On Friday night at Berkeley Underground as Drake Bell asked the audience to sing along for his next song, two things happened: First, a cheer of anticipation as he began to play a chord progression that sounded very familiar to millennial ears and second, an “aww” of slight disappointment as he instead began to sing “That Thing You Do” — a song made popular in 1996 by the Tom Hanks movie of the same name.
Less than a line in, he stopped, looking playfully up at the audience. “Oh, wrong song?”
He joked around for another minute before at last launching into “I Found a Way,” known to most of Bell’s fans as the theme song to the 2004 Nickelodeon television show “Drake and Josh” — Bell’s most iconic role.
Such was the feel of Bell’s Friday night concert. He mixed in everything from his own originals to rock ‘n’ roll classics to The Beatles’ “Blackbird” in an energetic show that lasted well into the night.
The event was planned by the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity to fundraise for The Thirst Project, a non-profit organization that works to bring safe drinking water to communities in developing nations. After Phi Kappa Psi and Bell presented The Thirst Project with a check for the $2,500 raised at the concert, the Clog sat down with Bell to talk briefly about the show, his philanthropic involvement and his career.
The Daily Clog: How did you feel about the show last night?
Drake Bell: The show was awesome! I had a great time. It was really fun because it was supposed to be an acoustic show, and I just got the bug and I called up my band, and I was like, “We gotta rock. We gotta rock at this show.” So it was fun! I got to get my band up and play some rock and roll.
CLOG: How long have you been working with The Thirst Project, and how did you get involved with them?
DB: I’ve been working with The Thirst Project since … 2009, I think? Yeah, I guess since 2008 or 2009. I met Seth [from The Thirst Project], and he just kind of told me what he was working on and everything, and it really tugged at my heartstrings and just really inspired me to get involved with the project.
CLOG: What about The Thirst Project do you like so much?
DB: I just think it’s really important because, like what Seth was saying earlier [at the check presentation], everything starts with water. If you don’t have water, then kids aren’t able to go to school, women aren’t able to get work … there’s just a lot it starts. And it’s something that I think could be solved — I think that in our lifetime we may be able to see this crisis actually eradicated. So that’s pretty cool.
CLOG: What do you think of Berkeley?
DB: I love Berkeley. I think Berkeley’s rad! I’ve been up here a few times — I come up north a lot because I’m just from Southern California. So I come here a lot. But I love Berkeley. It’s way different from LA, so that’s cool.
CLOG: How are the students that you’ve met?
DB: The students are great! Everyone’s been really welcoming and cool and fun.
CLOG: What’s your favorite part of doing a show?
DB: The live audience. Just getting an instant reaction off of an audience is the best part, you know? Being in the studio and working on your songs and listening to them back and doing all that — it’s a lot of fun, but having that instant reaction and being able to work and vibe with an audience is the best part.
CLOG: What’s next for you? What are you up to?
DB: I’m working on a couple projects, but I can’t say anything about them though. … I’m Spiderman on Disney XD, which is pretty cool. Mostly just touring, and I’m working on a couple projects that I’m trying to produce for some web series, and stuff like that. I hate this question when I’m doing projects that I’m not allowed to talk about because then I’m like, “I have really cool stuff I want to tell you about, but then I’ll get in trouble!”
CLOG: So we have to ask about “Drake and Josh.” What would you say is one of the most important things you learned from your time with the show?
DB: Probably just a really solid work ethic. You know, when you’re doing a television show — and especially, we started really young, so you know, having to be there at seven in the morning and knowing your dialogue — it’s just a really intense work ethic, I think.
CLOG: You mentioned that you liked the live audience. Is that part of the reason you returned to music?
DB: I’ve always been playing music, I just … I don’t know. There was a big break in between my second record and my third record. There was a long gap, but I was still recording and everything. I think I just didn’t land on a sound that really excited me, you know? And then once I thought, I’m just going to go back to my roots, go back to what I grew up on, go back to what I really, really love playing instead of worrying about what’s on the radio or what other people are doing. The reason I started playing guitar was because I wanted to get up onstage and rock and play rockabilly music and sound like I’m from the ’50s. Definitely, there’s no better feeling. Working on a movie is awesome, working on a TV show is great, but nothing compares to being onstage and going wrowwwwwww [with a guitar strum] and hearing everyone go “waaaaahhhhh!” There’s just nothing better than that.
CLOG: Because it’s instant?
DB: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And also, you’re not just talking to a camera. You’re not doing dialogue that somebody else wrote for you to say. This is the most pure connection you can have with your fans.
CLOG: So do you see music being a part of your future?
DB: Yeah, absolutely. Music will always be a part of my life.
Contact Kelsi Krandel at [email protected].