By Vincent Geerts
Ames247 Staff Writer
The River Monks
Though The River Monks have only been together since November 2009, they have already played many shows. The band performed for the Des Moines Music Coalition’s music festival Gross Domestic Product, Veishea 2010, and many more venues between Des Moines and Ames.
Lead singer and guitarist Ryan Stier said the band has been working hard to get into the bigger shows. He thinks the band’s multiple tours and time spent in the studio has paid off. They were noticed enough to be invited to this year’s 80/35, and are proud to represent local music.
“We’re pretty proud to be from Des Moines,” Stier said. “It’s got a great music scene, and we’re very pleased we got to be a part of that.”
Though he was writing music for years before The River Monks formed, Stier said the band’s music has benefited from its members’ diverse backgrounds. Drummer Joel Gettys has a history in jazz groups, and bassist Drew Rauch toured with southern rock group “An Airbag Saved My Life.” Nicholas Frampton plays guitar, ukulele, and backup percussion, helping to further fill out the group’s folk-indie rock sound.
“We make music that we have fun with,” Stier said. “All of us sing, and there’s a lot of harmony.”
After drawing a large crowd at Gross Domestic Product, the band is ready for any venue. Stier said The River Monks are excited to reach a large audience again, and has no worries about their performance. He looks forward to the festival, and appreciates what it means for local music and the city of Des Moines.
“It’ll be a great weekend for Des Moines,” he said. “It’s good to see the city alive and full of people walking around downtown.”
Guitarist Brant Williams and bassist Jiho Han started making music together in seventh grade, but it was only after they moved on to college that they formed The Workshy. Williams, Han and three other West Des Moines natives will feel right at home when The Workshy performs at this year’s 80/35.
The Workshy performed on the main stage of last year’s 80/35, but the band is happy to move to the new local stage this year.
“I’m excited to be able to represent the Des Moines-area music scene as part of the local stage,” Han said.
“We’ve been playing a lot this summer, so we’re ready to go,” said guitarist Danny Kratzer. “We’ll be nice and warmed up for it.”
Williams, Han and Kratzer work with drummer Evan Cokeley and keyboardist Pete Neel to create their unique brand of rock. They don’t like to put their music in category, but said it could be described as experimental and eclectic with a funky groove. Many songs have strong solo sections focusing on the talents of individual members.
The Workshy have been recording on and off for the last year to piece together their first studio album, which is untitled so far. The band plans to release its new album, along with their website, towards the end of summer.
The band is happy to see 80/35 succeed and proud to be part of the movement.
“If 80/35 keeps growing the way it does, it’s going to put the Des Moines Music Coalition on the map,” Han said.
The Envy Corps
Before 2005, The Envy Corps was just a hobby. Formed in 2001 by Ames native Luke Pettipoole, the band went through many lineup changes before it attained success. With the release of its “I Will Write You Love Letters If You Tell Me To” EP in 2006, the band earned an extended stay on the CMJ Top 200 chart. It also earned an opening spot for The Killers on the band’s U.S. fall tour.
Later, the band signed with the Universal Music UK record label Vertigo Music, and began work on its full-length label debut, “Dwell.” Though the band relocated to the UK for about a year for the release, they returned home shortly after.
Now, the band is excited to begin playing once more in their home state —this time for this year’s 80/35.
“We’re excited to re-greet our fans in Des Moines with new material,” Pettipoole said. “It’s been a long time.”
It won’t be the first time The Envy Corps has entertained a crowd at 80/35. The band made appearances in 2008 and 2009. The members are excited to bring their “bombastic, densely-layered indie rock” back onto the scene, but they have work to do, Pettipoole said.
“There’s tons of stuff that’s gotta get ironed out,” Pettipoole said. “There’s a lot of software elements to the music, and we have to make sure the tech is ready.”
After years in production, The Envy Corps’ latest album was recently finished. It will be called “It Culls You.” The band will spend a lot of time before the festival rehearsing the new material. Pettipoole said 80/35 will be the first time many of the tracks are going to be played live.
He believes that 80/35 means a lot to Des Moines, and is impressed with what has been accomplished.
“It takes a lot of time and work to set up,” Pettipoole said. “It’s great that Des Moines is carving itself out a spot in the Midwest as a place to play music.”
Christopher the Conquered
From 2006 to 2008, Christopher the Conquered was a one-man band. By himself, Chris Ford recorded two albums and played many shows; but he wouldn’t be alone forever. He still writes all of his own music, but Ford said he now has a “loyal group” of seven other musicians to back him up on the stage and in the studio.
By the end of the year, Ford hopes to have finished the new album, titled “Christopher the Conquered and his Black Gold Brass Band Decide the Fate of a Good Man.” He said the title of the new album now includes the Black Gold Brass Band because of the part the band has played in the album’s creation.
“The album really features horns in a big way. There’s a lot of intense arrangements,” Ford said. “It should be really exciting for people who like horns.”
Ford said he puts himself into his music, and his lyrics aren’t about your average topics.
“I write pop songs with as much of my soul as I can force into them,” he said. “I like to put bigger questions into a funny, witty and satirical setting.”
Ford said he has no worries about the upcoming performance, and is happy for the audience and artists alike.
The Poison Control Center
Members of Ames band The Poison Control Center are veterans of the 80/35 music festival, having played a show every year since its inception in 2008. The band has taken its rowdy rock-and-roll style all over the states since its first national tour in 2004, but bassist Joey Terry said the band always looks forward to coming back.
Even before the band was sure it would perform for 80/35, it had a scheduled visit to Iowa during the festival.
Wherever it goes, The Poison Control Center represents its state and shows people what the Central Iowa music scene has to offer. Terry said the band members always tell people they’re from Central Iowa, and set out to provide an unforgettable show.
“Even if they don’t remember the band name, we want them to remember that loud, rowdy and fast band from Central Iowa.”
The band has a long tour schedule. They stop in California, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Texas and Missouri before they return. When members aren’t on the road, they’re recording. The Poison Control Center’s latest album, “Stranger Ballet,” was released less than a month ago after finishing studio work during the tour’s year-end break.
The Poison Control Center is proud to perform once again for the music scene developing in Des Moines.
“The festival is an example of what’s possible for a central Iowa band to do,” Terry said. “It’s beyond just playing around town or playing a local club.”