They’ve Got Spirit
Local pop band Ronen draws inspiration from faith
By Mark RedmondPosted Aug 15, 2012
“Ronen” is a masculine Hebrew name, derived from “ron,” meaning song or joy. It’s also the name of a local Baton Rouge band that’s on the rise.
“We went through a lot of names,” says vocalist, guitarist, and “keys” man Lance Shipp. “That one just happened to stick… It’s the perfect name for our band.”
Shipp and drummer Andrew Linton founded the band in 2009. About a year later, the group released its first EP, Landon, with Shreveport-based sound engineer David Forshee of QueenSix Productions, who Louisiana film fans may remember as the sound designer for Shreveport’s short film Stay With Me.
In February 2011, the band expanded its roster to include bassist John Cleere. Austin Lawrence joined as lead guitarist that summer.
Those who are spiritually inclined could say that Linton and Shipp’s musical relationship was destiny.
“We met at church, actually,” Shipp says of Linton. “I was worship leader; [Andrew and I] had been playing together for years.”
Does that mean that they identify as a Christian band?
“That’s a good question, actually,” Shipp says. “We play music that we think supports us and that people can relate to.”
Shipp mentions Lifehouse, and the relationship is clear. Lifehouse, fronted by Jason Wade, came to prominence in 2001 when “Hanging By a Moment,” the first single from their 2000 album No Name Face, rose to No. 2 on the Billboard Charts (ultimately failing to overcome the popularity of Christina Aguilera, Pink, Lil’ Kim, and Mýa’s powerhouse “Lady Marmalade”). Wade was and is a devout Christian, the son of missionaries, as are the other members of Lifehouse.
Ronen is made up of men of faith, but that doesn’t mean that they are a “Christian band.”
“Sometimes I’ll throw in some references. I think a lot of bands do,” Shipp says.
The band’s spirituality is on display in the lyrics of many of their songs, such as “Noise.”
“I can’t hear you/Can you speak up please?” the singer asks, bringing to mind John Schlitt’s “Show Me the Way” and Michael W. Smith’s “Place in this World.” Knowing that the members of Ronen are believers, the meaning of the song – the yearning of the soul for guidance from a higher power – becomes apparent.
Ronen is separated from Christian music for an important and artistic reason: their lyrics have subtlety. In fact, they bring to mind the early work of early 2000s band Mae, whose 2003 album Destination: Beautiful only betrayed the lyricists’ spirituality in the occasional line.
But Ronen is not an emo band, either – not by a long shot, although they are earnest. Their sound reminds one of a 2002-era Nickel Creek, especially “Illuminate,” which sounds like “This Side” and “Green and Gray.” Other songs like “Blind” sound as if they could be the B-Sides of The Russian Futurists’ twee-pop infused 2010 album The Weight’s on the Wheels, or one of Pop Levi’s more lo-fi singles.
“We have a lot [of shows] coming up,” Shipp is excited to note. Following on the heels of Ronen’s most recent performance at North Gate, the band is set to perform, again at North Gate, on August 16 and September 22.
The band’s sound is not for everyone, but they do make a joyful noise.
Recommended if you like recent Au Revoir Simone, Nickel Creek’s This Side, or fellow Baton Rouge locals Absinthe Green.
August 11, Spanish Moon
August 15 or 18 (TBD), The Varsity Theatre
August 16, North Gate Tavern
September 22, North Gate Tavern