Name: The River Monks
From: Des Moines, IA
Genre: Mega-Folk
RIYL: Good Old War, Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Local Natives, Blitzen Trapper
Ryan Stier (vocals, guitar, banjo, ukulele, percussion)
Joel Gettys (percussion, vocals)
Drew Rauch (bass, vocals)
Mallory Heggen (trumpet, vocals, accordion, ukulele, percussion)
Nicholas Frampton (guitar, vocals, percussion, ukulele)
Tommy Boynton (banjo, ukulele, percussion, guitar, vocals)


PRESS PHOTOS (credit: Graham Gardner)



“The River Monks might just be Iowa,” declared Tiny Mix Tapes after the Des Moines indie folk band’s performance at the 80/35 festival. This could very well be true. The six friends who comprise The River Monks (frontman Ryan Stier, Joel Gettys on percussion, Drew Rauch on bass, Mallory Heggen on trumpet, Nicholas Frampton on guitar, Tommy Boynton on banjo, everyone on vocals, and a variety of other instruments passed between members) – love Des Moines. They named the band after it. As the story goes, when the people of France settled in the area, they observed a group of monks trapping fish in the river, which they named “La Rivière des Moines” – or “The River of the Monks.” The city that eventually formed around the river became Des Moines.

The Today Show recently dubbed Des Moines the wealthiest city in the nation – in terms of affordability, Iowa’s capital is “the city where regular folk can live a rich life.” Stier knows that this is a key part of what makes the city such a thriving place for musicians. “You can survive easily and even live quite well as an artist living on lower wages,” he says. “Huge props to our beloved hometown for making it easy and supporting musicians, artists, filmmakers, et al. in a huge huge way.”

And Des Moines loves The River Monks back. The River Monks played at this year’s 80/35 festival and last year’s KURE fest. They performed in-studio on Iowa Public Radio (and composed the theme music for River to River, Iowa Public Radio’s talk program that focuses on state news, issues and events). The Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau partnered with the band last summer on a regional advertising campaign promoting the city. Greg Edwards, President/CEO of the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau said, “It was imperative the band’s sound matched the region’s lively energy, and the River Monks’ unique sound is the right fit.”

The River Monks’ lush folk pop is full of organic builds, layered vocal harmonies, and rich lyrical imagery that develop a growing intimacy with the listener. As Little Village Mag observed, “The River Monks put you in the middle of their songs, increasing their emotional impact and highlighting their simple strength and intense musical complexity.”

All members are musically trained (some in classical, others in jazz), and all contribute vocally. The band includes a lot of different instruments onstage, which change hands often, and as Stier told New Slang Takeover, “we definitely don’t pigeonhole ourselves in as being two guitars, a bass, and drums. We like to experiment with seeing how much we can do at the same time. Music should be fun. And we have a lot of fun.”

Audiences have fun too. Tiny Mix Tapes said of their 80/35 set that “the five-part vocal harmonies swirl outward like wind across the fields, while the band’s traditional folk instrumentation is given Iowa’s unexpectedly progressive touch, leaving you with something entirely recognizable, yet completely new.”

This spring, the band is preparing to release Home Is The House, the follow-up album to their 2011 debut full length Jovials, which included standout tracks “Fall Hard” and “Pelica,” the latter of which was included on The Blue Indian’s compilation Vol. 3. “The concept of home, and what it means to all of us, has been not only a recurring theme in our music, but also a common topic in our personal lives” says Stier. “Home Is The House is not a declaration or even a specific realization; it is rather a metaphor for the question itself, and more simply a study – in the form of melody and sound.”

The self-recorded album was mixed by Nick Frampton and mastered by Doug Van Sloun at Focus Mastering (Bright Eyes, Cursive, Tokyo Police Club, Damien Jurado). This March, the band is heading out for a 2-week run of shows in support of “Beasts”, the first single off the forthcoming release, and will be following that up with a national six-week tour to celebrate the album’s official release on May 20th.


The River Monks might just be Iowa. The five-part vocal harmonies swirl outward like wind across the fields, while the band’s traditional folk instrumentation is given Iowa’s unexpectedly progressive touch, leaving you with something entirely recognizable, yet completely new. – Tiny Mix Tapes

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…The River Monks put you in the middle of their songs, increasing their emotional impact and highlighting their simple strength and intense musical complexity…This intimacy and the band’s musicianship make Jovials a rather compelling debut. – Little Village Mag

Highly textural, spacious, indie-rock-folk sound…[The River Monks] demonstrate unconventional song structures and musical knowledge to good effect on this intimate, intelligent offering. – Cityview

[The River Monks] have a lot of instruments [on stage] that [the members] will pass around (banjo, accordion, trumpet, ukulele, etc). It seems like a lot of the songs have these small elements in them that eventually build into something bigger. – New Slang Takeover

Jovials is a fourteen song collection of gorgeous melodies, epic compositions, crisp harmonies and multi-instrumental beauty that reminds you that people still make gorgeous melodies, epic compositions, crisp harmonies and multi-instrumental beauty. It is the kind of album you can put on and listen to, and just enjoy. – Des Moines Is Not Boring

Indie folk musicians The River Monks take their name literally from the city they love and will bring their organic sound of layered harmonies to this year’s Live @ VEISHEA. – Ames 247

Indie rock band The River Monks is finding itself in greater harmony on its upcoming album. – Amarillo Globe-News

3/13/14: Des Moines, IA – Temple for Performing Arts
3/13/14: Des Moines, IA – Gas Lamp
3/14/14: Ames, IA – DGs Taphouse
3/15/14: St. Paul, MN – Amsterdam
3/16/14: Madison, WI – The Frequency
3/17/14: Beloit, WI – The Bop
3/18/14: Chicago, IL – Livewire
3/19/14: Oberlin, OH – House show
3/20/14: Muncie, IN – Be Here Now
3/22/14: Nashville, TN – Warehouse Apt Show
3/23/14: Columbia, MO – Cafe Berlin
3/24/14: Tulsa, OK – Sound Pony
3/25/14: Norman, OK – Nice Tuesdays
3/26/14: Lawrence, KS – Jackpot Saloon
3/27/14: Lincoln, NE – Vega
3/28/14: Omaha, NE – Oleavers
3/29/14: Des Moines, IA – Raccoon River Brewing Co.
5/16/14: Des Moines, IA – Vaudeville Mews
5/17/14: Fairfield, IA – Arbor Bar
5/18/14: Ames, IA – DG’s Taphouse
5/19/14: Omaha, NE – O’leaver’s
5/21/14: Ft. Collins, CO – KRFC Live
5/22/14: Colorado Springs, CO – Ivywild School
5/24/14: Denver, CO – Mercury Cafe
5/26/14: Salt Lake City, UT – The Shred Shed
5/28/14: San Francisco, CA – 50 Mason House
5/29/14: Santa Rosa, CA – TBA
5/30/14: San Rafael, CA – The Plough and Stars
6/1/14: Santa Barbara, CA – Whiskey Richards
6/2/14: Los Angeles, CA – Hotel Cafe
6/3/14: San Luis Obispo, CA – The Frog and Peach
6/4/14: San Diego, CA – The Tin Can
6/5/14: Tucson, AZ – Monterey Court
6/6/14: Tempe, AZ – fiftyonewest
6/7/14: Flagstaff, AZ – Firecreek Coffee Co.
6/8/14: Flagstaff, AZ – Flag Brew
6/10/14: Lubbock, TX – TBA
6/11/14: Amarillo, TX – The 806
6/12/14: Tulsa, OK – Soundpony
6/13/14: Lawrence, KS – Jazzhaus
6/16/14: Cedar Falls, IA – IPR Studio One
6/17/14: Madison, WI – The Frequency
6/18/14: Beloit, WI – The Castle
6/19/14: Chicago, IL – Block 37
6/20/14: Chicago, IL – Louder House
6/21/14: Chicago, IL – The Hideout
6/22/14: Bloomington, IN – TBA
6/25/14: Nashville, TN – The Basement
6/26/14: St. Louis, MO – The Heavy Anchor
6/27/14: Columbia, MO – Cafe Berlin
6/28/14: Oklahoma City, OK – The Blue Note
7/2/14: Rock Island, IL – Daytrotter
7/2/14: Rock Island, IL – Rozz-Tox
7/3/14: Iowa City, IA – Yacht Club


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