Tuesday, May 11, 2021

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Sound Circuit

The music of Night Stories


It was a sunny Monday afternoon, and Phil Young and Greg Meister had asked me to meet them at Woodland Cemetery. The location is near Young’s Sherman Hill home, and it seemed like a fitting area to discuss Night Stories, The Wheelers duo’s side project is creating horror movie-inspired music.

The concept started after Meister moved back to Des Moines from Kansas City. Young and Meister have been friends since middle school and were messing around musically in the latter’s home one day when he hit on a spooky keyboard riff.

They are both fans of horror films featuring synth-based scores popularized by John Carptenter. You can hear that in the tracks from Night Stories’ first EP, “Night Stories Vol. 1.”

“If John Carpenter liked to party, it would sound like Night Stories,” Meister said.

The band’s first gig was doing a live score for the 1922 silent film “Nosferatu.” Since then, the band has focused on creating experiences that fit with two imaginary movies, “Graverobbers From Outer Space II” and “Spelunking With Demons.”

Prep Iowa

Note the “Vol. 1.” Meister and Young have plenty of other ideas.

“We probably come up with a new horror movie every week,” Young said.

Night Stories only performs in October or on Friday the 13th. This year October has a Friday the 13th, which will mark the band’s tape release show at Vaudeville Mews. The band also performs Oct. 14 at The Octopus in Cedar Falls, Oct 21 at Black Sheep, Oct. 28 at Black Lodge 2 (Crane Artist Lofts) and Oct. 31 at The Lift.

Young said there aren’t any plans to move Night Stories into non-October/Friday the 13th performances.

“A thing I’ve noticed locally is there comes a point with a new band where you start to get asked to play all the time, and you lose that season of regenerative creativity that comes when you aren’t playing every other week,” Young said. “Nine-tenths of the year it’s just Greg and I hanging out, watching scary movies and stewing on ideas.”

Horror films often play on the trope of “The Final Girl,” the lone, normally female protagonist who makes it to the end of the story and (usually) survives. Think Laurie Strode in “Halloween” or Nancy Thompson in “The Nightmare on Elm Street.”

So the question has to be asked, who is the final girl of Night Stories’ fictional films? Could it be Young or Meister?

“We’re the monsters,” Meister said with a Mona Lisa smile. “You’re the final girl.”

Oh, God, is this why they suggested we meet in a cemetery? Where did Young get that axe? Who are these people in robes?

Joe Lawler was a music writer from Des Moines. Some people might miss him. ♦

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