The Envy Corps Talks Iowa Super Groups, “Screen Test”
The Envy Corps headlines Friday at the 400 Bar with It’s true and Textonka (8 p.m. doors, $8, 18+).
I prepare the traditional set of questions for my interview with Luke Pettipoole of Des Moines’ The Envy Corps: influences, stories from the road, personal demons, etc.
But when I catch a video on the band’s Facebook page in which lead-singer/songwriter Pettipoole and his bandmates taste-test corndogs and funnel cakes at the Iowa State Fair using a rating system of “buttered Shawn Johnsons,” (i.e. Olympic gymnast from West Des Moines), I opt for the off-grid questions.
“So, who’s in your Iowa super group?”
There’s a pause on his end of the line, he debates the parameters (does The Killers’ guitarist and Pella-native David Keuning count?), an obligatory mention of his “own band” is made, and then he goes for the deep ball: “I’d love to have Joey Jordison…”
Background: Jordison is co-founder/drummer for Des Moines-based Slipknot and the guy who drums while wearing a hockey mask the color of turkey grizzle. My instinct is to localize Slipknot and their macabre scene mostly to junior high locker rooms circa 1999. But, Pettipoole makes it sound like the death metal renaissance had at least a good year or two of sustained fury and hell across the shelterbelts of Iowa.
“I was really into Norweigan Black Metal back then—mostly to annoy my parents.”
Pettipoole’s musical taste has evolved. A couple winters ago in Omaha he was burrowing through thrift stores when he found an old Hammond organ for $25. He plugged in the organ at practice and started messing with the accordion-like pushbutton chords. The rest of the band picked up and the Ouija-board like result was “Screen Test,” the electro-buzz-rock anthem that the Current rightfully kept playing last fall.
“Screen Test” by The Envy Corps
The single fronted 2009’s EP, The Kid Gloves, the band’s first release since Dwell (UK-based Vertigo), which had them relocating for a year to a blue-collar borough of London.
“Streatham was like the New Jersey of England,” Pettipoole says.
Now back in Des Moines piling up demos, the band plans to record at Saddle Creek’s ARC Studios for a fall release. With Minneapolis, St. Louis, Omaha, and Chicago all a weekend drive from home, shows such as this Friday night’s at the 400 Bar will count (at least for the immediate future) for touring.
“Everyone has jobs,” he confides, which is all one needs to say in 2010. Still, the unemployment level is flirting with shedding a tenth or two, and the Envy Corps keep writing tunes that should, theoretically, allow them to claim “entertainer” status on their taxes.
Pettipoole says the scene’s love for all-things metal allowed him and his buds in Ames a freedom to write music in contrast to what everyone else listened to. This approach has contributed to two positives for the Envy Corps:
1) Pettipoole, in a voice that sounds like a Rufus Wainwright without any of the operatic scarf-throwing, is lyrically uninhibited, singing about Sylvia Plath or mythical nymphs inhabiting European water systems without any academic self-consciousness.
2) Musically the band has adopted a “do whatever we want” approach that keeps them relevant and mobile. Across their catalog, they seem (at points) determined, expressive Thom Yorke modheads, and in other points (as on “Screen Test” and “Wires and Wool”) they seem entirely comfortable being insane pirates hi-jacking whatever dance bus The New Radicals left broken down on the side of the pop music highway.
I have other questions about Meredith Wilson and Stone Sour I want to ask. But instead Pettipoole chats about a new housing development in Des Moines’ East Village. Observation to street details is common to good songwriting—an ability to take what you find on a street corner, or a thrift store, and put into a record.
“Maybe that’s why a super group to me is weird…I just love playing with the guys in my band.”
Friday’s show at the 400 Bar with The Envy Corps, super group or not, should be worth least four out of five buttered Shawn Johnsons.