Not unlike rock music, pop-punk seemed destined to be a distant memory. Synthesizers and formulaic songwriting influenced by what is trending on social media have overtaken the airwaves. Admittedly, we sing along to every Weeknd song, but there is something to be said about the old days when music grittily expressed the band’s most profound insecurities. It was music we could all relate to as we mourned the loss of our first love or reveled in a raucous night of drinking.
“I just think any art that you care about should make you feel a little bit uncomfortable in some kind of way. Whether it’s an idea that might piss somebody off or is something that your mom might find inappropriate. Or maybe it’s a secret that you haven’t told anybody before. That’s really the purpose of creating something worth listening to,” explains John Gillies.
The frontman for Anchorage-based pop-punk band, Sideways, Gillies says that vulnerability is both the band’s greatest asset and biggest obstacle.
“[John’s] the guy that usually tells us we need to hold off releasing something until it’s perfect. I am definitely the impatient one who wants to just put stuff out, but he hasn’t steered us wrong yet,” says the band’s co-founder Taylor Curry.
Gillies’ desire to produce the perfect sound has hindered the band’s ability to create original music. Up until 2020, Sideways forwent opportunities to play their own music and covered the greats like Green Day, Blink-182, and Nirvana. Although the band’s fanbase was thrilled to sing along to the classics, the lingering question of whether or not they would produce their own music loomed over every set.
“I think there are a few reasons it took us so long to put our own stuff out. It’s part being a perfectionist, part being a control freak, and part being anxious as hell. It really scares me to release something and to put it out there to be judged,” says Gillies.
The 2020 release of their first EP, “Before the Grave,” didn’t help assuage Gillies fears.
“We put that EP out, and it just didn’t turn out the way we were hoping. We like to forget that we created that one,” laughs Gillies. “But we’ve been learning as we go and learning from our mistakes from our failures.”
Now on the precipice of releasing their first album, Gillies and Curry feel more confident in their sound.
“With the album, we have been writing stuff for two years, and I would say we’re close to having like two albums worth of material that we’ve just been kicking around. But I am still forcing the band to comb over things multiple times before we record because I think it uncovers new ideas every time,” says Gillies.
Although they are still tentative, the band has been slowly dropping singles like “Dog Bite,” which was recorded in a day by local sound engineer John Larson.
“Dog Bite was like the start of the next writing phase for the band. It was very dialed back and started off being two chords, and there was a lot of space in the song. When I was writing the lyrics for it, I tried being more direct and less metaphorical. I wanted to write something simple, something straightforward, and something catchy. And that’s what happened,” says Gillies.
“And ‘Dog Bite’ fell out of his brain,” adds Curry.
The strategy proved successful and, most importantly, replicable. The band’s second single, “Last Night (In the Echo),” has hit over 68,000 streams on Spotify.
But don’t expect their first album—out later this fall—to be full of senseless party anthems. Gillies and Curry are splitting writing duties which means emo kids will also be satiated with introspective lyrics.
“It’s kind of cool when you go through what the album’s gonna sound like because and it bounces back and forth between the punks who don’t give a fuck and want to raise hell and sing songs about getting drunk and the emo punk kids. Specifically, the emo punk kids who combed through their lyric book 20,000 times and overthought whether or not they should ever tell anybody that they wrote this,” says Gillies.
While you may have to wait a few more months to bask in Sideways’ debut album, you can still fall in love with the band this summer as they have numerous shows lined up. Their next show is Friday, July 9 at Koot’s, where they will play with Decepticide, Mindful Khaos, Sycomule, and Famous Monsters. The show begins at 8pm, and cover is $5 at the door.