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Particle Devotion

The Louisiana-Bred Band Talks Southern Sounds

It’s unfortunately easy for the Baton Rouge music scene to be overshadowed by the rich musical history of New Orleans. Though the Crescent City is the birthplace for many of the country's most legendary performers, the Boot's capitol is seriously gaining ground for its artistic outputs. One local band is making it their mission the bridge the gap between these two cities, while thinking ahead for eventual word domination. 


Particle Devotion is headed up by Brian Bells (vocals, rhythm/acoustic guitar, lead guitar, lead composer), a Baton Rouge native who found solace in the band following his return to his hometown. Rounding out the lineup is Clyde Bates (Synthesizer, sampler, percussion, saw), Ryan Erwin (Guitar, vocals, synthesizer), Nate Mackowiak (Bass), and Isaac Johnston (Drums). Below, the guys talk about life on the road, and how their time at LSU helped shape their sound. 


NOLA Defender (NoDef): So what is the idea that inspired the self-titled album?


Brian Bell: It was a collection of songs I wrote in Tampa, Florida. It’s kind of a love record about uh, lost love.


NoDef: Can you share a bit about the origins of the self-titled album that gave birth to the band? 


Brian Bell: I was a drunk. [Band laughs] I was a drunk and I burned my life to the ground. 


NoDef: So you were a drunk at LSU? What frat were you in? 


Brian Bell: I was in the percussion studio. That's what frat I was in. 


Clyde Bates: That’s a fuckin' frat. That’s a secret underground frat, for sure.


NoDef: So, from my understanding the band formed out of Baton Rouge?


Brian Bell: This whole thing was found around, more or around, less the school of music, like all of us meeting in music school and then taking those relationships and kind of like doing something different and new with those relationships.


Clyde Bates: Ryan’s the only one who’s really not an LSU alumni. 


In fact, Clyde is the only band member who resides in New Orleans. Despite hailing from many different parts of the country, members of Particle Devotion are committed to the Baton Rouge sound.


Years ago, residents to used to joke that the downtown center of Baton Rouge was a good place to get off the grid. Nowadays, the downtown of the capitol city is becoming home to an increasingly popular music scene, and the guys behind Particle Devotion are proud pioneers. 


Ryan Erwin: You know, you can make a normal income. You make a normal income doing what we’re doing. It’s not like embarrassing, I’m a musician. People are like oh that’s cool, that’s pretty common. That’s like normal and fun. And people are like "Haha, how are you gonna make a living? Music is cute, like how you gonna be a normal adult and make music?!" You can’t either fathom whether you’re poor or you’re a rock star rolling in millions. Most people who do the kinda music we do, they're like us. They’re normal people just trying to make a living.


Though deeply embedded in the Baton Rouge sound and scene, they're not limited by the city. Nor do they reject the musical promised land that New Orleans offers to so many other artists. 


Clyde Bates: What this band is trying to do, you can’t really differentiate between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.


Ryan Erwin: These are two cities very close together, and [we] play both cities.


Brian Bell: The band is from different places. We grew up in different places, and we met in Louisiana, and we really loved it here. I think we’re a band that plays New Orleans, but not a New Orleans band.


The band is thinking far beyond the Boot, as well. Their first self-titled album which debuted in October 2015, following Bell’s departure to Tampa, offers a lush indie sound that is simply too big, too professional, and too conceptual to be confined to the south. 


Ryan Erwin: In reality, he [Bell] wrote the album in Baton Rouge, but his mind was in Tampa. 


The sound explored in Particle Devotion’s debut is reminiscent of the sunny suburban-gone-beach party vibe one might associate with Tampa. Bell serves as the band’s immemorial Floridian version of Kurt Cobain, descending upon collegiates to let them reign free on his compositions.


The freedom and precision with which the band members explore Bell's heartfelt compositions are telling of the band’s impressive musical backgrounds. LSU’s School of music has always lived up to its reputation as one of the most influential music programs in the country. Other influential Baton Rouge musicians such as Scott Graves (drums) and Jon Cleary (bass) seem to show up at every other Particle Devotion gig to pay tribute.  


Particle Devotion is currently at work on another album that promises to be more reflective of their late night travels between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The band has also been amassing an impressive touring repertoire that rivals the best of New Orleans’s musicians.  


You can see them perform live at Siberia on June 22nd. Details here


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Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde


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Michael Weber, B.A.


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Linzi Falk

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Alexis Manrodt

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