The popular 80/35 concert in Des Moines this summer featured a local band, Love Songs for Lonely Monsters, whose lead singer sometimes relies on her Simpson education for song lyrics.
You never know when a background in postmodern literature might come in handy.
Let’s learn more about Amy Badger ’11:
Tell us some more about Love Songs for Lonely Monsters.
The band has been together for about two years. I was the last addition to the group, and that was in September or October of 2010. We all met each other in different ways – Nick Parks and Justin Neuenschwander (our guitarists) have been friends since high school, and the band grew out of a project they wanted to start. From there, they added Chris Lachky on bass and Brian Gellerman on drums. They went on for a while as a four-piece, but decided after performing a few times that they wanted someone on lead vocals, preferably a female lead. I heard about this through mutual friends and joined them for a few practices. Things apparently went well because they let me keep coming back!
I’ve heard your band described as “alternative?” Does the description fit, or how would you describe your music?
Oddly enough, this is probably one of the hardest questions we get and it’s usually the first one we’re asked. “Alternative” is a pretty good fit – it’s just so difficult to put our sound into a box and label it. In general, when you listen to our music or come to one of our shows, you can expect melodic, guitar-driven songs that are both catchy and complex.
Love the name of the band. How did that come about?
Thanks! Nick came up with it. There is a scene in Bride of Frankenstein where Frankenstein’s Monster is lured by the sound of a violin into a cottage where a blind man lives. The blind man and the Monster develop a bond which, I feel, evokes a sense of empathy in the viewer – the characters have both been outcast from society and it’s the music from the violin, as well as the need for companionship, that brings them together.
Did you sing at Simpson?
I joined Love Songs for Lonely Monsters about a year or so into my time at Simpson, so I guess you could say I sang in college! If you’re asking about singing in something more “official” like choir, then no. However, I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t singing. I grew up in Des Moines. When I was about 13, I started teaching myself how to play guitar, and by the time I was in high school, I was writing my own music.
Throughout my life, I’ve always loved picking up different instruments and trying to play them, and I was always very lucky as I grew up to be surrounded by music and musical instruments. In addition to guitar, I can play a little flute (which comes from my elementary and middle school concert band days), some keyboard, and at one point in my life, I was teaching myself saxophone. In Love Songs for Lonely Monsters, I’m primarily lead vocals, but I’ve been playing a little guitar here and there, too.
Is it true that some of the lyrics come from postmodern literature that you studied at Simpson?
That’s definitely true, although hard to explain. I’ll start by saying it’s like any kind of writing – in general, you’re inspired by what you read, and you’re going to read what interests you. When I’m writing – whether lyrics or poetry – I try to get in the mind of a character and write from that view. I’ve been reading a lot of Flannery O’Connor lately, and some of the lyrics I’ve come up with for a new song we’ve been working on are definitely inspired by her characters. Instead of a specific character, though, the O’Connor inspiration is more a conglomeration of traits – delusional optimism, bravado, and a touch of diabolical coollness.
At this point, I’m guessing that I’ve written or co-written about 50% of our lyrics. When I joined the band, there were a lot of songs with existing lyrics that had been written by Nick (with the exception of “Reputation,” written by Justin). Once I joined, Nick handed off a lot of the lyric writing duties to me, and we’ll usually work on them together or he’ll give me an overall idea and I run with it. Each song seems to develop differently.
How would you describe your Simpson experience? Do you feel it has had anything to do with the success you’re enjoying now?
I have nothing but wonderful things to say about my Simpson experience. As someone who was working full time on top of going to school, the evenings/weekends program was perfect for me. If nothing else, the fact that my school schedule allowed me the flexibility to put time into the band was invaluable. As an English major, I feel like my time at Simpson honed my skills as a writer and introduced me to what have become my biggest influences (i.e. the aforementioned postmodern lit). Wherever writing takes me, I know that I have a great education supporting it. I think it’s this kind of confidence that can help anyone in their endeavors, so I certainly feel that it’s positively affected me in all aspects of my life, including the band.
Do you mostly play central Iowa venues? Was the 80/35 appearance the largest group you have performed for?
We do play mostly in central Iowa at the moment, primarily Des Moines and a few shows in Ames. In May, we played our first out of state show in Omaha.
We’re in a situation right now, however, where we want to get out to more cities in Iowa and the Midwest, but at the same time, we are trying to focus on recording some songs for a release that we’d like to have ready by the end of the year. It’s really a tough choice because we love playing live, but we also have songs that are ready to record and we’re finally at a point where we have time to devote to that.
Oh, wow – 80/35! Yes, I think that probably was the largest group we’ve had at a performance, and the experience of not only playing on the main stage, but also the entire event itself, will always stick with me. First off, I think it was about 200 degrees onstage – imagine performing a rock show in a microwave and you’ve pretty much got the idea. Despite the heat, we had a great turn-out, though. I felt like our set went well, and there was nothing more humbling than seeing great bands like Dinosaur Jr. (one of our influences) and Death Cab for Cutie playing the same stage as us, literally within hours of our set. It was an amazing opportunity for our band – truly a milestone. We’re so grateful to the organizers and sponsors that made it possible, and of course to our fans who supported us and helped us reach that goal.
What’s next for you and the band?
We have a few shows lined up in Des Moines during the next few months you can find our full schedule at www.lovesongsforlonelymonsters.com and we’re planning on recording throughout the fall, with the hope of releasing something by the end of 2012. Beyond that, our general goal is just to get our music out there. We’d love to tour sometime soon and get to new places like Minneapolis, Kansas City, and Chicago.