MIDWEST OF EVERYTHING (2019) - It has been a few years, so I don't remember exactly when I met Brent (Brent) and Joan (Juni West) Estlund, but I do remember that I met them separately and not as a couple.
I first met Joan at a local coffee shop after she had played downtown (Charles City) for a local art event called Artafest. She complimented my artwork and I complimented her singing. End of conversation, really. ...my coffee came up and I bounced, as is customary for me in coffee shops. ... Some people go to coffee shops for coffee, conversation, fun and social networking ... I am more of a "Get Coffee. Leave." kind of dude.
Brent... I just don't remember how I met him. Maybe it was through our mutual friend Darwin Lindahl of 965 Guitars in Cedar Rapids. They had worked together at Bob's Guitars in Cedar Falls, IA - once upon a time. So, maybe that was it. Or maybe it was more organic - he likes my art, I like his guitar playing. Regardless, we know each other now. He gave my son a few guitar lessons a few moons ago.
Brent is sort of a "Hair-Metal God" here in Northern Iowa, though I have seen him shirk at that title. I usually say it just to mess with him a bit (Sorry, Brent). In the late 80's he was the "ripping solo" power behind the band Litterer. Litterer is the last name of a few of the band members (2, I think. I am no Litterer historian) and not meant as an endorsement of littering or public messiness.
Brent played with them through tours and at least 1 album and then later on played with Iowa based band The Pork Tornadoes.
Litterer was just inducted into to the Iowa Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame and I am betting that the Tornadoes will one day do the same.
Suffice to say, Brent is a well-known musician in our lovely state. He is also a really nice guy and a great insurance agent. (**Official Fugitive Art insurance guy endorsement.)
Brent had some back issues and band-fatigue that eventually led him to leave The Pork Tornadoes and pursue a more manageable band schedule. Aside from playing with his wife, Joan, he also plays with local musician Levi Smith. Brent seems like he can just drop in anywhere and fit right in on the guitar. Like I said, he is talented.
Brent and Joan are husband and wife, so their musical collaboration is one of great convenience (neither has to drive anywhere to work on songs).
Juni West first started buzzing around the known world in 2015 when she released her debut EP - a 5 track demo titled Warm Honey. The following year, her song Creeping Eyes was selected to be featured in the Iowa Music Project, which is a singer/songwriter showcase for Iowa based musicians. She is currently working on her first full-length album and plays shows as both a solo performer and with the full band.
The full band includes her husband Brent on guitar, Dave Morris on bass, and Matt Root on drums.
Like any music scene, the Iowa music scene is one of "musical incest" - where the musicians tend to play around with many different ongoing projects and bands. Lots of musical "inbreeding". Members of one band will on stage with another any given night. It's a family.
By herself, Juni is a very talented singer/songwriter that beckons a bit of Emmy Lou Harris to me at times. She has an Americana type - roots type - folk maybe type - altcountry-ish type of feel to her songwriting and voice. When she sings, you don't just hear her, but you can feel the songs pouring out of her. I can, at least.
I am always surprised by her voice - not sure what that means or implies. But, her tone always catches me off guard - like a gift from a strange Aunt that you think might be a really nice shirt, but ends up being a bad ass shirt with like a picture of a demon on it playing guitar, as wolves dance around... maybe a sword is being forged in the background... I don't know what the hell I am talking about... I'm not 100% sure I would wear that shirt.
BUT, I do listen to Juni's music. I encourage you strongly to seek her out live. I think there is a presence to her voice live that one should hear before passing any judgement.
I am a fan. Greatly looking forward to the new music/album.
Bassist and beardest, Dave Morris, is a super nice guy. A fan of Clutch as well - so I am a fan of Dave.
Drummer Matt Root has played around. He spent a few years in California before moving back to the north Iowa area. We talked a bit about house shows and I offered to come over to his house and drool over his vintage Slingerland kit. I think he passed. He plays with Brent in the Levi Smith band as well.
I caught up with the band on Friday April 26th before their show at the Saint Charles Brewery here in Charles City, Iowa. It is turning into a cool little venue for the area. I use "little" not as a condescension but as a nod to the venue size. Its a smaller place and it was straight-up packed for Juni and gang. I ended up floating outside once they opened up the big ass glass garage door. That's a great thing to have, by the way, on packed house nights - expands the seating on nights without snow. It was a bit chilly, but the bonus was that it was light out and I felt like I was day-drinking. Great beer. Great music.
If you get the chance, look Juni up, check out her music, find a show.
Also, check out the brewery. Beer is good.
I like beer.
- Karl Von Hamburglar