Side By Side were a short lived NYHC band that first came to my attention when I found the song “Violence To Fade” on the 1987 “Together” compilation which was Revelations Records’ second overall release. A year later they released the 7 song “You’re Only Young Once” EP and that was pretty much it after playing a handful of shows as the band broke up with some members going on to form Alone In A Crowd who would also have a very short run. Over the years there have been many hardcore bands who have reunited but Side By Side was never one of those bands. That changed though in late November due to some unique circumstances as the band played at the Revolution Calling Festival in the Netherlands which was followed up by a headlining show at The Monarch in Brooklyn on December 9th. We caught up with Side By Side frontman Jules Massee shortly after their Brooklyn show and got more info on those circumstances, some cool nuggets of band history and what may lie ahead. Thanks to Howie Wallen for getting us in touch with Jules. Lead photo by: Danielle Dombrowski with graphics by Paul Turano.
IE: Hey Jules. Where exactly are you right now and what would you usually be doing at this time of the day if you weren't answering these questions?
Jules: At my desk in my home office, which is where I can usually be found. I am usually working (and should be working now…).
IE: How old are you, where did you grow up and where is home now?
Jules: I am 52. I grew up in Weehawken, NJ, which is right across the Hudson from midtown Manhattan. But I went to school in Greenwich Village, Brooklyn (and later Harlem and the Bronx), so I spent the vast majority of my time as a kid in NYC. I now live in central Florida and split my time between Orlando and Tampa.
SIDE BY SIDE DECEMBER 9, 2023. L-R: LARS, ERIC, JULES, BILLY, SAMMY
PHOTO BY: JC PHOTO MEDIA
IE: In late November Side By Side played at the Revolution Calling Festival in The Netherlands. Can you take us through what sparked that weekend trip and also the logistics of getting your bandmates together, practicing, traveling and most importantly the reason you were going there to play? (We would find out at the Brooklyn show that the proceeds from that show were going to the Alex Brown Foundation and I assume the same can be said for the EU show)
Jules: Personally, I never had any intention of playing with Side By Side again. I wasn’t necessarily against the idea in principle, it was just to me there never seemed to be a point to it. Generally, I’m not a fan of nostalgia; I have no desire to relive any “glory days.” However, I learned from the Alone In A Crowd reunion benefit back in 2019, that this old hardcore stuff can still be a force for present-day good. So when Side By Side got approached to do a reunion show, I only entertained the idea so long as we could pay something forward with it somehow. Of course, the elephant in the room with any potential Side By Side reunion was that Alex Brown (“Backfire”, “Living A Lie”, and “Time Is Now”) is no longer with us. He passed away suddenly in 2019 (at the age I am now). So, that cast a shadow over everything. In the decades following Side By Side, Alex enjoyed an extremely successful career as a painter; I believe his artwork hangs in the Museum Of Modern Art in NYC. When he passed, Alex’s family and friends created the Alex Brown Foundation, which is an artist residency in Alex’s hometown of Des Moines, Iowa. The Foundation provides artists with a studio, stipend, and housing – to allow them to focus on their art.
IE: Then on December 9th you would also play in Brooklyn, NY to a packed out room. Can you run down the Side By Side lineup that played both the EU and BK shows? With the members being spread out across the country what kind of contact/relationships were you having with your old bandmates before these 2 shows?
Jules: The reunion lineup was OG (never thought I’d be using that as a description, but that’s what people are calling it), consisting of the original four: Eric (guitar), Billy (bass), Sammy (drums), and me. Lars (Uppercut, Alone In A Crowd, Judge) took over second guitar. But here’s the thing… Lars is OG Side By Side, too: he played bass at Side By Side’s last show. So there are no “hired guns” – only originals from back in the day. I don’t think we would have ever done the reunion if that were not the case.
Over the years I only really kept up with Billy. Eric and Alex I basically lost touch with completely. Sammy I kept up with for a few years while he was doing CIV, but not much after that. The last time I communicated with all of them was several years back when an independent filmmaker wanted to use Side By Side music in a soundtrack, and needed everybody’s consent. We said “yes,” btw… but I have heard the movie was not very good. I’ve never even seen it. It’s called Crown And Anchor. I think it’s Canadian. I don’t even know where you can stream it.
There was no reason for losing touch – just life getting in the way. Eric moved to Arizona. Billy moved to Indiana. Sammy went off to California. Alex went back to Iowa. I relocated to Florida. People get busy… it’s the way of things. Lars and I did Alone In A Crowd in the year following Side By Side, but that was it until 2018, when we found out Howie (also AIAC) was dealing with medical issues. That was the catalyst that got me out of hibernation. Lars is the only one of us still in NYC – a diehard.
IE: Can you tell us a little about Alex Brown and what kind of person he was?
Jules: Alex and I had an interesting relationship; on the one hand we were essentially peers, but in a lot of ways I was like his annoying kid brother. He was four or five years older than me (which is a huge difference at that stage of one’s life). He seemed to know everything about punk and hardcore – and I didn’t know shit. He had a big record collection and was just this font of knowledge. He taught me a lot. Where my main influences at the time were the newest in the New York scene (Warzone, Youth Of Today, Underdog, Sick Of It All, etc.), he turned me on to a lot of the older stuff.
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When he joined the band, he dove in head first. He designed the “Larry, Moe and Curly” silhouettes that ended up as the E.P. cover, and he went to Kinko’s and printed up stickers. In one sitting we wrote “Backfire” and “Living A Lie” together in like an afternoon. “Backfire” was hugely influenced by Death Before Dishonor (early Mike Judge band, which later became Supertouch). “Backfire” has Alex’s “tough guy” lyrics – which is kinda’ funny, because Alex was not; he was a tall, skinny dude that was actually very quiet. He was completely different on stage – I remember many punches thrown by him trying to protect his guitar. Like me, and so many “quiet” types, he had a lot of anger inside, which found expression through his music.
IE: Do you specifically remember how Side By Side formed? Maybe some specific memories of meeting the other members for the first time?
Jules: Side By Side started at a funeral in Greenwich Village. The funeral service left me with a sense of urgency – so I went straight from there to my friend Billy’s apartment. I had never been there before – it was in an extremely rough part of Alphabet City. The building was scary: there was some drug dealer’s doberman loose in the hall, how I got by it I’m really not sure. But Billy has said the only reason he said yes to starting the band with a 15 year-old kid is the fact that I was committed enough to brave that environment. Eric was next. He and I had hung out together and messed around with a band in the past but had lost touch. Luke (Gorilla Biscuits, Warzone) got us hanging out together again. I found out that Sammy was looking for a band from a kid I knew from hanging out at Some Records. So that was the original four. Then we added Gavin (Burn, Absolution), who was on loan to us from the NY Hoods. Gavin played with us up until the Token Entry record release show at CB’s, at which point Alex (who we met when he tagged along with Ray Cappo to a Side By Side practice some weeks before) joined as our full time second guitar.
IE: About how many shows did Side By Side play in total and what bands were you playing with the most?
Jules: Thirteen, back in the day? Couldn’t have been more than that. Somewhere online I saw a list of all the shows Side By Side played, but of course I didn’t save it anywhere… these “hardcore historians” who keep track of this stuff never cease to amaze me. With few exceptions we were playing with some combination of Warzone, Youth Of Today, or Gorilla Biscuits. We were all friends and generally appealed to the same crowds, so it just made sense. We all road-tripped together and shared rides and equipment. Many hours spent crammed in an overloaded van with those lunatics…
IE: Side By Side played the infamous "shutdown" show at CBGB's with Youth Of Today, Gorilla Biscuits and Pagan Babies. What are your recollections from that show?
Jules: Bonkers. Fucking bonkers! It wasn’t an actual riot, but it was pretty close. Basically, what had happened is that Hilly (CBGB owner) got sued by some kid’s parents for getting hurt stage-diving at a show, so he wanted to prohibit dives. Understandable, but the problem was he didn’t tell anybody. His solution: get two big bouncers to stand in front of the bands and physically stop kids from getting on stage. The CB’s stage was small, and these dudes were huge. If memory serves, they were Hispanic with shaved heads and were wearing straight edge t-shirts (I want to say Minor Threat or Uniform Choice). This was very weird – because we knew all the CB’s bouncers. And we knew all the straight edge kids, but nobody knew who these guys were. So, imagine the club is packed with kids who want to go off and instead they’ve got these guys holding them back.
The Pagan Babies played first and as was typical for out-of-town bands in NY, they got a lukewarm reception – but the bouncers on stage made it so much worse! They were actively suppressing sing-a-longs and stage dives. The bands waiting to play were all like: “What the fuck is this? Are they going to be blocking us too?” So somehow a plan was hatched to do something about it. From the first note of the Gorilla Biscuits’ set, a ton of us bum-rushed the bouncers from the stage. They were focused forward on the kids in the crowd, and didn’t expect to be hit from behind, so we totally outflanked them. We were diving past, flipping over their heads… they didn’t know what hit them. When the kids in the crowd saw that, they went berserk and then it was like a chain reaction – that just kept getting bigger. Pandemonium. Now, no one actually targeted the bouncers, it was more about overwhelming them. And we did. By the time Youth Of Today played, the bouncers were spent and had basically surrendered. To their credit, they absorbed a lot of punishment and still stayed pretty cool. Never saw them again, though. At the end of the show, Hilly gave us a lecture about how ungrateful we were and that because of our actions he was stopping hardcore matinees (hence “shutdown show”). And the matinees did stop – temporarily. He even banned me personally, but… I was back going off at Judge shows in ’88 (and there was plenty of stage-diving), and was back on stage at Roger Miret’s benefit show in ’89. So, perhaps it should have been called the “brief interruption show.” Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
SIDE BY SIDE @ THE MONARCH, BROOKLYN, NY DECEMEMBER 9, 2023.
PHOTO BY: DANIELLE DOMBROWSKI
IE: Side By Side has this sorta deep cut track called “Guilty” that ended up on a Revelation compilation with a pretty bad live recording. How come this song never got recorded for a comp or put on to “You're Only Young Once"?
Jules: Ha. Side By Side had a lot of bad recordings. The only good ones were the ones done at Don Fury’s, and those are the songs you hear on the “Together”, and “The Way It Is” comps, and the “You’re Only Young Once” 7”. “Guilty” was one of the songs (maybe the only?) that was written after “You’re Only Young Once” was recorded. Eric wrote it and I penned the lyrics. To this day I think it was one of Eric’s best. That live recording had to have been from Side By Side’s last show at the Anthrax; I don’t think we ever played it any other time. I think that song is a good example of where Side By Side was headed and would have sounded if we had kept going. The lyrics are universal stabbed-in-the-back hardcore fare:
What the fuck has happened between you and me?
The final lie’s been said, you’re not gonna’ go free
You took me for a ride, you’ve done this all before,
But this is one time it won’t be ignored
You made your decision,
Now reap the seeds you’ve sown
Just pray that you have the strength
To deal with it on your own
Before we had a bond of friendship and trust
Now it’s a situation that you don’t want discussed
The judgment is given; the sentence is passed
You might get a word in, but you won’t have the last
You won’t get away
From me, you won’t crawl
I took your shit for far too long
The gavel falls…
SIDE BY SIDE DRUMMER SAMMY SIEGLER @ THE MONARCH, BROOKLYN, NY DECEMBER 9, 2023.
PHOTO BY: JC PHOTO MEDIA
IE: Were there any other Side By Side songs in existence when the band stopped playing?
Jules: Unrecorded? I’m not sure, because I am not sure what made it onto the demo (which was the worst… do not listen to the demo!). The two songs that did not make it onto any of the Rev records were “So Fucking Blind” and “Good Clean Fun”. “So Fucking Blind” was one of Eric’s earlier songs, and was never one of my favorites (and I don’t think anyone else’s, because I don’t remember any heated debates about that song -- I think we just stopped playing that one at some point). If memory serves it had parts a lot like NYC Mayhem, but it was kind of whiny. “Good Clean Fun” was one of Billy’s contributions (and I think it may have originated in Billy’s prior band, Mr. Clean. It was kind of like a Murphy’s Law jokey song that focused on hanging out in the NY scene – without the ubiquitous beer or bong references. The lyrics, though, had never been finalized and I tended to just make shit up on stage. “Good Clean Fun” was pretty cool and actually could have been a much better song if we had put some kind of message behind it, but it was an outlier to be sure; it never made it on any studio recording that I can recall. We only played it live. So, other than a DC Youth Brigade cover song, I think that was the whole repertoire.
IE: What year did Side By Side stop playing? Was there an official last show or did things just sort of go quitely into the night?
Jules: I don’t think that anything Side By Side did could be classified as “official.” If there were any rules, we didn’t tend to follow them. The EP was recorded in 1987 – but it did not come out until 1988. The band broke up in between those two events. Our last “official” show was at that Anthrax in Connecticut, which was in the winter either late ’87 or early, early ’88. We did not know at the time that it was going to be our last – but, ironically, it was one of the best (if not the best) show we ever did. We had finally hit our stride, I guess. Anyway, we broke up soon after that. If memory serves, we were on an upcoming bill with Underdog, but called it quits and cancelled. We did get back together for a benefit for Roger (Agnostic Front) in ’88, but it was a one-off.
SIDE BY SIDE @ THE MONARCH, BROOKLYN, NY DECEMBER 9, 2023. PHOTO BY: JC PHOTO MEDIA
IE: For me Side By Side's music still holds up strong all these years later and the positive messages within the lyrics are still relevant. What is your take like 35 plus years later after “You’re Only Young Once came out?
Jules: Unlike most things I did when I was 16, I can stand behind Side By Side’s lyrics 100% -- they have just as much meaning for me as a middle-aged man as they did as a teenager. It wasn’t poetic, it wasn’t complicated, and wasn’t terribly original – but it was genuine. Think of bands like the Beach Boys, singing about girls and cars and surfing for 60 years - you know that it can’t possibly be relevant to them anymore. I think it is because of its inherent authenticity that hardcore has persisted for 40+ years, and that newer generations are taking up the mantel.
IE: At that Brooklyn show the band made it a point to acknowledge people like Raybeez and Todd Youth of Warzone as well as Duane from the old NYC record shop Some Records. At that show you had some stories to go along with the acknowledgements and I was hoping you could share some thoughts on the way certain people made yourselves feel welcomed as new guys on the hardcore scene back in the mid to late 80s?
Jules: Well… I remember going to a show at the Right Track Inn on Long Island in early summer ’86: Youth Of Today, Straight Ahead, and Sick Of It All. Everybody in those bands were totally cool – no one was a rockstar, and all of them were there for one another’s set. Everyone was just like friends. I remember Tommy Carroll as being particularly outgoing (he was the front man for Straight Ahead and drumming for Youth of Today). Now I was 15, and still trying to figure myself out. I had never been to a show like this one; it ruined me for anything else. So inspirational. I think I went to the very next Youth Of Today show in NYC, and then would go regularly down to CB’s and Some Records every weekend after that. I started Side By Side like 5 months later.
SIDE BY SIDE @ THE MONARCH, BROOKLYN, NY DECEMBER 9, 2023. PHOTO BY: JC PHOTO MEDIA
IE: You have not been involved much with the hardcore scene for decades now and I wanted to wind this down by asking what your life is like these days?
Jules: Of all things, I am a lawyer – something that I never aspired to be, but it’s funny where life takes you. I have a family – three adult children, remarkably well-adjusted, productive members of society. I have a dog – a fluffy mini-doodle type that is the virtual antithesis of the obligatory hardcore pitbull. I have been told for the better part of 30 years that I need to get a hobby… any suggestions?
IE: Dare I ask you what your immediate family knows or thinks about your "hardcore past" in Side by Side and Alone In A Crowd?
Jules: They always knew that I had been in bands – but there was never any real interest in it. I don’t think they even realized what it was until the Howie benefit show – I don’t think they ever expected to see a crowd going off like that. But it is a bit of a novelty for them. Anecdotally – my youngest played an Alone In A Crowd song for one of her sorority sisters at her residence, and then apparently they kept blasting it over and over until a horde of girls were jumping up and down on their beds. Weird.
IE: The path for bands doing reunions usually includes a European trip, an East Coast run and then California dates which obviously have not happened as of yet. With the ability to raise more awareness and funds to the Alex Brown Foundation can you see an eventual West Coast run in the cards?
Jules: Things happen in threes, and three is a magic number, or so I am told. Wink-wink, nudge-nudge, say no more.
IE: Anything else you would like to add? Thanks for your time!
Jules: Be good. Do good. The time is now.
Jules also told us that Side By Side plans on working with the Alex Brown Foundation in the future and that they currently have a t-shirt up for sale which benefits that very foundation. Click HERE to check it out. To find out more about the Alex Brown Foundation visit this link.