An Interview with Dave Kellan of The Dave Kellan Band

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Forward by Angela Daly:

I’ve always been a big supporter of local bands. In the time that spanned between the age of fourteen into my early twenties, there was hardly a weekend that passed where I didn’t take the long trek from my home in the Rockaway’s, Queens to some grungy venue in one of the five boroughs of NYC to listen to a local band. There were several weeks a month where I may have even gone to two to three shows in one week. I’ve always loved music, and really appreciated that seeing it live garnered the type of energy that could never quite be captured on a recording. Most of those local bands are now sadly distant memories for most, but I’ll never forget any of them! My adolescence would’ve never been the same had it not been for those local bands. One of those friends that I came to know in several capacities as I went to his shows at venues and in backyards was Jesse Katz, the bassist for The Dave Kellan Band.

When Jesse started “checking in” at different venues in Long Beach, and posting recordings of his sets with The Dave Kellan Band, I immediately identified that while this group was a local band per se, they were really something special. I’ve listened to their music through Facebook for a number of years now, and absolutely cannot wait to again make the long trek, only much further this time from our apartment in Hampton Bays, to Long Beach to listen to yet another local band when the world is normal again and The Dave Kellan Band is ready to start doing their thing again. Only, this time, it will feel just a little bit different because we’ve had the pleasure of interviewing both Jesse Katz and Dave Kellan now, which has allowed me to really get to now both of these artists on a deeper level; this will certainly add to the listening experience and help add to my gallery of everlasting memories of time spent enjoying music as it is best enjoyed: live. When Andrew and I started Vinyl Writer, one of the first things I said to him was, “You gotta interview The Dave Kellan Band. They’re awesome!” I’m thrilled to finally have the chance to show the world just how awesome this band is!

If you live in the NY/NJ/PA/CT area, you most definitely want to catch a show featuring any grouping of the members of The Dave Kellan Band. It’s a weekend or day trip you won’t regret. These guys are musical animals, and they hardly ever miss a chance to get together to play and experience that magic together. If you don’t believe me, just wait until you see what their show listing will look like once things are back to normal again! Check out their website here, their Facebook page here, and then give this interview a read. I’m sure that by the end of this, you will agree with me that Dave Kellan is one impressive guy! Enjoy!

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Image Credit: Kdinan Photography

Andrew:
Dave, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. It’s been some year, hasn’t it? What have you been doing to keep your mind off the ever-raging dumpster fire?

Dave:
Hey Andrew, thanks so much for reaching out man! This year has been tough no doubt, but the Kellan family has persevered and have been blessed considering. We sold our place in Long Beach right before the pandemic hit in early March. Talk about luck. We then bought and moved into a house out East at the end of July, literally the day before my wife went into labor with our second daughter, Gracie Rose. So, I’ve been laying low with the family, like I think most of us are these days! Some gigs here and there but I’m trying to be selective about that out of concern for my family’s health. I have a cochlear implanted daughter named Paisley Jane. She also has balance issues, so I have been present for all of her virtual classes at the Cleary School for the Deaf and all of her early intervention speech/physical therapy sessions every week. Many people do not have that luxury unfortunately. 

On a high note, in April, I submitted a parody of a James Taylor tune called “Frozen Man” for a challenge James created on his Instagram. He then put it on his Instagram movies/regular page. It was called, “Wash Your Hands.” LOL. James then promoted a James Taylor Tribute band I sing the lead in called Hourglass. They are a stellar group of world class musicians that I’m proud to work with. Some of the guys are associated with The New York Funk Filharmonik. I’m usually not one for tribute bands, but I love his music and that band has been a growing experience. It’s taught me so much as far as chord vocabulary and composition goes. We did a virtual show at 89 North in November before Thanksgiving. He also reposted a version of “God Bless The Child” I did for another standards challenge on his page and Instagram Movies around Christmas time. I saw he followed me on Instagram so I figured I had better participate in that challenge as well! 

On another note, I just set up a studio in my basement and recorded a Van Halen cover of “Ice Cream Man” for a Long Island Van Halen tribute album coming out soon. So, that was good to get the studio chops rocking again and all for a great cause. The  proceeds from the Long Island Van Halen Tribute Album will go to lung cancer research, the cancer Eddie Van Halen died from. So, the year was still kind of busy. I also finally have an original EP coming out and many of the tracks are basically done for that now.

Andrew:
Tell us a bit about your backstory. How did you get into music?

Dave:
At the age of five, my parents bought me the MJ Thriller album, which I listened to and sang along with for days on end. I was hooked. Prior to that, my parents had a bunch of old vinyl, Simon and Garfunkel, Elvis, The Beatles, that we’d listen to as a family. My grandmother was always singing and playing piano. We had a piano and old organ in our house. She actually sang on the local radio station in Northern Michigan in the 30s when she was a little girl. On a funny note, I bought The Ultimate Sin by Ozzy Osbourne at the age of 6 and my younger sister got Shout at the Devil by Motley Crue. Talk about some bad ass little rockers! I also loved to listen to the radio as a kid and then my grandmother bought me my first guitar, the Alamo guitar, when I was 7. I was entranced, but my hands were really small and I didn’t have the patience to continue at that young age. This was way before the Internet or YouTube generation. I had two years of alto sax in elementary, three years of piano, but guitar was my passion when I picked it up again at the age of 13.   

Andrew:
As an artist, who are some of your earliest influences? As you’ve evolved musically, how have those influences changed?

Dave:
My influences as a kid in the 80s were again Michael Jackson but then I remember the videos for Beastie Boys, Peter Gabriel, Madonna, George Michael, Paul Simon, Whitney (The golden age of MTV). Then the network went to Hair Metal bands like Poison, Warrant and all the crap they were playing. Learning guitar, I then went into heavier bands like Metallica, Tool, Pantera and any of the bands that were on the MTV Headbangers Ball. I was a product of then really getting into Grunge bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam and also Punk bands like Green Day, Rancid and Offspring. When CDs replaced tapes, I had the first Blind Melon album with the Bee Girl on the cover. Then I went out and bought all the Death Row stuff like The Chronic and Doggystyle. That stuff was really happening at that time.

My uncle Joel played trumpet in a World Beat/Reggae band and I always looked up to him for that. They played over 2,000 shows including being featured on Conan O’Brien in the 90s. I loved to watch him play festivals growing up. He was heavy into Jazz and could play lines inspired my Miles and Dizzy. By the time I was 15, I was really into Classic Rock influences like Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and the Allman Brothers. I also was a fan of Clapton and Cream. There’s too many to list, but I listened to a mix of everything. Hendrix, SRV, Pink Floyd, Psychedelic Rock, Clapton, James Taylor, Blues, evolving into Jazz, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Django Reinhardt, evolving into jam bands like the Grateful Dead and going to a lot of Phish shows by the time I was 17.

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Andrew:
Tell us about the story of The Dave Kellan Band. How did the band come together? What are the origins?

Dave:
After Gutbucket broke up, it was basically keeping the same bass player and getting a different drummer to just do my original tunes in Michigan. I was always writing and people knew my name regionally from winning the Mid Michigan Idol contest, so I also got different members of the musical community in the nearby Saginaw area to join the band as well. After I moved to NY from MI, I started playing with my roommate Eamon Ellams in Queens after playing with a handful of other drummers and bassists and we just really hit it off, on stage and off. One day, our then bassist was too scared to play a gig in Long Beach because he owed someone money and was living in fear. LOL. Jesse Katz subbed and came in knowing a bunch of my originals already. We all locked in that day and have been playing together ever since. We then added our key player/percussionist Jerome Morris from collective wedding bands we’ve been in, the Bombzr Funktastik horns Jesse Klirsfeld on trumpet and Rich Bomzer on sax. I had known Klirsfeld for a minute because he is a near and dear friend and one hell of a trumpet player. We were playing Finn Fest and Klirsfeld had Bomzer join us for that performance without ever meeting him. The band was on fire that night with no rehearsal because Rich is just that talented. We have an awesome violinist, Nick Sidoti, that just moved to AZ. He and I initially had an eclectic acoustic duo that was doing well, so he joins the band whenever he can. Nick also helps with booking shows and tons of other stuff. We also have honorary member and Jazz phenom Karel Ruzicka involved from time to time on sax as well as Aaron Hollon on trombone. It’s quite a sound when we all can get together but it’s usually a combination of Ellams, Katz, and I with whomever else is available the day of the gig.

Andrew:
You’ve shared the stage with the likes of Joe Bonamassa, cut demos for Robert Bradley and opened for Uncle Kracker, as well as Bowling for Soup. What where those experiences like?

Dave:
Joe Bonamassa was awesome to hang out with backstage when members of Gutbucket were all barely 20. Joe was really just starting to make a bigger name for himself. He told us about British Blues influences, but we didn’t quite get it back then because we were so into the Hendrix and SRV. I understood later what he was talking about and now love the British influence. When I met Robert Bradley, that was with Gutbucket, and we really hit it off. We cut the demo for RCA records and that began a lifelong friendship. I went on tour with Robert out to Colorado and back. I even opened up for him at the Bluebird Theater in Denver solo on a whim in front of 1,500 people when I was 21. It went really well and I am indebted to him for those opportunities to this day. He literally is my blind black soul brother and that is no joke. Robert Bradley taught me that music is indeed colorblind. He even came to my mother’s funeral. I think he is back in Detroit now.

I met Uncle Kracker after opening up for him at the winner winner jam after I won mid Michigan Idol in 2001. He wasn’t quite sure who I was, and that was an awkward experience, but I opened up for them again years later. That same gig, I smoked weed with Bowling for Soup in the men’s locker room and they were really cool. Some down-home punks from Dallas Texas, as I recall. Anyway, super cool dudes. Some more recent events that were cool was when Robert Randolph sat in with The Dave Kellan Band a few years ago at Brixx and Barley in Long Beach, New York. He seemed to love the band and vibed with the fellas. When we performed in Nola, Walter Wolfman Washington saw the band after he performed on the Congo stage in a club in mid city and we hit it off with him as well.

Andrew:
How have you progressed as an artist since your first album with Gutbucket?

Dave:
I think I just moved on a little bit from the Blues. Brett Mitchell and Jake Krull were the backbone and we all had similar interests at that time to make it a Blues power trio. The Blues and Classic Rock was the building block of Gutbucket and then everything after fell into place as a multi genre periscope. I got really into Jazz even though I’m still not a Jazz player. I also got into Country; it’s storytelling. I guess you gotta look at people like Stevie Wonder and these other artists in that vein who can do just about anything. That’s the headspace I’d like to be in, even though I’m nowhere close as an artist. You just have to keep writing and staying positive about your inner voice. If you can conceive it, then you may be able to trap it on wax, and that’s a fun inspirational place to start. I recently heard once you label me, you negate me. Progression from technical aspects would be learning more deviated syncopations and time signatures. That doesn’t always fall into my writing but definitely expanding my musical vocabulary and chord voicings has.

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Image Credit: Michael Anderer

Andrew:
As a guitarist, who are some of your greatest influences?

Dave:
Definitely my friends and teachers first. There’s an amazing Classical guitarist named Bradley De Roche who is one of my first teachers in Michigan. Bryan Rombalski is a Buddhist guru guitar/musical mentor in Mid Michigan who taught me so many awesome sonic shapes to express myself. He has given me the courage to almost sound like someone who knows something about Jazz phrasing. LOL. But, if you want to go back to Kurt Cobain, Billie Joe Armstrong, previously the hair bands and anyone who is playing on the early Michael Jackson stuff via Quincy Jones, the obvious ones are there with Hendrix, SRV, the Allman Brothers band, David Gilmour, Jerry Garcia, Django Reinhardt and Derek Trucks. Any of the funky guys who played the Chitlin Circuit and developed R&B and Funk phrasing like Steve Cropper from the Stax sessions. But then the best ones to listen to are guitarists that don’t sound like guitarists, like Allan Holdsworth and players of that nature that transcend the instrument into using it as a horn-like device. Jimmy Herring is my favorite player by far because I’ve met him so many times and he treats you like a friend. Even after a long gig, he’s got a smile on his face and a humble attitude. He is one of the best players on the planet (he’s mercurial and can play in any genre, but still has his own sound, if that is even possible), and one of the kindest people. A true southern gentleman if you will. That’s a great place to be in.

Andrew:
What are a few albums that mean the most to you and why?

Band of Gypsies by Jimi Hendrix for the raw intensity. Blind Melon because it was the first CD I owned. Wish You Were Here, Dark Side of the Moon, James Taylor’s first Greatest Hits for the dynamics and singer songwriter clinic. Clapton Unplugged, which I listened to all Summer after I graduated high school, so that one holds a place in my heart. I’m overwhelmed here. Deja Vu by CSNY and Harvest by Neil Young resonated deeply in my teens.

Andrew:
Let’s switch gears a bit now. Tell me your thoughts on the current state of the music scene these days? What’s it like out there for an indie artist?

Dave:
The scene is what you make of it. Everyone has a chance to play the different genres they are inclined to play. For social media, you can entice even the small niche group and get a great following if you are honest about your craft. I still play a lot of solo bar shows, so it’s always a fine balance of doing covers in your own style and still playing a few originals mixed in per set if possible. The landscape has definitely changed, but people still value live music and that has been my bread and butter for 20 years now. Well…not this year. LOL. Just gotta keeping fighting the good fight and be honest. It’s worked so far. I think we may be on the age of another live music renaissance because people have been cooped up for so long.

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Andrew:
Are you into vinyl? Taps? CDs? Or are you all digital now? Where do you like to shop for music?

Dave:
I’m very digital now because of all the moving. I love the warmth of analog and definitely want to get a vinyl collection going someday. Sadly, all digital at this point for convenience sake.

Andrew:
Once COVID-19 is finished with us, what’s next for both you and the band?

Dave:
Releasing the EP and really networking the original music to my friends and colleagues I have been blessed to know since I started playing. Again, the honesty is what I have in my music. The melody and groove is still inside me after all these years, and I am still inspired to share my music with the world whenever it presents itself. Proactive is the goal. The guys in the band are all pretty much bandleaders in their own right, so we all will have to revolve around each other’s schedules the best we can. Rich Bomzer wanted to do a track with me involving his band Bombzr, so we will see where that leads. He’s a great producer and writer, so that sounds like a blast.

Andrew:
Last question. What advice do you have for young artists just getting started out in the business?

Dave:
I would say to make sure to always listen to music you love and what moves you. Don’t listen to others try to tell you what should inspire you. Everyone these days is a self-proclaimed expert online and the naysayers are prevalent everywhere. However, that is not final say on where you are in any particular day as an artist. One can paint sonically and dance to the beat of their own drum at any given moment they feel like. The technology is here. So, own that and keep moving forward. Those that have a negative energy on your craft will eventually move to another dimensional plane either way. It’s music baby. LOL. Let it flow and water will seek its own level if you let it.

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Interested in diving deeper into the work of Dave Kellan? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. After losing his life-long vinyl collection in 2014, Andrew began his vinyl collection from scratch again when he met his future wife Angela in 2015. Andrew’s love of music only further blossomed as his collection spanned all genres possible. After amassing 5,000 albums, Andrew knew it was time to finally follow his dream, and thus, Vinyl Writer Music was born. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict, for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island with his wife Angela and their four cats, Oliver, Patrick, Charlie, and Kevin. Andrew works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night. Andrew is also the admin of several Facebook groups dedicated to music.

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