March 28 2010 12:00 AM

Keeler taps into Water




Ben Keeler has come a long way since his punk-rock days in Lansing.

As a teen, he played in the catchy punk band The Van Ermans. The band would stay together for 10 years and release four albums before parting ways.

In 2008, after graduating from Columbia College in Chicago with a music composition degree, Keeler’s sound began to morph into a polished blend of Sam Cooke-style soul and Tom Waits, while still staying true to his ‘90s alternative roots — which shows in his debut solo album “The Cold” (2008).

Today, at 25, Keeler remains in Chicago where he fronts Ben Keeler & the 500 Club, along with bandmates David Dionise (drums) and Tony Hays (piano/vocals).

The band is set to release “Water Water” at Mac’s Bar on Saturday, March 27. The album features epic production, clever storytelling and brilliant song structures.

The Holt native first began taking music lessons at age 12, but it was a three-chord pop-punk band that really inspired him.

“Green Day was the biggest early influence,” Keeler said. “They were the reason I wanted to start a band and play electric guitar. In high school I listened to a lot of punk rock. Besides that, I listened to a lot of classic rock with my dad and folk with my mom.”

Lansing Community College was Keeler’s next step in his musical progression. The college’s music program exposed him to a broader range of artists.

“I still listened to punk rock, but I began branching out,” he said.

With Keeler’s latest releases, his proper training has been shining through.

“Music school greatly changed my approach to songwriting. During my studies, I was exposed to so much music that changed the way I listen to and write music. Ive also become more methodical with my writing. I began to look further ahead. For ‘Water Water,’ they all start guitar and vocals, but I already had ideas of strings, horns and choir from pretty early on in the process of each song.”

The new album also tells a story of adventure, large bodies of water and everyday life.

“As the title states, ‘Water Water’ has a nautical/water theme,” he said. “The theme of water sort of just happened. I had seen the line, ‘Water water everywhere, but there’s not a drop to drink’ written on a wall at school. I thought it had a nice ring to it. Later found out it was a line from an old poem ‘Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner.’ That became the basis for the rest of the album."

For more information on Ben Keeler & the 500 Club, visit

“Water Water” Release Show, Saturday, March 27 @ Mac’s Bar, 2700 E. Michigan Ave, Lansing Doors 9:30 p.m., $8 adv, $10 at door. 18 .