5 Sidemen Who Went Solo (to Varying Success)

Arcade Fire’s bassist/guitarist Tim Kingsbury just announced an album as Sam PatchYeah You, and I, out Feb. 17 on Dep. His first single, “St. Sebastian,” is not a far-flung departure from his main band’s chamber pop, which may or may not bode well for him.


Plenty of artists before Kingsbury have sought to step out of the shadows of their front men and women (including his chum Will Butler). Those peacocks might have the presence, but we’ve got the guts, the auxiliary players proclaim on their releases. We revisited 5 solo careers to see how these backbone musicians fared in the spotlight.


Albert Hammond Jr.



The Strokes guitarist/keyboardist strode out on his own way back in 2006 and continues to release music and tour under his own name. His solo work is very reminiscent of his garage-rock group, with sunny inflections via the Beach Boys and 1970s AM radio. Thank his dad for that influence— pops was a noted songwriter in that decade.


Degree of success: Perfectly adequate. His style doesn’t radically veer from his beloved band’s sound, and his three albums – including 2015’s Momentary Masters – tend to land on respected magazines’ end-of-the-year best-of lists.



Phillip Selway



Predictably, the songs of Radiohead drummer Selway have impressive staccato rolls and clicks. He’s logged two solo albums— 2010’s Familial and 2014’s Weatherhouse. They ooze sentimentality and sensitivity, with lighter-moment tomes such as “It Will End in Tears.”


Degree of success: Middling compared to that of his mates’ solo works. Thom Yorke is a household name who breaks barriers with every new project. Jonny Greenwood is an award-winning film composer. Selway… sucks in concert. His fey vocals and shy presence don't make for a captivating show.



Rostam Batmanglij



Batmanglij was Vampire Weekend’s utility guy. He could play any instrument in sight, furthering the “yacht rock” outfit’s exploration into polyrhythms, electronica and other uncharted territory. He departed the “A-Punk” ranks and embarked on his own journey in 2016, while giving us snippets of his upcoming album.


Degree of success: Time will tell. The drippy “Gravity Don’t Pull Me” is slinkier than anything the Vamps ever did, but it might be too dreamy and drowsy to attract an audience craving that familiar shuffle.


Tom Morello



Rage Against the Machine’s and Audioslave’s mind-blowing riff peddler has softer and dancier sides. Away from the in-your-face atmosphere of Rage, Morello moonlights as the Nightwatchman, a folk renegade reverent of Pete Seeger. His deep, almost Zen-like vocals take a pacifist approach to political change over four studio albums. And in 2017, Morello will scratch his EDM itch with the Atlas Underground collection, in which he partners with big names like Knife Party and the Crystal Method.


Degree of success: His actions speak louder than his words. As a man of the people, Morello takes to the streets with his acoustic, offering support to the Occupy movements— among many others. Album, schmalbum. If you want to feel his real soul power, you have to catch him live.



Jack Antonoff



Prior to playing lead guitar for Grammy winners fun., Antonoff did front man duty in Steel Train. So when he debuted his (for all intents and purposes) solo band, Bleachers, in 2014, he had ample experience. Strange Desire pleased fun. seekers and gooey-pop fans, with sing-along cuts like “I Wanna Get Better.”

Degree of success: MASSIVE. Maybe not specifically as Bleachers, but Antonoff co-wrote Sara Bareilles’ “Brave,” Taylor Swift’s “Out of the Woods” and Sia’s “House on Fire.” Whether or not Bleachers puts out another album, he’s set for life.


Featured image © JF Lalonde 2016

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