Rewind back to 2002, before bands like The Postal Service, Cut Copy and LCD Soundsystem normalized indie guitars over electronic beats. A few recent NYC transplants turned in an album to indie stalwart Bar/None Records. The album adventurously combined Pavement-influenced songwriting, indie guitar riffs, breakbeat electronica, ‘80s synth lines, ‘90s house beats and more. The band was Burnside Project and the album was 2003’s “The Networks, The Circuits, The Streams, The Harmonies.”
The LP received enthusiastic press coverage from SPIN (5 stars), FADER and Rolling Stone (Editor’s Choice) and cosigns from tastemakers like filmmaker Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous), DJ John Richards (KEXP) and novelist Rick Moody (The Ice Storm). Breakout single “Cue The Pulse To Begin” was a sync powerhouse, appearing in movies and TV shows most notably as the theme to Showtime’s Queer As Folk which led these quirky artists to become accidental LGBTQ+ cult heroes. Even Pitchfork had to admit the songs were “catchy” and that “you can end up shaking your ass.” They supported the LP with live dates alongside both critically acclaimed artists and newer buzz bands like The Notwist, Styrofoam, Death from Above 1979, HOME, Antietam and even ‘80s new wave icons Modern English.
A year later the band signed to Sony and went on a sold-out tour of Japan where “Cue The Pulse To Begin” went Top 30. They dropped another album in 2005 but by 2006, unable to translate their critical support into a sustainable career, they broke up. The concept of “indie synth pop” became codified by the late 2000s with artists like MGMT, Passion Pit, Empire Of The Sun and more. Today, the idea of combining sparkling indie guitars over synthy ‘80s beats is so common it’s hard to remember this sound was once novel.
Burnside Project’s impact is largely forgotten, stuck in the memories of early aughts supporters and the soundtracks of Jackie Chan movies and cable TV shows. Now, with the 20-year anniversary of that ground-breaking album looming, Burnside Project considers life in 2023.
Burnside Project is Richard Jankovich, Gerald Hammill, and Paul Searing.