I’m often baffled by side projects. They sneak on to our collective musical radar courtesy of a suggestive interview, latch on to any shreds of reputation the parent projects have, and then overhype themselves and underwhelm us in equal measure.
With the artist blinded by their own sense of self-importance, the side project represents a largely valueless foray into the depths of the musically moribund states of singer-songwriters or super groups. They line up, lambs to the slaughter, waiting for the inevitable critical castration for being either too similar to the parent band, or too different. They’re damned.
Ignorant of this, through loyalty if nothing else, we fans pitch up and pick up the resulting EP or album, seduced by empty promises of grandeur. Instinctively, we hear the work as that of the parent band, and it hurts us. How could they betray our ears so? And yet we still indulge in denial, pluck hope from any resemblance of decency.
We condition ourselves to ignore the sound of the voice. It’s not who we think it is – it’s just a coincidence. That way, we can like it, right? Wrong. It’s so wrong, and we were fools to tell ourselves otherwise. We succumbed to the hype and oh, how it burned us.
Finally, as we inevitably begin to flirt with acceptance, it happens. The parent band announces its next release. The illusion dies, and we’re free. Until the cycle starts up again.
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Bugger, that was dramatic. Contrary to the neurotic whimsy that just traumatised my keyboard, it’s not all bad news when it comes to side projects.
It’s all a matter of destination. Where is the parent band in its lifecycle? Where is the side-project expected to end up? Will they eventually cross paths in a Michael Bay movie and fight to the death? Having seen Transformers 3, let’s hope not…
This week I’ve been able to review two albums – People On Vacation’s Carry On EP, and Erik Chandler’s Writing The Wrongs. Both are offspring of Bowling For Soup, so naturally I’m the moth to their flame.
What’s more interesting about this particular case, though, is the logistics of touring. Last year’s acoustic tour saw both new outfits support BFS in a roll-on-roll-off show. It was fluid, interesting and more importantly – for some, anyway – cheap.
The indifference with which a lot of music journalists view Bowling For Soup has meant that these solo projects still have a stunted following. Stunted, but loyal. The band has reached its peak and turned it into a plateau. It’s as big and loved as the will ever be. And so is its reputation.
From a destination point of view, Bowling For Soup are exactly where they want to be. So the side projects can blossom, without endangering their parent. Bowling For Soup don’t need to progress or experiment. So POV and Erik Chandler can, instead.
Reddick and Chandler have gone to opposite ends of the earth, with POV representing an indie-rock turn to combat Chandler’s Power-pop-cum-rock stylings. They’re just additional colours on the palette. They’re not trying to paint a new picture; they’re content to fill in the spaces around the existing one. That’s what makes the BFS model a viable one.