When Kaustubh "Stubhy" Pandav and Adam Krier wrote songs for west suburban-based rock band Lucky Boys Confusion, their melodies were never quite complete until guitarist Joe Sell got a hold of them.
"Joe would add the attitude and the swagger to it," Pandav said.
Sell, a self-taught guitarist with the local band that made it big with songs like "Fred Astaire" and "Dumb Pop Song," was found dead on Chicago's West Side Tuesday.
Following an autopsy, a cause of death for the 33-year-old Naperville resident was pending toxicology test results. Officials said he had been found on the 2700 block of West Superior Street, which Pandav said is close to the band's rehearsal space.
Friends and family say Sell had a natural talent for music, learning piano at a young age, then teaching himself guitar as a teen while attending Naperville Central High School.
In 1997, he and other local musicians formed Lucky Boys Confusion, which went on to record two albums with Elektra Records and tour nationwide with their blend of punk, rock and ska.
Pandav said his friend had the rare gift of perfect pitch and a keen understanding of his craft.
"One of the greatest memories I will always have of him is showing him a song, and while I'm showing it to him you could see his mind working and writing his parts in his head," he said. "It was just brilliant. To watch him work, he really was a wonderful guitar player, a wonderful musician."
In the past four years or so, the band had become a part-time gig for its five members, and Pandav said they played about a dozen shows a year including one just weeks ago in Urbana.
The guitarist had been hospitalized earlier this year for troubles with his pancreas, Pandav said, but seemed to be feeling better.
Sell continued to live in Naperville and had recently started a job at Caribou Coffee, according to sister, Karen Gutierrez, 27. She said her brother had battled drug addiction, but was excited to be getting back on his feet.
Gutierrez said she will remember her brother as "the calm in the storm."
"He was the best listener," she said. "He was the best big brother. He would sit and talk for hours and he always offered the best advice. There was not a mean bone in his body."
When he wasn't playing guitar, Sell could often be found with his head buried in a book.
"He could take complex challenging books that take people months to go through and would read them in a few hours," Gutierrez said.
Carrie Soukup, 31, of Austin, Texas, met Sell about a decade ago while he was reading the work of Jack Kerouac in a Missouri coffee shop before a concert.
The two instantly bonded and she started taking in Lucky Boys Confusion shows whenever she got the chance.
"He was brilliant," she said. "If it was his time to shine he took it over and you couldn't take your eyes off him."
Gutierrez said her family appreciates the kind words friends and fans have been leaving on Sell's Facebook page.
Visitation for Sell will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at Grace Pointe Church, 1320 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville.
Funeral services will follow at 10 a.m. Saturday at the church.