Multiple Projects (and How You Split Between Them)

Hi! Found out about this forum through the excellent Sound + Process podcast and thought it would be the right place to get some opinions regarding the latest in my ever-expanding list of creative blocks.

I’ve been making music under the moniker Pie Are Squared since 2010, which I started in order to make the music I wasn’t making with the bands I was in at the time and in order to learn more about sound design, recording, mixing…etc. My first couple of EP’s and full-lengths were this mish-mash of genres and sounds, a bit of post-rock here, some glitchy electronica there and a whole lot of ambient/drone/noise and while I am still quite content with how they turned out and how they reflect where I was as a musician at the time, last year I took the decision to limit this project to my more ambient experiments. The plan is to create 2 new projects, with one being focused on more beat-oriented, electronic music and the other for “guitar stuff”.

The problem I am facing right now is that having gotten so used to doing whatever I liked with little regard to genre, I am finding it very difficult to sit down and write (for lack of a better word) a whole album for these new. I mean I love imposing limits on what I do and minimize my choices, but now whenever I start with something that could go in any direction, I find it difficult to pinpoint exactly where to take it if that makes any sense. So I guess my question is, for those of you who have different projects, making different kinds of music, how do you manage those in a creative sense?

Thanks and sorry for the long post

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I’m still learning myself, but if it works for you to be mish-mashing genres, why not keep doing so? If you’re enjoying yourself, maybe there’s no need to stop working on something just because it doesn’t immediately fit into your idea of what the project should be—unless you’ve got a record contract, there’s no rush to release things under a specific project, yeah?

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Today, I have four streams of music I put out… and they are on four different names & four different sets of websites / streaming / social media. I find it all too much. My plan for Summer is to consolidate into just one “social brand” - I’ll categorize the streams of music via playlists, - so like “live releases”, and “small experimental (Juntos)”, etc. But keep it as one thing, even if the genres, and styles of releases are quite varied.

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Not intending to stifle conversation here but if you want to read up on past discussion by the community check this out

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I put myself in different mental places during the process of making each distinct thing. I make visual art, not music, so some of this might not be practical if you need your ear holes to listen. I create a pattern and put myself in the pattern, and then I start acting within that pattern. If you’re thinking about genres maybe create a pattern to make things in for each genre, and let the project emerge out of that. Some experimentation is needed to see what is conducive to “guitar work”. Maybe you’ll need to become a vegetarian. Sometimes it’s not obvious what to do. It’s like creating seemingly irrational rituals.

Let me give you some examples:
To come up with a comic story/concept drawings I now listen to jazz (this is hilarious to me because I don’t even like jazz). Somehow this genre nearly eliminates self-criticism that can be so crushing at this stage. I think it’s because I think of jazz as plain…like going to the grocery store…and no expects you to act like a rock star at the grocery store. Reactive brain isn’t invited to the party. (& It’s usually day time)

For the tedious process of drawing it all out, I throw on a podcast or a movie (if a movie 1 of the same 3 movies I use over and over for this purpose (Rushmore, Chasing Amy, or Rules of Attraction. I now suspect Annie Hall could a possible 4th option, but it’s untested.)–because I don’t need to engage with the language part of my brain. (Usually night time)

To write an essay I need lots of caffeine and usually some walks. (day time).

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I love your phrasing of “I create a pattern and put myself in the pattern, and then I start acting within that pattern,” even though you went on to use it to mean something completely differently from what I would have expected. I immediately thought of the pattern as a riff, or maybe the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus song structure, or a fugue.

To adapt your meaning of ‘patterns’ to music making, though, maybe one could involve taste, or smell, or the visual aspects of your environment.

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@alanza honestly I wasn’t great at the whole mish-mash thing and according to a lot of people I have talked to it is much harder to get an album released on a label if it’s not very well-defined sonically. I mean the whole label thing wouldn’t be so crucial had I been a bit better at promoting myself, but given how things stand, I feel like a label is crucial. The only reason I am stressing myself about it is that I had set myself the target of releasing one EP at least under one of the new projects before the end of 2018 having already released one as Pie Are Squared.

@mzero That’s a very good idea, re: playlists! And I don’t think I will create multiple pages/social media channels per project, I don’t think I will be able to manage all that. I will keep the Pie Are Squared moniker as the umbrella for everything that I release, maybe start it off with something like “Pie Are Squared presents…XYZ”

@Angela you know what, I have actually started trying to do something like that! For example using different DAW’s/software for each one. It seems I can only make music during the day time, so I am kind of limited to weekends, but I find that I am much better at sitting down and designing sounds or writing patches at night. I think I will try to use your model as a reference to further expand on this approach

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I have observed the very same in myself! Interesting…

I have been thinking of splitting my main project in two… or at least postponing the one I really want to do and starting a solo thing even though I don’t want to do a solo thing.
I’ve wanted to start a band (eurorack, Elektron gear, a mono and poly synth, drums, piano, guitar, bass, vocals).
I own all the gear (except acoustic drums) and even have a practice space I go to after my programming job. The issue happens to be that I cannot for the life of me find people to work with. It’s not “I can’t find the right people”, it’s that I can’t find people at all who enjoy making “minimal electronic music” and “band music” together here in Utah.
Is it a symptom of today’s musicians not wanting to commit to a band? Are bands dying? Do others find it hard to make electronic + band music? I’d love to hear why or why not people want to write with other people.
So, back to what I was saying; I feel compelled to start a solo project (one person electronic) and postpone the main one (with all the instruments). This is because if I were to play live, I couldn’t play all the instruments. This is the reason for the split for me, the live aspect. Do any of you record more instruments than you could play live? Do you intend to find partnering musicians? Apologies if this derails from the topic too much.

I would really like to be in a band. My most recent attempt ended as we predicted it would: practice rescheduling leading to rescheduling followed by rescheduling followed by canceling. Repeat ad nauseum. Damn middle age people just can’t make it click amidst our busy schedules.

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Find some promising 18 year olds and invite them to your party mansion.

Bicep_Flier

edit:

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I’m going to use that poster exactly. Put it all over town. Nothing suspicious about it whatsoever!

(in honesty, the music I hope to make requires some maturity. I probably won’t get to make it until we start retiring in earnest.)

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Maybe it’s a genre thing, since most of the small shows I go to lean indie-emo or harder, but from my impression lately it seems uncommon for people interested in being in bands to also be interested in sound as more than, like, sheer volume.

That said, keep at it! Out here in Boston my project is looking like it wants live drums and neither of us is a drummer, so we’ll make do until we don’t have to. (Drummers seem harder to come by out here, maybe because more of us rent)

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Thanks for the encouragement, I feel like it could be a genre thing as well. Things tend to be either really hard or are very indie-pop here. I may just hold off on splitting the project into solo and multi instrument piece and keep looking for the next few months. This thread has really got me thinking about how I should define when to split a project.

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thanks for posting and some of it hits homb. i make music under two bands which are both solo projects of my composition work. they are lovingly and totally amusingly (to me) split by only one definite thing: the inclusion of piano. but also many other subtle things that vary over time.

magic from space focuses on guitar and the rest of the studio. is technically older and always been complete solo project aside from guests here and there.

behind you always uses piano, piano vst usually , usually edited but recently i got an upright and have been recording it for the new album which is fascinating to me. it started as dissection/edit of vst piano samples i got from a distant international friend. he faded away into his life leaving music mostly out and i liked the conceptual material enough that i started to dig deeper with it alone. there is also some occasionally conceptual difference in terms of material that is possible from time to time, like some nostalgic sci-fi/horror aspects but largely those could occur within either project.

but more on topic to your op is that i split time between them in a very therapeutic sense. i make music so much that usually i have multiple album releases a year. and it helps so much to keep focus by bouncing between the projects and i feel much better about my compositional progress and process as i have the breaks between approach. i would run into more walls or if not walls, at least frustration if i was entirely focused on one avenue of my creative output.

another thing is that each album tends to lean towards a concept, a rule, a thing the ties the pieces together other than time which is always a proximity thing. so the material gets partitioned but the music to my ears all has my writing voice so i wonder if your thought is related to the development of the individual voices if they are different. i can’t really output material so easily without the developed voice, whatever that is per project.

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I personally really like what @tehn said in the thread @glia linked above:

the ‘various names for different projects by the same person’ thing seems relatively unique to music, though I suppose so are aliases themselves. I know roughly as many visual artists as I do musicians (many are both), and my visual art friends, dancer friends, and others don’t have different names for different projects unless they’re also working with additional or different people, even though their work may span an extremely wide range of media/content/concept/etc. Albums from many musicians and bands can be tremendously different…Radiohead didn’t change their name when they stopped playing “Creep” and came out with OK Computer, but they sounded profoundly different (as a somewhat dumb example). Perhaps more relevant: Nathan Moody’s (very good) Etudes series. They all sound quite different from each other and are made with completely separate equipment, but they’re all still him.

It can also be confusing for casual listeners who might be into one’s overall approach to music to find out about various projects by the same person, even though they might be down with everything a given artist does.

One of my most talented musician friends has ~4 different solo projects (at least I think that is the latest count), and he is the only one that can keep them all straight. To everyone else they’re still him, just doing different things. My favorite of his projects is the one he just uses his name for, and I think it ends up being his best work since he is least prone to overthinking when writing/performing as such.

Lastly, time itself tends to change an artist’s voice in ways that exceed changing instrumentation or other variables, and I could imagine it being difficult or prone to overanalysis to have multiple different projects by the same individual which are already going to be constantly changing because literally everything is already constantly changing…but this change is already represented by knowing when a given album or work falls in a given artist’s discography or oeuvre.

all that said, if you want to have various names for various projects, go for it! there is nothing wrong with that and no one should be less likely to listen to and appreciate them :sunny:

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I don’t consider myself a talented musician, or even necessarily a musician at all (self taught bass guitar and production, etc) but really what helped me to be most productive was to a) move to a modular synth where you really need to finish something before you can start the next thing and b) freeing myself from the idea of a ‘finished’ song, track, or piece of music. Personally I’ve found these set of constraints really helpful in terms of productivity and education. So I don’t do multiple projects. Not sure this helps with a answer to the question though!

I think I forgot to mention in my op that I also play in a band, it’s a post-metal/sludge band and I play guitars and synths. What I find to be very liberating about this is that I am not the main song-writer at all and it’s a band that already has an established sound, so I just go try to make parts gel together, add some ambiences here, melodies there and so on. We practice twice a week, usually once without the drummer and once with him there because he lives kind of far away.

It took me a very long time to actually find a band to play in, but I think my motivation to be in a band is different from yours, I am using it as a way to keep on making music without having to think about it too much and not as my main creative outlet. However, what I have been saying more of recently is that most bands are either getting smaller and in turn a lot of duos. Maybe that could be an option you could consider, finding one other person to share instrumentation duties with and build the project live around that restriction? I guess you can use something like Ableton to trigger the stuff you aren’t playing?

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I love how they can’t keep themselves from laughing about it here

@dude that’s exactly what I want to reach, to be working on one thing that I know is for one project then just go on working on something that I know for sure belongs to the other project and so on. Right now the one distinction I have for sure is that one project has guitars& the other two don’t, so I am 1/3 of the way there.

When I interviewed my all-time music hero/idol Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, Bass Communion, IEM among others) and one of the first things I asked him was how can he just bounce between projects and release incredible diverse albums almost simultaneously and his reply was that one doesn’t have anything to do with the other, so there is no risk of too much overlap. I guess it all boils down to defining the sound for each project.

@joshhh I have so much respect for Nathan’s work ethic (and his music of course), and he’s just the nicest guy. I get what you mean though, but I think having different projects for different styles will also help me to learn new approaches to making music. I created a blog a couple of years back called 74 in 74, which was based on Ableton’s book Making Music and I think I might go back to it and maybe find some inspiration there as I have almost completely forgotten what the book covered and I remember it being very useful.

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I’ve come to a point that I want to start getting proper releases for my music. I’ve got a lot of tracks in backlog. I’ve got a bunch of ideas to work on. Get proper mastering done, get an an account with distrokid and just get it out there.
My idea is to release my music under three different monikers that each have their own genre of music.
Some of my music is the most close to me and I would release it under the name Shiftr i’ve been using for a long time. This is usually kind of experimental electronica but quite easy to listen to. This music i find the most difficult to produce because of the high standards i set for myself.
Some of my music is darkish tribal slow techno made to dance to. I like this to have a different name, it feels to be more of an alter ego of me and i have a lot of fun producing it and it, it comes more easily.
And some of it is more textureal ambient, tape loops, field recordings diy electronics experiments. This i would like to use to just put a lot of material out there. Maybe only on bandcamp
I used to think for a long time that I needed to finish an album of music in one direction before starting to releasing. I’ve let that idea go and just want to release single tracks now.

Do you think it’s a good idea releasing tracks under different names?
Or is it better just to stick to a single artist name and show diversity?
Do you release music on different monikers? Any advice on this?

I’m really curious how you all are managing this.

PS I couldn’t find a topic about releasing music, maybe there is and this question can go in there.

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