Change can be a little jarring, especially if you’re intending on following up a metalcore album with some goth–pop. Often, artists are influenced by and interested in creating music which spans the range of genres. But each band has its own identity and sound; diverging too much risks alienating an audience. So, sometimes they give those ideas a life of their own—as a side or solo project. It doesn’t mean they’re done with their previous outfit, but it gives them a chance to explore a different side. Evolution is important, but so is experimentation. Here are some of the most compelling and captivating examples in alternative rock right now.
I Don’t Know How but They Found Me
Named after a line from Back to the Future, this project was formed by Panic! at the Disco bassist Dallon Weekes with the help of ex–Falling in Reverse drummer Ryan Seaman. Influenced by Sparks, '70s–era David Bowie, and Oingo Boingo, the project can be described as electronic rock tinged with '70s and '80s funk sensibility.
Their website describes them as “a band out of time. One who faded away into obscurity after struggling to find success in the late '70s and early '80s. Only recently, the internet has begun to uncover the performances and recordings of a band that the world wasn't ready for.” However, the project has a different, but equally intriguing origin story.
On the Rock Sound Podcast, Weekes said he’d been working on the project in secret over the past year. “I’ve ended up with some time on my hands and a whole backlog of songs and ideas with no real outlet to use them in, so I just created one in my spare time,” Weekes said.
The project already has a massive fan following, with one fan bootlegging an album from live footage. Weekes and Seamen were concerned about the attention the project would get as it involved members of prominent bands and Weekes stressed wanting to grow a following more organically. They began playing shows in secret, but fans caught on, with the result that the project gained more attention quicker and earlier than Weekes was expecting.
They played a small run of shows in August and September and are currently working on releasing an album.
Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties
This is the acoustic–driven, folk solo side project of The Wonder Years frontman Dan “Soupy” Campbell. He said it started out as a way to improve his guitar–playing.
He told Alternative Press about his thought process behind starting the project: “I wanted to be a better guitar player, so I’m going to try to write some songs—a little folksy, kind of alt–country, Americana – esque songs in the vein of a couple of bands I really liked that I couldn’t do with The Wonder Years.”
He then decided to develop his lyric–writing skills on top of it, and began building characters for his songs, eventually realizing that he needed to dedicate a full album to exploring a single character. The writing process involved mapping out plot points and even writing fake journal entries. He didn’t initially intend for anyone to hear it, but the project resulted in the 2014 album We Don’t Have Each Other and the 2016 EP Bittersweet.
Aaron West is currently on tour, ending with a performance at World Café Live in Philadelphia on December 2.
Black Veil Brides frontman Andy Biersack completely changed gears for his solo side project, Andy Black. Trading in a glam–metal sound and look for dance–punk and goth–pop, Biersack proved that he was successful and talented on both ends of the musical spectrum. Biersack pursued the project as a way to explore his '80s punk and goth influences and create music that no one would expect to find on a Black Veil Brides album.
“One of the things that always disappointed me as a kid growing up, was when you could tell the singer had a fancy for something different, and turned the band into something else,” Biersack told Rolling Stone. “I knew that my love for the Sisters of Mercy, Lords of the New Church, and that kind of stuff, was never going to lend itself well to a direct interpretation in Black Veil Brides. But still, I always wanted to make music similar to those bands.”
For his debut album, 2016’s The Shadow Side, Biersack and producer John Feldmann (who has produced albums for bands such All Time Low, blink-182, and 5 Seconds of Summer) enlisted the help of several of prominent alt–rock musicians, including Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way, The Used’s Quinn Allman, and Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba. Biersack has confirmed plans to start work on a second Andy Black album.
Tay Jardine’s vibrant, sugar–sweet solo project went further in the pop direction than her previous band, We Are the In Crowd, did (now sadly on hiatus). Although it's a solo project, Jardine is assisted by her We Are the In Crowd bandmates, guitarist Cameron Hurley and bassist Mike Ferri. When We Are the In Crowd went back into the studio to record their third album, Jardine noticed her music and lyrics changing and diverging from the identity of the band, and instead decided to pursue this new identity in the form of a separate project. SAINTE resulted in upbeat music which often addresses darker themes.
“SAINTE is the place I go to to feel better,” Jardine said on the Rock Sound Podcast. “It is totally me but it’s also an outlet.”
SAINTE’s debut EP, Smile and Wave, came out this summer.
This electro–pop supergroup is comprised of The Summer Set drummer Jess Bowen, The Ready Set singer Jordan Witzigreuter, and his producer/collaborator Cameron Walker. Their catchy, dance–y and understated sound results from the band’s relaxed approach to the project.
“We just sort of make what we feel like making without trying to pigeon hole it into being one specific sound or thing so it keeps things very open,” Witzigruter told Pop Dust, “We are also all constantly working on other projects at the same time, so this has always felt like the thing where we get to be a little more creative and personal with it.”
Nekokat has released two EPs, Communication and Communication II since releasing their first single in 2015 and have released three new songs since this summer, most recently “Take.”