Mike Bell, who co-founded Phoenix band Lymbyc Systym and for a time helped book concerts at Yucca Tap Room, died on Thursday, November 10. He was 35 years old.
Bell grew up in Tempe with his brother and eventual bandmate, Jared. The brothers formed instrumental electronic band Lymbyc Systym in 2001. Soon after the formation, the brothers found themselves touring alongside Broken Social Scene, This Will Destroy You, the Album Leaf, and Crystal Castles, among many others. Bell traveled back and forth between Arizona and New York while still creating music for Lymbyc Systym. The band recently released the New Varieties EP on Western Vinyl in August, and their last show was at Bowery Ballroom in New York on March 13.
"I lost my brother and my creative partner," Jared Bell tells New Times. "He devoted his life to making music and was an unstoppable force behind the drums."
The band has yet to release an official statement, but that hasn't stopped members of the Phoenix music scene from paying tribute to him with meaningful memories on their own Facebook pages.
David Moroney of Slow Moses and Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra describes his first encounter with Bell as filled with warmth.
"[He was] on Mill Avenue, jamming tight grooves for some [guys] on a Saturday night with his band, Soaking Fused," Moroney wrote. "He greeted me with a warm smile and an open mind, and proceeded to help steer the direction of my wayward ship into a burgeoning music community here in Phoenix."
Jon McDonald from Crescent Ballroom was a fan of his music before meeting him, which only strengthened their friendship. He says that most of his favorite bands he knows today are all thanks to Bell:
"[I'll remember] all those back-alley conversations that usually ended up with him adding music to my phone and saying 'I can't wait for you to hear this!'"
He goes on to say that since hearing about Bell's passing, he has been listening to so many bands that "if it wasn't for Mike, I would have never known about."
Even the people that didn't know him personally could tell there was something special about him. As a fellow drummer (currently of Genre and previously for PALMS), Derek Cooper recalls that Lymbyc Systym was "one of the most innovative bands in Arizona regardless of popularity or time period." He states that Bell was "a passionate guy. I didn't know him super well but that much was obvious. He knew this scene and all he saw was potential." Cooper believes that Phoenix benefited a lot from Bell's influence.
One word that has continuously popped up in conversation about Bell is "smile." There's no denying that Bell was undeniably courteous to the people around him.
"Even if he was upset, even if he was straight up angry about something, he was somehow still kind. That always tripped me out," Lawrence Hearn says.
Hearn collaborated with Bell in Back Ted-N-Ted and Spirit Cave, along with Ryan Breen.
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"The moments I can recall where he wasn't smiling are far and few in-between, and if he wasn't smiling it probably meant he was just concentrating really hard on something amazing," Hearn wrote. "The image of him laughing - his eyes squinted, the infectious sound - is burned into my mind when his name comes up. If he was laughing, you started laughing; even if you didn't know what you were laughing about."
Another word that keeps appearing is "inspire." Whether he was playing his own music or recommending music for you to listen, he truly inspired people to reach beyond their comfort zone and try something new.
Dario Miranda, founding member of North Brother Island and the ultimate music suggestion guru of Stinkweeds Records, claims that Bell had been delighting him with his music ever since he really started to care about music.
"I don't mourn for what might have been, because Mike had already influenced me in so many ways and was sharing his talent with the whole world," Miranda wrote. "He had true love and passion for music and has left us with so much to hold on to and enjoy."