It’s not uncommon for musicians to want to branch out and explore different genres or creative outlets. This often leads to the formation of side projects, which are musical groups that famous artists look to in order to get a different side of their musical expression out into the world. These projects often provide an avenue for musicians to experiment with new sounds and explore their creativity in ways that they can’t in their main band. We will take a look at some remarkable side projects of famous musicians.
The Postal Service, Ben Gibbard
The Postal Service is an electronic group featuring Ben Gibbard, the lead singer of the indie rock band Death Cab for Cutie. The band’s music is quite different from Death Cab for Cutie’s, which helped Gibbard become famous. Nonetheless, The Postal Service has become super popular and even more so than Gibbard’s original band. Despite this, Death Cab for Cutie remains Gibbard’s primary project. However, both worlds are colliding this year, as Gibbard is heading out on the road with both projects, touring stadiums across the country.
The Smile is a band founded by Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, two of Radiohead’s signature members. The band is produced by longtime Radiohead collaborator Nigel Godrich and also features drummer Tom Skinner. The group made a surprise Glastonbury Festival performance in 2021 and released a handful of singles in 2022. They released a live EP at the end of 2022 and their debut studio album, A Light for Attracting Attention, in May of 2022.
The Raconteurs is a rock band formed by Jack White, formerly of The White Stripes, and Brendan Benson, a famed songwriter. The band also features bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler. The Raconteurs have released three LPs to date, including their debut, Broken Boy Soldiers, in 2006. They released Consolers of the Lonely two years later in 2008 and their latest, Help Us Stranger, more recently in 2019.
Lovemongers is an informal acoustic band from sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart. The group also includes longtime Heart songwriting collaborators Sue Ennis and Frank Cox. The group released a live EP of covers called Battle of Evermore in 1992 and a full-length album in 1997, Whirlygig. That 10-song LP contained all original music with no outside writers.
Mad Season was a grunge band comprised of many big names, formed in 1994. The band included Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready, Alice in Chains singer Layne Staley, Screaming Trees drummer Barrett Martin, and bassist John Baker Saunders. The group released only one LP, Above, in 1995 that spawned a popular single, “River of Deceit.” Above earned gold record status. While the group never got going again after that, due to Staley’s drug use and eventual death, along with the death of Saunders in 1999, the name lives on. Martin and McCready made partial reunions in 2012, 2014, and 2015, and a box set of rare songs was released in 2013. Grunge icon Mark Lanegan temporarily replaced Staley, but he later passed away in 2022.
The Traveling Wilburys
The Traveling Wilburys was perhaps the most famous side project of all time. The group was comprised of Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne. The group released two LPs, Traveling Wilburys Vol 1 and Vol. 3 in 1988 and 1990 respectively. The Traveling Wilburys was a unique collaboration of five legendary artists who came together to form a supergroup. The idea for the group originated when Harrison and Lynne were working on Harrison’s album Cloud Nine in 1987. The two of them decided to invite some of their friends to play on a song, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Prophets of Rage
Prophets of Rage was a significant side project formed in 2016 by musicians Tom Morello and Tim Commerford of Rage Against the Machine, rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy, and B-Real of Cypress Hill. The group was formed in response to the political climate in the United States and aimed to promote activism and social justice through their music.