For a band who once felt like they were at the crest of pop-punk’s new wave, The Story So Far have gone suspiciously quiet lately. Maybe it’s the fact that pop-punk in all of its forms is currently on the wane, or that 2018’s Proper Dose was met with a generally muted response, but there’s been almost silence from their camp for a good while now. Thus, it makes sense that side-projects are beginning to emerge, and with guitarist Kevin Geyer already doing some great things within emo in Elder Brother, it’s little surprise that Same Side is coming out now and tapping into that same market. It feels like a cannily planned move as well, with this self-titled EP being complete for around three years now but sat on until the best time to release it came around, something that emo’s continuing resurgence serves as a strong herald for. And while it’s unashamedly a side-project – Geyer himself has admitted that it’s more a place for songs that don’t fit in with his other projects – there’s definitely a pedigree behind it that makes it worth paying attention to.
At the same time though, that probably explains why Same Side sounds like a side-project, though not in as pejorative of a way as that statement might sound. It’s definitely good, and as far as capturing the exhaling sway of shoegaze-touched emo goes, Geyer is perfectly capable of doing that, but there’s a certain spark missing from Same Side that would make it connect so much more. There’s melancholy here that’s pleasant and fairly engaging but not much more, and while that might be a bit much to ask for a five-song EP, there’s still the sense that those limitations are playing a role in why it doesn’t click as well as it perhaps could. Again, this is far from bad, but it’s also not Geyer’s best and that can be rather clearly seen.
There’s a lot of shining moments in the sound and production though, easily the area where Same Side lands the cleanest throughout. And while that does come from drawing from a lot of the same wells of other emo and shoegaze acts, namely in gentle, reverb-drenched atmosphere painted with a pallet of dark blues and greens, it still feels effective here. Especially on the eponymous closing track, the firm bass anchoring the jangling guitar and smoother slide makes for the sort of blissful composition that’s always in easy sell with this style, with the same effect coming close to being replicated on other tracks like Smoke and The Way It Seems. It’s a sound that’s totally content with taking it slow and allowing itself to peel out at a very deliberate pace, something that’s only aided by a particularly unobtrusive production job and Geyer’s slight, almost whispered vocals which effectively serve as another piece of the musical canvas rather than anything else.
And that’s probably where Geyer falls the hardest here, as a lot of the nuance present in the willingness to growl and crescendo more with other emo and shoegaze acts just isn’t here. It sounds lovely on a surface level, but dig even just a bit deeper and there isn’t a whole lot past that; the pace might flow well across the board but it doesn’t evolve a whole lot, and the writing has a mournful tinge to it without much to make it stand out (not helped by how quiet in the mix Geyer’s vocals can be). It’s a better listening experience to soak in rather than delve into the details of, and even if that has limitations of its own – the rather brief length of the EP for one, and the fact that Fall Back In Again can feel rather skeletal compared to everything else – it’s what can a side-project like this best.
As such, it feels as though Same Side as a project is designed to be locked into EPs for the foreseeable future, though not entirely to its detriment. This being a way to get out odds and ends kinds of speaks for itself in that regard, but for a rather low-stakes, easy-to-listen-to project like this, a series of smaller releases does seem to suit what Geyer seemingly wants to do. As for how this EP helps facilitate that, it generally feels like a solid start, where the ideas most likely won’t deviate too heavily from this basis, but will also be just as good throughout. That in itself has pros and cons for something as lightweight as this ultimately turns out to be, but it’s nothing objectionable and for Geyer to explore a new creative avenue, there are worse ways to do it. It’s not great but Same Side feels like a perfectly adequate addition to the modern crop of shoegaze, something which, on the whole, it worth giving its dues.
For fans of: Elder Brother, Daisyhead, Casa Loma
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Same Side’ by Same Side is released on 29th May on Pure Noise Records.