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Sound Circuit

Homeward bound

3/12/2014

The River Monks plays both the Temple for Performing arts and Gas Lamp on March 13. Photo by Bruce Bales

The River Monks plays both the Temple for Performing arts and Gas Lamp on March 13. Photo by Bruce Bales

“Jovials” was a good album for The River Monks in 2011. The debut effort was almost universally praised, and the album directly led to The River Monks being tapped to write intro themes for Iowa Public Radio shows “River to River” and “Talk of Iowa.”

And while The River Monks don’t stray too far from that winning formula for this year’s “Home is the House,” how they got there is a different story.

“We’ve been recording it for about a year now,” said vocalist/guitarist Ryan Stier. “We recorded some of it in Nashville and some in Iowa.”

The process was split between Iowa and Tennessee, because various parts of the band now call one of the two states home. Not only does that limit practice and collaboration time, but it means that studio time is at a premium.

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“We had to approach it very differently,” Stier agreed. “For the first album we all lived in the same place, so we kind of recorded it at our leisure. This time, we had to really have our ducks in a row before (recording.)”

That transient effect, shuttling back and forth between Nashville and Des Moines, had an obvious influence on the album from its very beginning, as “Home is the House” addresses feelings of family and belonging.

“It’s about the subject of ‘home’ and what it means to all of us, both individually and as a band,” Stier explained. “We’ve all moved from one place to another, so really the album is kind of an exploration of what ‘home’ means to all of us. I don’t think there’s one answer.”

Whatever topic The River Monks is exploring at a given time, the band’s distinctively textual, unconventional sound is mainly the product of its songwriters. Stier and guitar/vox/uke man Nick Frampton handle most of the lyrical duties, but The River Monks has always been a bit more co-op than that.

“Everyone brings their own personality in the band,” Stier said. “Everyone’s a great musician, so Nick and I both definitely invite everyone to come put their mark on each song. No song is exactly as I pictured it when we’re done.”

The band released its first single from the album, “Beasts,” for free on Bandcamp, and now the group is gearing up for a two-week Midwest tour in support of the album’s impending release. But wherever The River Monks go, the musicians are always thinking about home. CV

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