The River Monks
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The River Monks

Des Moines, Iowa, United States | INDIE

Des Moines, Iowa, United States | INDIE
Band Folk Rock


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Local Artist Spotlight: The River Monks"

The River Monks are a splendidly multi-talented indie-folk collective, hailing from the capital city of Des Moines, Iowa.

Des Moines, after all, is French for "The Monks" (or perhaps, "The Moines", if you ask a local). The city gets its name from the Des Moines River which flows through its downtown. In the 18th century, a group of Trappist monks built huts and used the mouth of the river for catching fish, which led French explorers to name it Le Riviere des Moines.

This interest in the origins of the state's rich history speaks to the local pride of The River Monks. This is a young group of locally-grown musicians who've found a pull to make their mark on their own city's musical landscape. With every grassroots performance, the band has gathered a loving fan base.

These performances are warm, humble and inviting. Delicate 5-part harmonies resonate over layers of guitar, ukulele, banjo and glockenspiel. Percussion crescendos into triumphant fits of passion and jubilant trumpeting, then instantaneously backs down to reveal an even deeper sensibility beneath.

I've had the pleasure of getting to know these artists a little bit better over the past few months and after seeing them play again last night, feel confident that they deserve to be heard beyond their home state. Which is great, because they are just about to embark on a month-long tour both South and West.

For details on where you can catch The River Monks on the road and to purchase music from their terrific debut album, Jovials, visit the band's Facebook page or Bandcamp page. - The Lonely Note blog

"The River Monks “Jovials”"

Admittedly, I’ve been captivated by Des Moines-based Sleep on the Floor’s impressive catalog thus far, giving every indie-rock album it has sent my way in the last couple of years good reviews for good reasons. Owner Austin Semerad has a knack for recording quality records by talented local bands, and The River Monks’ “Jovial” is no exception thanks in large part to its highly textural, spacious, indie-rock-folk sound that defies the stigma of home recordings. On “Jovials,” singer-songwriter-guitarist Ryan Stier, Joel Gettys, Ryan Frampton and newcomer Drew Rauch (with help from other local musicians) deliver 14 creative, contemplative tracks (“Pelica,” “Of Snow,” “Winter’s Backdrop” and “Yellow Blue & Green”) that demonstrate unconventional song structures and musical knowledge to good effect on this intimate, intelligent offering from Sleep on the Floor. CV

(For more information about The River Monks, visit - Cityview, Des Moines, IA

"Album Review – The River Monks: Jovials"

The River Monks take their name from a literal translation of “Des Moines,” their home town. At first, their music seems as straightforward as their name but, as I kept listening, nothing about it stayed simple.

The River Monks are a trio with Ryan Stier as the primary songwriter for the group. The group is a folk-pop project and it has the hallmarks of one; there is quiet lyricism, the evocation of nature and gentle emotions. The album is full of beautiful, detailed acoustic instruments captured by transparent, clean production. Each sound sits very distinctly in the mix, which highlights the instrumental and vocal interplay. The band makes great use of vocal harmonies throughout the album. Each one of these things is excellent on its own, so I couldn’t figure out what was troubling me about Jovials.

I figured out my confusion when I listened to Grizzly Bear’s Yellow House again. I think that Grizzly Bear’s sound is far heavier than the River Monks’ gentle folk-pop sound, but there is some similarity in terms of.production values and use of effects. Grizzly Bear recorded Yellow House in founder and lead man Ed Droste’s mother’s house on Cape Cod. Likewise, The River Monks recorded their album at member Nick Frampton’s house in Creston, IA and at Frampton’s parents house in Clive, IA. Both the resulting albums are striking for the intimacy that they convey.

I felt like I was a part of the album, sitting in the house and watching them sing these songs, but the album was difficult for me because that feeling of intimacy is one that I haven’t gotten from an album in a while, perhaps one that is becoming harder and harder to come by.

As Grizzly Bear does on Yellow House, The River Monks put you in the middle of their songs, increasing their emotional impact and highlighting their simple strength and intense musical complexity. Their well-constructed songs require the closeness of a home studio. This can be heard on songs like “Winter’s Backdrop” that sound like they are being played specially for a single listener. This intimacy and the band’s musicianship make Jovials a rather compelling debut. - Little Village Magazine, Iowa City

"The River Monks, “Jovials”"

The new album from the Des Moines band The River Monks is a crisp, clean and gorgeous collection of breezy acoustic pop songs. Their style of pop has a depth by the element of Americana and folk music in their sound. All the members of the four-piece have some serious folk chops: each tone of every instrument on this record is clear, bright and balanced against the other instruments.

The record is also notable for the richly layered vocal harmonies that grace the songs. The lead vocalist and primary songwriter, Ryan Stier has a well-defined upper range, which at times may remind you of Sufjan Stevens or Elliott Smith. His voice blends very well with the voices of his bandmates; the harmonies are an instrument of their own.

The River Monks represents and celebrates Des Moines with pride. Their name references the French meaning of the phrase “Des Moines,” and their album cover is graced with the outline of the state of Iowa. I love it that more and more bands are consciously promoting the state of Iowa and the musical culture we have here.

The River Monks are also representative of a particular style of indie folk/pop that is thriving in Des Moines right now. You could almost call it the Des Moines Sound. Excellent acts like Cashes Rivers, Canby, Seedlings and Parlours have some serious traction in the scene, and they all share a taste for clean-sounding tones, soaring melodies enriched by lovely vocal harmonies and a clean, polished finish. The River Monks will head out on tour in May to support their new record, and I have no doubt they will leave behind a good impression of Des Moines and Iowa wherever they go. - Ames Tribune

"The River Monks first album “Jovials” is relatable for any music fan"

by Nicole Ellis
July 29 2011
Jovials, the first full length album Des Moines-based band The River Monks, does not fall short of magnificent. From the opening harmonies of "Jovials" all the way through final track "I Won't Laugh," the album offers up a feel good sound that really pulls in the listener with infectious vibes of happiness.

Drawing from folk influences as well as indie rock and pop, Jovials is the kind of album that any avid music fan can listen to all the way through without boredom or disappointment. The album clearly highlights the music talent of each member, as the instrumentals in each song are not only incomparable but also clean-sounding and recognizable to any ear. Ukulele, guitar, and various percussion instruments especially stand out, just to name a few.

With catchy lyrics and harmonies that incorporate female and male vocals alike, each song has a unique feel that sets it apart from the other tracks. Listeners will not catch themselves falling into a lull with this album, and it is simply a refreshing listen great for any music fan. The album is fitting for The River Monks, which draws on their name that was inspired by a group of monks that fished in the Des Moines river long ago. The sound is rather organic and natural, not forced or overdone. The album has a peaceful and calm tone to it, but not in a put-the-listener-to-sleep sort of way. It instead has the feel of a lazy Sunday afternoon spent lounging and relaxing on a sunny patch of grass.

Overall, Jovials is a great album that any music fan will enjoy simply because of its stand-out qualities and the passion behind each track. Support Des Moines' ever-growing local music scene by having a listen to The River Monks, some of the pioneers of our city's music movement.
Last Updated on August 12 2011 - Des Moines Music Coalition


"Jovials" released March 2011
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We launched this band for several reasons.
1) We wanted to write music that was both fun to play and fun to listen to.
2) We felt the need to explore the coalition of every voice and instrument at our disposal. If you have 5 voices, a bunch of stringed instruments, an accordion, drums, glockenspiels, bags of auxiliary percussion, and an aluminum chair, we figured we should just use it all!
3) Music should come from many places: The head. The heart. The gut. We firmly believe music should be a lifestyle, an experiment and something to fall in love with – therefore that's how we approach this band.

We often get questions regarding the history of our name. "The River Monks" ties to the translation and story behind the naming of our city, Des Moines (which translates literally as "The Monks"). Scholars maintain that a long time ago, a group of monks trapped fish in the river that now runs through Des Moines. Some French folks took note of this and eventually named the river (and the port city that formed around it) after these monks. We are proud to be from Des Moines and the state of Iowa, and to be a part of its music and art scenes.

We released our first full length record earlier this year. Following the release, the Monks went to work, touring several times to 12 different states and playing a number of big shows and festivals close to home. These include Des Moines' 80/35 Festival, the Hy-Vee Triathlon kick-off event, where we opened for the Gin Blossoms, VEISHEA Festival in Ames, IA, Ankeny Unplugged Concert Series in Ankeny, IA, Nebraska Pop Festival in Omaha, and most recently we opened for William Elliott Whitmore at a benefit concert, and S. Carey, side project of Bon Iver member Sean Carey.
We were featured live on Iowa Public Radio's "Night Music", and recorded the jingle for their Talk of Iowa segment. This jingle airs every morning at 10am. Listen to Talk of Iowa and the jingle here:

The River Monks are currently working hard on material for a second album.

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The River Monks

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