Dustin Smith and Andy Poppen (of the Maytags)

The Maytag's are a Des Moines-based band, heavily influenced by their soulful Midwest roots. Dustin Smith (lead vocalist) and Andy Poppen (trumpeter) are both members of the band and talked with me a few weeks ago about living and creating in the Midwest. Enjoy!

On living and creating in the Midwest for New York City.

Dustin: The biggest thing that I tell people is that in New York you feel bound my different people's expectations. Here in Des Moines, it's a wide open canvas where you have space to find your voice. 

Andy: I think there's a sincerity that comes with a Midwest upbringing and that honesty and simplicity lends itself to creating good art. In New York, the guy sitting next to you on the subway is working on a project and chances are someone else is already doing what you want do. There are clear cut rules and clear standards out there, but in Des Moines we can create within our own context. We can do exactly what we want to do and perhaps, become successful in a way that would be more restricted in a larger city.

On having a Midwest sound.

Dustin: When we first started the Maytag's, I was very aggressive about following in the footsteps of the Alabama Shakes. Their sound and style resonated hard with me because it was drawing from so many different elements of music. We ended up going to Nashville and recording in the same studio that they did and even that studio had this undefinable sense of are you rock, are you country, are you soul, or are you blues?

Our process is very unforced and while we definitely push towards recording and creating in a particular style, it's all a product of the places we call home. We're not intentionally trying to create a Midwest sound. 

On how they describe the sound of the Maytag's.

Andy: Even though some people want to put us in the "soul music" box, we steer clear of that if we can.

Dustin: I describe our sound as "soulful." I think that soulful and soul music are two very different things. Stylistically, we come from a lot of genres and rock n roll is maybe the easiest way to sum it up to people when they ask about our genre.

On living in Des Moines

Dustin: When I first moved back to Des Moines, I was thinking it'd be short term. I was over New York and was thinking about moving to Portland or San Francisco, but being back here changed my mind. I fell in love with that sense of pride and community that is so prominent here. As we tour more and more, it's nice having Des Moines as our home base.

Andy: I think idea that there are certain locations where music happens and certain places where it doesn't happen isn't true anymore. The only thing you need to make good music is an environment that inspires you and while for many, many people that means New York, we've found you can find that inspiration here in Des Moines. 

Dustin: There are people here that are pushing the music scene forward, both Amedeo Rossi and Jill Haverkamp are doing this and providing musicians with platforms for them to step onto. 

But while the city brings me joy, one thing it lacks is infrastructure. There are people investing in the scene, but it's not comparable to Nashville or New York City. When you're getting your feet wet in Nashville, it's easy to quickly connect to publicists and management, but we don't have that pipeline here. But I'm okay with being a force to help build that infrastructure and to help future generations of musicians find their footing.

Andy: Speaking from personal experience, I know that a lot of different bands are hungry for that infrastructure. It can be hard to know what to do without people in the industry who can advise you. Otherwise i's all trial and error. 

Dustin: As our population grows, it's only natural that more venues will open and more festivals will come here. It's really just a matter of time until Des Moines has that infrastructure.

Also I don't know man, but as of late there are things happening here that make me think we're getting to closer to having our own sound in Des Moines. I just feel like we're getting close to having that here. That excites me! 

In a previous interview you said wanted your music to help people "feel human." Can you talk about that some more?

Dustin: It's kind of like my motto. It's about creating a sense of honesty as a band. I enjoy surrounding myself with people and musicians who come from a very honest place and I want to be able to give people that honesty through my music, whether it's just a song or through a one hour performance. 

Andy: Music is still very intimate and it's one of the few things where you can still get to have an emotional connection with the person creating it. All we're doing as a band is saying, "This is the music we really like and if you like it, come have a moment with us. And maybe even gain a piece of yourself."

On community and having a home base.

Andy: The only we can justify going out to tour is having this community and audience back here at home. It's hard being on the road and trying to make an impression on someone who doesn't know you or your music. The community here keeps us going!

Dustin: Like I said earlier, in other cities there are these platforms that have already been built for artists but as a band in Des Moines, we've been building a platform of our own to stand on. Our goal for the first EP was to build a platform that we could work off of and when that happened, it made it so much easier to make things happen outside of Des Moines.

Andy: Within the last month of releasing the record, it's been a lot easier. Now we want to work with this platform we've built here and try to build it further in other places. But it can only happen because of Des Moines because if people hadn't shown interest here the platform would've never been built to begin with. We love Des Moines.