were lucky enough to catch their unrelenting two-pronged sets deserve a plethora of gold stars (and a silver tooth). Aggressive music has never ever sounded so damn sweaty, and boys, we absolutely love your uniforms.
Bassist/vocalist Mark Hoppus of blink-182 formed an alternative-pop side project Simple Creatures with All Time Low singer/guitarist (and blink-182 superfan) Alex Gaskarth in 2019 that has the ability to appeal to both mainstream rock and underground scene fans alike. Seriously. The fervor on the internet when they made the announcement of the union seemed to be sponsored by adrenaline.