Lindsey Charles of the Cell Phones writes high-energy grindcore-meets-powerpop that utilizes her explosive vocal style, ranging from a dulcet croon to murderous shriek with bipolar ease. The Cell Phones create raucous live shows that get even the stiffest crowd dancing and thrashing.
Hear Lindsey's unique vocals in a rare stripped-down set at the Songwriter Showcase, along with Dave Davison (Maps & Atlases), Justin Petertil (Love Raid), and Nick Ammerman (Square Quotes) at Elastic Arts on April 24, 2015, 9pm.
How old were you when you wrote your first song? How did it turn out?
I was probably in high school. Dad bought me a guitar that I still have and can't play very well, and I wrote lots of songs about unrequited love because that's all that was going on at the time. They were all extremely pitiful and I don't remember a single one.
How has your songwriter changed over the years?
Well, she knows there's more to write about than heartbreak, that's for sure. I used to be afraid to share my songs because I didn't think they were good enough and I was super nervous about what people would think. Now, I feel a bit more loose about it. With The Cell Phones, I can get silly, personal, frustrated, whatever I'm feeling in the lyrics. Ryan and Justin are very supportive and play crazy good music, and when the support and music are good, the lyrics just come naturally. They still don't come so well when it's just me, though. But I'm working on that.
Do have a typical process for writing a new song? Do you start with the music or an idea of what the song will be about?
Ryan (Szeszycki, bass player for the Cell Phones) usually comes to me and Justin (Purcell, drummer for the Cell Phones) with a messy pile of riffs, and I pick and choose what I like, we agree on a song structure, and then once it's pinned down, I'll start to match the words with how the song feels. Sometimes I have an idea to begin with, and sometimes I have to really coax the words out. Sometimes I have to wrestle with it for weeks and change parts to make it work. I do try and write the song before bringing in Ryan and Justin, but it's only worked once, but it worked really well that one time!
Has any artist particularly influenced your songwriting?
I'm a big fan of girl group music like the Shangri-Las and The Crystals, and I love Lesley Gore, there was a lot of great writing there about being in (or out) of love. Karen O inspires me for being able to say a lot with so few words. I also love Devo, they can write about anything and make it catchy and meaningful. And T. Rex. Always T. Rex. He had so much fun with his lyrics and I try to do the same.
What song or songs would you like played at your funeral?
Lou Reed, "Walk on the Wild Side", T. Rex, "Life is Strange" and "Cosmic Dancer", David Bowie "Lady Stardust" and more of the same. The dramatic stuff. For a dramatic lady.