If there's one Hollywood cliche you can count on, it's that most actors are frustrated musicians deep down inside. While the majority will never have major commercial success like, say, Rick Springfield, Patrick Swayze or Jamie Foxx (go ahead and laugh, but they all had number one singles), many gamely pursue a side career in music for years without being noticed by anyone but their most hardcore fans.
It's easy to dismiss these wannabe musicians and their bands as novelty acts, but they tour, record albums and even make videos just like any authentic group. Whatever your opinion of these actors-turned-musicians, at least they're trying to live the dream, albeit with varying degrees of talent. Check out 10 examples of celebrity bands you've probably never heard of below.
Russell Crowe, The Ordinary Fear of God
Russell Crowe was heavily criticized for his lack of vocal chops in Tom Hooper's adaptation of 'Les Miserables,' but he's been playing in bands since the 1980s. His first group, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, broke up in 2005, but Crowe quickly rebounded with a new outfit called Russell Crowe & The Ordinary Fear of God, which plans to release a new album soon and embark on a tour of the U.S.
So, how does Crowe handle light rock vs. show tunes? Watch the video and judge for yourself.
Right around the time Keanu Reeves first played Neo in 'The Matrix,' he was also playing bass for an alt-rock band called Dogstar. Formed in 1991, the trio released an EP and two albums and even opened for Bon Jovi in 1995 in Australia and New Zealand. They split in 2002, but rumor has it they're currently reviewing footage for a project that reflects their initial years of touring. Still, they're no Wyld Stallyns.
Jada Pinkett Smith, Wicked Wisdom
Jada Pinkett Smith's entire family is deeply involved in music, but she's the only member to depart from R&B and rap by singing in heavy metal band Wicked Wisdom, which has released two albums to date. Formed in 2002, the group played the second stage at Ozzfest in 2005 and toured with Sevendust a year later. They even received praise from Sharon Osbourne, who credited Pinkett Smith for her "love and respect" of metal.
Billy Bob Thornton, The Boxmasters
Actor Billy Bob Thornton is no stranger to music. He's released four solo country albums, played with a blues rock band called Tres Hombres and currently fronts country/rockabilly group The Boxmasters.
In 2009, Thornton showed his notoriously grumpy side during an interview on the Canadian radio show 'Q' while promoting a Boxmasters tour supporting Willie Nelson and Ray Price. Thornton gave rambling answers, became upset after host Jian Ghomeshi mentioned his acting career and referred to Canadian audiences as "mashed potatoes with no gravy" due to their polite behavior during live performances. After a flood of criticism from fans and the media, The Boxmasters dropped out of the tour early, with Thornton claiming that band members had come down with the flu. If that doesn't sound like the antics of a true musician, we don't know what does.
Kevin Bacon, The Bacon Brothers
The Bacon Brothers are the hardest working celeb band you've never heard of. Fronted by actor Kevin Bacon and older brother Michael, they've released five studio albums, a live DVD and a best of collection. They've also appeared on television, on soundtracks, have held numerous fundraisers and even teamed up with legendary Philadelphia singer Bunny Sigler in 2009.
Surprisingly, Kevin has a fairly decent voice and even a good falsetto. As the clip shows, he's no slouch on the acoustic guitar either. Still, we'd be hard-pressed to name a Bacon Brothers song.
Actor Dennis Quaid, who's starred in more than 60 movies over the past 30+ years, plays guitar and sings lead in a rock band called The Sharks. Although Quaid insists the band is just for fun, they perform original songs in addition to covers. Yes, they sound like a typical sloppy bar band in this clip, but it's apparent that Quaid is having the time of his life, even if his "rock" faces are a little disturbing.
Juliette Lewis, Juliette and the Licks
If there's one example of when we prefer an actor's music to their performance in movies, this may be it. Juliette and the Licks, which formed in 2004 and was fronted by actress Juliette Lewis, released an EP and two studio albums. They also recorded with Dave Grohl, shared a bill with Foo Fighters and opened for Muse and Chris Cornell.
Lewis has an impressive primal howl that even Courtney Love would be envious of, but, alas, the band called it quits in 2009. Luckily for fans, Lewis issued a solo album in the same year and plans to release another in 2013.
Kevin Costner, Modern West
Kevin Costner's band, which formed in 2007, is (naturally) called Modern West. And although they're not exactly big here in the U.S., their second album, 'Turn It On,' made it onto the charts in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Greece.
The group released a third album in 2011, which featured guest vocals from '80s German pop singer Nena of '99 Luftballons' fame. Yeah, we don't quite get it either, but at least Costner now shares a hallowed space next to David Hasselhoff.
Bill Paxton, Martini Ranch
Formed in the 1980s, Martini Ranch, which featured actor Bill Paxton of 'Twister' and 'Aliens,' is by far the strangest entry on our list. They were an artsy new wave band with a sound heavily reminiscent of Devo.
The video for their single 'Reach' was directed by James Cameron, and features cameos by Paxton's 'Aliens' costars Lance Henriksen, Paul Reiser and Jenette Goldstein. (Also Judge Reinhold and Adrian Pasdar strangely enough.) Sadly all that star power doesn't make it any less cheesy or cringe-inducing. Check out the long-form version and please accept our apologies in advance.
Ryan Gosling, Dead Man's Bones
Hey girl, did you know that Ryan Gosling is in a band? In 2005, Gosling met fellow actor Zach Shields and the two bonded over their mutual love of ghosts, monsters, graveyards and zombies. Together, they formed Dead Man's Bones and released a debut album in 2009, which features song titles like 'My Body's a Zombie for You,' 'Lose Your Soul' and 'Flowers Grow Out of My Grave.' Cheery!
Interestingly, Gosling and Shields played all the instruments on the record themselves, including ones they weren't familiar with. They also refused to use click tracks and allowed themselves no more than three takes while recording. This was, according to Gosling, part of a creative process similar to making pictures as a child.