Sometimes, even the most successful artists want to branch out from the sound that put them on the map. This longing for a new artistic challenge is what inspires so many well-known singers and instrumentalists to pursue side projects that push them to experiment with their talents. Usually formed while their original bands are on hiatus, side projects give artists a chance to keep grinding their creative gears in ways you might never expect.
Though many of these projects didn't last for more than one album, they still deserve to be heard. It's always exciting to see artists step a little outside of their comfort zones, and side projects allow exactly that.
1. Angels & Airwaves
This is the first band that comes to mind when I think of side projects. Blink 182 frontman Tom Delonge lends his iconic vocals to this otherworldly project, which got its start when Blink began their hiatus in 2005. With a fuller, more anthemic sound than Blink, Angels & Airwaves feels somehow futuristic and nostalgic. Angels & Airwaves haven't produced new material in a while, probably because Delonge's first priority is answering life's most pressing question: are aliens real?
2. The Last Shadow Puppets
Arctic Monkeys' rise to fame was anything but a long journey; the Sheffield rockers became fast favorites after their unbelievable debut 10 years ago. The Monkeys aren't strangers to changing up their sound, but singer Alex Turner still experiments outside of that realm with supergroup, the Last Shadow Puppets. Working alongside Miles Kane, TLSP brings Baroque rock back into the mainstream - and gives Turner a chance to perfect his dance moves
while Arctic Monkeys are on hiatus.
3. The Raconteurs
Jack White is pretty much the king of side projects. When he's not busy running his own label/record store/performance space, Third Man Records, White somehow finds time to be in, like, seven bands all at once. The Raconteurs might be the biggest of all the projects, featuring three musicians also associated with other bands. They began in 2005, and have been on hiatus for about five years now, but their innovative sound stands the test of time.
4. The Postal Service
You'll probably recognize the gently effervescent vocalist of The Postal Service as Ben Gibbard from Death Cab For Cutie. He formed this project with Jimmy Tamborello after the two collaborated on a record for Dntel. The Postal Service made their debut in 2003, which was followed by a cease and desist letter from the actual United States Postal Service not long after. Luckily, the USPS dropped the suit
, but that didn't stop the indie project from disbanding a few years ago.
5. Volcano Choir
It's a close call between Jack White and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon in the race for the record for most side projects. Vernon formed this particular project in 2005, along with members of a Milwaukee ensemble called Collections of Colonies of Bees. Their 2013 LP Repave
isn't much of a departure from the Bon Iver sound we've come to know and love, but it does leave you feeling a little more hopeful.
6. Them Crooked Vultures
When members of Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, and Led Zeppelin come together, the result is nothing less than a gift from the classic rock gods. Dave Grohl, Josh Homme, and John Paul Jones were first rumored to be collaborating around 2005, but didn't release their self-titled record until four years later. The album felt like a very equal representation of each of the members' original bands, without sounding like an unfortunate tribute group.
7. Broken Bells
Would you ever guess Broken Bells is actually Danger Mouse and James Mercer from The Shins? The two decided to work together after meeting at a festival and realizing they were both huge fans of each other's work. Their self-titled debut was an incredible feat of left-of-center pop that made a huge splash in 2010. Even though some of the excitement fizzled after their sophomore record, the two are still rumored to be collaborating on new material.
8. Tired Pony
In 2009, Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody revealed he was working on something new: the country album he apparently always dreamed of writing. He teamed up with an impressive roster of new age folk musicians, including Richard Colburn of Belle & Sebastian, to produce a record that centers around the Englishman's take on the American west. The two albums Lightbody has released as Tired Pony are much more fulfilling than most Snow Patrol's melodramatic mid-tempo discography.
9. Summer Moon
If you really, really
miss the Strokes, Summer Moon is pretty much as close to that unforgettable early 2000s sound as you can get. Bassist Nikolai Fraiture brought together some alt-rock heavy hitters for a debut record filled with outrageous guitar licks and retro inflections. There's no telling if the project will continue but the stunning With You Tonight
is enough to hold us over.
10. Jason Feathers
Another Justin Vernon venture, but this one is a little more outside the box than Volcano Choir. Vernon emerged as his alter-ego "lost cowboy," Ephasis, who was joined by indie rapper Astronautalis. Judging by that alone, you can tell this project moves Vernon in a much stranger direction. The two released just one record as Jason Feathers, but it's clear the indie hip-hop fusion influence Bon Iver's most recent album.
Former Vampire Weekend member Rostam Batmanglij joined Ra Ra Riot vocalist Wes Miles for a vibrant, electronic project in 2005. Their collaboration was put on hold for a few years, as both their bands were busy touring massively successful records at the time. This isn't the first time Rostam ventured outside of the Vampire Weekend bubble - and not the only time he's joined forces with Ra Ra Riot
- but it's one of the more interesting collabs he's done.
12. Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions
Not many side projects feel as perfectly constructed as this one. Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval and My Bloody Valentine's Colm Ó Cíosóig joined forces in 2001 to make the shoegaze supergroup of your dreams, and released their third LP last year. Though the two never felt restricted in their original bands, they both agreed the Warm Inventions gives them more freedom to experiment.