Many musicians will say that the best part about being in a band is that it resembles a family; you spend a great deal of time together, you travel together, create together, and often forge bonds and relationships that last a lifetime. And as much as a band can create a family, a family can also create a band. From the Beach Boys to the Bee Gees, Hansen to Kings of Leon, family bands have been in the popular music scene for decades. Although not a new concept, they seem to be less common these days as musicians either tend towards solo careers or feel the time-crunch of pop music trends and feel they must cultivate a career at a young age. The arrangement remains alive and well however in The Sidleys, an east-coast-based soul/rock outfit including all five members of their family. We caught up with them to find out more about what it takes to survive and succeed as a family band.
The band’s origins date back to the 1980’s when Steve and Annie first met while she was auditioning for a band he was in. “Over the years, we played in many different groups and things evolved from there,” Annie explains. “We liked each other a lot, then loved each other a lot, got married and had kids. We never stopped playing music together.” The current lineup of the band which includes their three sons was formed in 2013, the year of The Sidleys’ first studio release Bittersweet, on which Steve performed nearly all of the instruments on the recording. Later that year, sons Ian, Colin, and Sean joined the band for live performances and they’ve been at it ever since. “It’s been extremely beneficial for us because our kids are all fantastic musicians. They add so much to the music in terms of arrangement and creativity,” says Steve. “They are honestly the best band we’ve ever had.”
The group cites a wide variety of influences spanning several generations, and the listener can sense both musical kinship and a depth of artistic maturity in the songs, especially on new album The Love You Make, which was released earlier this year. Blending a vintage feel with modern energy, The Sidleys create a timeless, soulful sound that is simultaneously easy on the ears and relentlessly hooky. The rhythm grooves in You and I are reminiscent of mid-90’s funk-rock fusion and the vocal harmonies in Angeline transport the listener back to the feel-good tunes of the 70’s. Unlike their debut release, Steve and Annie were joined by their sons in the studio to record the new album. “They came up with their own arrangements and ideas for the songs. This was their first time in the studio and they played like they’d been doing in their entire lives,” recalls Steve. “They added so much energy and soul to the music and came up with parts that neither of us would have imagined. They brought the songs to life.”
The Sidleys hail from Bethesda, Maryland, a quiet suburb just outside of Washington, D.C. Though the D.C. scene has been largely dominated by larger touring acts, the band has been able to carve out a following in the area and consider themselves lucky. “The very first show the boys performed with us was at the prestigious Hamilton Live in D.C., which is a beautiful venue so they started with the best-case scenario. We’ve been lucky to perform at great venues and other fantastic shows throughout our career,” says Annie. “No matter where we are, we invest 100% of our love into what we’re playing. There’s nothing like looking out into the audience and seeing people singing along to your songs.”
While the band has both a strong internal dynamic and local support, their journey has not been without its challenges. Annie was signed to a label in 2007 for a solo project but the company dissolved in the recession leaving The Sidleys to go it alone as independent DIY artists. “The biggest challenge is knowing what to do first and where to spend your resources.” Many musicians these days can relate to the struggle of limited time and money, as well as trying to reach a wider audience. “We’re very selective about how we approach social media,” explains Steve, who hopes to avoid the oversaturation of the online rat race. “We always try including our fans by asking them to post photos of themselves with our album or dancing to our music; you make fans one at a time. Make it about them and not you, then you’re on to something.”
Despite their challenges, The Sidleys are optimistic about the future with plans of touring on the new release and a music video in the works. “We want to reach as many people as possible, and keep performing and writing music that fills our souls. We love the connection we have between musicians and audience. Music is part of our body, it’s our heart, and it keeps our blood pumping.” The band extends their positive outlook and advises other musicians, “Whatever you do in this life, do it with love and passion. Give it everything you have and come out swinging. If you find pure joy in being a musician, don’t ever give up.” We agree and can’t wait to see what the future brings for The Sidleys. You can connect with the family and their music here: www.thesidleys.com.