The kind of music The Cell Phones make depends on who you ask. On their Facebook, the local trio (consisting of vocalist Lindsey Charles, drummer Justin Purcell, and bassist Ryan Szeszycki) claims they’ve been called everything from “Post Punk Funk-a-Dunk” to “Mathy Grindcore” to “like Death From Above 1979 and Karen O having sex.” It’s certainly a multifaceted sound with noticeable strains of noise, power punk, new wave, and 60s girl group soul, to name just a few. The band itself tends to simply describe itself as “loud,” which is appropriate because that happens to be the name of the single they recorded for Loud Loop Press. Recorded by our own Damian Wiseman, you can find the track as a free download at the bottom of this page. Before that is a brief conversation with two thirds of the band. They discuss how they came together, their evolution as a group, and how loud sex and intrusive reggaeton inspired their LLP single.
LLP: So tell me a little bit about how you guys formed.
Justin: Well Ryan and I used to play in bands when I was in middle school. We were doing like, punk bands, and then we did a two person instrumental band for a long time. Then we more or less stopped playing music when we went to college. Then when I moved to Chicago, I found out Ryan also lived here and I was like ‘oh maybe we should start playing music again,’ but I thought we should add a vocalist, and I found out Lindsey lived here, and I had sort of known of her from college…
Lindsey: Yeah, we went to college together.
Justin: We didn’t hang out much in college but I’d seen her around and I knew she could sing because I’d seen her in a play. I was thinking ‘oh man that would be the perfect singer for Ryan and I.’
Lindsey: Yeah and I listened to their stuff as their last band. Good/Bad, and it seemed extremely loud and hard to sing to, so I said yes [laughs]. I Immediately wanted to try it out.
LLP: And you’ve been around for six years now. How would you say you’ve changed as a band during that time?
Lindsey: I feel like now we worry a lot less about what’s “cool.” When we started, even when we were making the band name, it was all about ‘what’s cool? What are people going to like?’ And now I feel really confident in the three of us, and I feel like the music that we make is a little more confident, and I think that we worry a little less about how it’s going to look. Now it’s like ‘let’s just go do it.’
Justin: And I think we’ve balanced out to each others’ strengths musically.
Lindsey: I definitely agree.
Justin: Like maybe Ryan and I play a little less loudly now, so you can actually hear Lindsey [laughs].
Lindsey: Yeah they used to not really compromise on the volume, and I used to be like ‘how about we try and let me be in there, let me sing. And now I feel like it’s not a struggle. We used to be a little more bristly about it. Ryan would be loud and be like ‘that’s how I like it!’ Now we just try and do what’s good for everybody.
LLP: Your first album came out in May of 2013, and you’re working on another one?
Lindsey: We have like six or seven songs so far.
Justin: We’re just still in the process of just trying to write as many songs as possible, just to keep moving forward and get the second album out the way I guess [laughs]. We want to avoid the sophomore slump where there are years before the second album.
Lindsey: There are a couple songs that we’ve written where I just like ‘ooooo’, like I’m ready. If we like a song then we’ll play it live. You’re just dying to share it with as many people as possible.
LLP: At this stage, can you draw any comparisons between it and the first album?
Justin: I think it’ll ultimately be better, because the compositions will be better. We’ve gotten better at writing songs in our style. Like, tighter and I don’t know, poppier songs. We want variety.
Lindsey: When I listen to the first one, there’s always parts where I’m like ‘EW! I hate that. I could do better here, I could do better there.’ So as I’m writing these songs I’m thinking of ways that I could improve vocally. I’m trying to one up the other album.
LLP: On the subject of writing, can you take me through the process of creating a Cell Phones song?
Lindsey: We’ve been trying different ways. Usually Ryan will make these really weird, sweeping, super complex parts, and he’ll try to put them together in a structure. Then he’ll either record that or he’ll play it for us at practice and we’ll say ‘I like this. I don’t like this’ and we’ll kind of switch it around. Justin will kind of come with some ideas that he wanted to do with drums and then I will try and come up with a melody. Once that’s all figured out then I sit down and put words to it. That’s usually how it works. I’ve been trying to come to both of them and say ‘hey I’ve got a thing, can we see what we can do?’ We did one good song that way [laughs]. Maybe we’ll have more, who knows? We’re always checking with each other to make sure we like stuff. Our policy is to always give everything a try.
LLP: Finally, can you share the details behind “Loud,” the single you recorded for Loud Loop Press?
Lindsey: The song is about me being loud during sex. Ryan wrote something that was disjointed but had this smooth sexy way about it, and I’d been wanting to write a song about loud sex.
Justin: A big influence on that song was us rehearsing in this space where we could hear the music downstairs at this speakeasy bar.
Lindsey: Oh yeah! The reggaeton.
Justin: We would hear this reggaeton or whatever you call it, all the time coming up through the floor.
Lindsey: When I heard the song and we had it together, it reminded me of good sex. It came really easy. Our favorite songs are the ones that come easy.