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Interview: Jonathan Louis of THE BAND CELL Talks About The Who, Local Music, and His Eccentric Style

The Band Cell Plays in Reno on July 28

Interview: Jonathan Louis of THE BAND CELL Talks About The Who, Local Music, and His Eccentric Style

Just over the Sierra Nevada Mountain range from the Sacramento Valley lies the town of Reno, Nevada. Its proximity to Sacramento makes it a popular destination for entertainment and its casinos attract well-known talent. It was during one of these concerts that serendipity intervened, and I met the charmingly eclectic indie artist, Jonathan Louis. A drummer for a local group called The Band Cell, Louis is branching out into solo territory with new songs "The Next Big Thing," and "Bouncy." Broadway World spoke to Louis about the post-pandemic music scene, his quirky style, and how The Who inspired his music career.

Banker by day, drummer by night-how do you manage to try to launch a solo career while also juggling drumming with The Band Cell and working a day job?

Very carefully. I have to keep myself accountable when making plans with my employer, my band, and my side projects. I do so with the good ol' calendar app on my IPhone 10. Every Sunday or Monday, on my current days off, I make appointments for that week and set notifications to remind me what's going on in any particular day. Keep it simple.

The Reno area has been growing lately-how has that affected the local music scene? Do you notice a shift in the dynamics?

Reno has been growing despite inflation, housing, gas, and food prices. It has affected our local music scene with many bands taking their final bow, but those who are still with us are doing better than ever. Events are ramping up again and like in many parts of the world, crowds are furiously happy to have live music again. You don't know what you've got until it's gone. I believe there has been a positive shift in dynamics as far as the musician/audience interaction is concerned. How musicians feed off the energy of the audience and vice versa can be thought of as a symbiotic relationship. Much like the mitochondria in a cell. Except, audiences seem to be more forgiving of making mistakes live than they used to be in my view. Everyone is happy that everyone who is still with us is back!

I love talking to local artists and Reno is just a short jaunt from Sacramento. Do you have any plans to play alone or with your band in the Sacramento area? When is your next performance?

Yes! Reno is a jaunt away from Sacramento. I have played at the Naked Lounge with the punk rock band, Frankly Fictitious. That was my first "serious" band that old friends of mine formed in high school. The Naked Lounge was on H street if I recall correctly, but it does not exist anymore. I don't plan to play or tour in any serious capacity as a solo artist, but in Cell, most absolutely! Cell is currently working on new material and once we have a full set of original material, I will put my Marketing degree to use for the first time in a long time and set the wheels in motion to perform over the hill. Our next performance would be opening for LA's own Liliac, who famously got started busking at the Santa Monica Pier and subsequently covered Dio's Holy Diver and Rainbow in the Dark, became a YouTube sensation and is now making waves in the industry. We in camp Cell are privileged and excited to open for those cats!

How did you get started playing music?

I love telling this story: During my childhood, I only heard top 40 pop radio. As tantalizing as those nameless female voices were and how scandalous those music videos were, the music didn't resonate with me. It was only when I was 10 years old riding in the backseat of my dad's BMW in the late 2000s, that I discovered the power of Track 7. In this case, Track 7 belonged to The Who's Greatest Hits and was the song, "Won't Get Fooled Again." As the 30-second-long keyboard intro dragged on, I was jolted awake by the power of Pete Townshend's slashing power chord and found 8 more minutes of pure entrancement and ecstasy. At the time, I could not fathom the concept of a song longer than 4 minutes; and then I heard Keith Moon's drum solo. That's when drums came into the picture. What really did me in was that Rock Band came out at this time and had the song, "Won't Get Fooled Again" on it. I was compelled to learn it! So, my goal was set for me then and there. I spent over 2 years playing from the easy to expert setting on Rock Band and those skills translated to the kit more nicely than I would imagine the guitar would. But that's what Rocksmith is for!

Your solo work can be described as unique and quirky. Where do you find inspiration for your music?

For this particular project, my debut solo record, I credit my inspiration to Keith Moon's 1975 solo album, Two Sides of The Moon. The story with that is he was binging with his rich music peers in LA, and then recorded a drunken karaoke session with them. People such as Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh, and Flo & Eddie, of Turtles fame, all starred on that record. They did all kinds of drugs and booze and put out the record, much to the horror and dismay of MCA records. Keith Moon doesn't play drums on quite a bit of the album. So, I took drugs and booze out of the equation and decided to take a similar fun and eclectic approach to the album. I got as many people as I could from Reno's music scene, and got almost no hits or responses back, so most people you will hear on that album are from California. Bastards!

My goal with this record is to leave a memory behind should my career and existence ever fade into obscurity. Maybe someone out there in the future would get some laughs and have a good time out of it whilst scratching their head. I want the record to capture people's attention! It tackles genres as diverse as jazz, Glam Metal, Rock, folk, pop, and rap. There is something for everyone, but not everything for someone!

Conversely, The Band Cell brings to mind Led Zeppelin, Sublime, and some other older bands. What do you like about working with a band? What is next for them?

It is interesting you bring up Sublime. That's a band none of us would imagine being compared to, but as a group, we are androgynous in terms of genre. We would never be picked up by a record label with how we sound now. I'd even argue that's the case for many bands these days, which helps the DIY Independent musician scene that we are seeing now thrive as much as it can in a pandemic/post-pandemic music industry economy.

To answer the question, I find it most valuable to surround myself and connect with people who provide feedback and have a conversation. I like discussing, creating, and overcoming musical differences in a band setting. I like playing with people who grew up playing completely different genres than I do. Doing so fosters a creative, yet frustrating, environment that resolves in the music composed from working in such a way. Being in a band is much like being in a marriage... And I've never been married. I'm too young and financially unstable for that, but that's beside the point. It's like a marriage because there are copious amounts of give and take, it takes time away from doing things you used to be able to get away with, and it produces more debt and liability. That all said, it is most certainly worth it if the right, in this case, group of people comes your way.

What are your future goals for your solo and group career?

A saying in the biz goes somewhat like this: "You've got your whole life to create your first album, and a year or less to follow it up." What that saying means to me is I would be more than happy to be a one-hit wonder as a solo artist. In terms of a career, the goal is to make a living from music. To be financially independent. My dream, however, is to become "The Next Big Thing":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlQLoV4R5yI

As far as being in Cell and in a group, the goal in the short term is to do the best we can with the limited time we have, but in the long term, it's to "Take Over the World" and rock until we drop dead!

Where can we find your music?

People may access all our music on all major streaming platforms. If any reader out there is inclined to buy our music in a physical format, it is rather unfortunately not available for purchase at this point since we do not have enough material, but for my solo career and last band, Frankly Fictitious, you may get physical products on Bandcamp:

https://jonathanlouis.bandcamp.com/ (once the album is complete, I will make physical copies available here)

https://franklyfictitious.bandcamp.com/

To be brutally honest, Bandcamp currently has the fairest pay scale for indie artists that I know of. If there are any struggling or not-so-struggling artists/musicians out there who know of a good company or would like to start a business together that will do an even better job, please send me inquiries.

What's next for me and Cell? Big things. Big things coming soon is the generic answer many will vaguely give their fans. My answer to the audience here is metamorphosis, change, evolution, bigger, better, stronger, power, passion. Drums!

The Band Cell can be seen next on July 28 at the Alturas Bar at 1044 E. 4th St., Reno, NV. More information can be found at thebandcell.com or by emailing Jonathan Louis at jlouisbooking@gmail.com.

Photo credit: Tony Contini




From This Author - Courtney Symes

Courtney Symes is a long-time theatre aficionado who has been writing for BroadwayWorld since 2017. She has been active in theatre and youth organizations in her community. After trying law school,... (read more about this author)


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Just over the Sierra Nevada Mountain range from the Sacramento Valley lies the town of Reno, Nevada. Its proximity to Sacramento makes it a popular destination for entertainment and its casinos attract well-known talent. It was during one of these concerts that serendipity intervened, and I met the charmingly eclectic indie artist, Jonathan Louis. A drummer for a local group called The Band Cell, Louis is branching out into solo territory with new songs “The Next Big Thing,” and “Bouncy.” Broadway World spoke to Louis about the post-pandemic music scene, his quirky style, and how The Who inspired his music career.

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