Mark Simmet

Studio One Host

Senior Producer Mark Simmet began working at KUNI over 20 years ago.  In that time he has produced and hosted a long-running daily jazz program, as well as weekly blues and world music programs.  Mark also was a fill-in/substitute folk music host.  He has spent many years perfecting IPR's unique blend of musical styles as the host and producer of Studio One.  Mark also reviews all new submissions to IPR’s Studio One library, deciding on CD of The Week artists and maintaining reporting of music aired to record companies, promoters and trade publications.

Mark has a Bachelor’s Degree in Art from St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN, and finds that his creative skills are very applicable to his work sculpting Studio One.

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The Pixies are a very influential band in the world of indie rock.  The band's primary songwriter and vocalist Black Francis, and lead guitarist Joey Santiago both attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where the began playing music together.  Bassist Kim Deal (who left the band a few years ago) joined them in early 1986, and the band Pixies was formed.  Even though the group has been around for 30 years, Head Carrier is only their sixth studio album.

The three guitarists/vocalists in Local Natives met while attending Orange County High School in California. They recruited a drummer and bass player, completing the formation of the band in 2008, with the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles becoming their home base.  Sunlit Youth is the third full-length album from Local Natives.  It was recorded over a two year period- in Thailand, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Hawaii and Ojai, California.  The new record continues to provide the three-part vocal harmonies fans have come to expect from Local Natives.

IPR/Al Schares

The eclectic quintet of female multi-instrumentalists known as Awful Purdies are celebrating their tenth anniversary as a band this year.   Group members take turns stepping up as songwriter and lead singer when they perform.  The Iowa City band played a live set at the Kum & Go Theatre venue of the Des Moines Social Club on Oct. 7, opening for Gaelynn Lea.  The show was broadcast live on IPR's Studio One Tracks.

You can listen to their wonderful set right here!

IPR/Mark Simmet

Duluth, Minnesota native Gaelynn Lea is attracting notice as the winner of NPR's second annual Tiny Desk Contest, traveling around the U.S and abroad treating listeners to her songs and her unique style of playing the violin.  The singer-songwriter's video of "Someday We'll Linger In The Sun" emerged as the winner from the 6,100 entries in the contest.  She played that song during her performance at the Kum & Go Theatre venue of the Des Moines Social Club on Oct. 7.  Gaelynn Lea's set was broadcast live on Studio One Tracks.

Signs Of Light​ is the third album from The Head and The Heart.  The six-piece folk-rock band began in Seattle in the summer of 2009.  Vocalist and guitarist Josiah Johnson explained the band's name, and also gave an indication of difficult decisions involved in the group's formation when he said:  "Your head is telling you to be stable and find a good job, (but) you know in your heart that this (the band) is what you're supposed to do even if it's crazy."  This is their first release for Warner Brothers Records, and that could be taken as a sign of their growing success.

Back in August, we previewed several albums that would be headed our way in the coming months that we were especially looking forward to. Of course, it's impossible to list everything, and something always comes along that wasn't on our radar immediately, but catches our ears in a big way. This happened several times last month, and nothing makes us happier! Here's a few of our favorite albums from September.

Angel Olsen - My Woman

Schmilco​ is the tenth studio album from the Chicago-based band Wilco.  Wilco began in 1994, rising from the ashes of the alternative country band, Uncle Tupelo.  There have been several personnel changes along the way, with frontman Jeff Tweedy and bassist John Stirratt the only original members still in the lineup.  Alt-country remains a part of Wilco's sound, but they have ventured far beyond that description over the course of their career, with a definite adventurous and experimental side emerging from time to time.

Angel Olsen was born in St. Louis, lived for a time in Chicago, and currently resides in Asheville, North Carolina.  She has recorded and toured with Bonnie "Prince" Billy as a backing singer, and has been releasing her own music since 2010.

Innocence Reaches is the 14th album from Of Montreal, the band founded by songwriter and frontman Kevin Barnes twenty years ago in Athens, Georgia.  It doesn't seem like Of Montreal has been around for two whole decades, and that's due in part to the fact that there is no other band quite like this one.  Barnes named his group after a woman he had been in a releationship with who was "of Montreal."  Many players have come and gone through the ranks of the band over the years, but the psychedelic pop/glam rock sound has always remained true to Barnes' vision.

Ryan Stier performed a solo Extravision set for Studio One Tracks on Sept. 11, opening for Margaret Glaspy at Octopus on College Hill in Cedar Falls.  The Des Moines-based songwriter, vocalist and guitarist played songs from Extravison's two recent EPs.  Stier's songs have been accurately described as "psychfolk."  

You can listen to Extravision's set right here!

Brooklyn-based Sharon Jones and her longtime backing group The Dap-Kings (along with other artists on their Brooklyn label, Daptone Records) have a lot to do with the soul revival of recent years.  Miss Sharon Jones! is a new documentary film, telling the story of the singer's 2013 battle with cancer, and her triumphant return to the stage around the time of the 2014 release of the Grammy-nominated album Give The People What They Want.  The soundtrack album of the film is our Featured Release this week.

Freetown Sound, the new album from Blood Orange, is named after Freetown, Sierra Leone. The talented songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Devonte Hynes records and performs as Blood Orange, and Freetown is where his father was born.  Hynes himself was born in London, where he began his music career as a part of the edgy punk-dance group Test Icicles.  He moved to New York City in 2007, and began releasing music as Lightspeed Champion.  By late 2009, he was Blood Orange.  Freetown Sound is the third full-length Blood Orange release.

IPR/Al Schares

Singer-songwriter Liz Moen played two generous sets for Studio One Tracks on Sept. 1.  We were broadcasting live from the Des Moines Social Club, and the audience was treated to Moen's impressive voice and solid guitar playing.  As a songwriter, she draws on her experiences living and working in Iowa City to inform many of her songs.  In addition to songs from her self-titled debut release, Moen also played some new songs she's written, plus some well-chosen covers.  

Enjoy these sets from Liz Moen!

It's easy to see why Portland, Oregon could be regarded as the epicenter of indie rock.  The list of noteworthy bands that have come out of that town is a long one, and the quality of the music released continues to be strong.  Ages And Ages formed in 2009, with members drawn from the Portland music community.  They released their first album in 2011, and many (including the band) were surprised to find that President Barack Obama had included their song "No Nostalgia" on his 2012 reelection campaign Spotify playlist.

The Canadian band Hot Hot Heat's new album is self-titled, seemingly as a way to underline the fact that this is their final release, and perhaps a summing up of their career.  The group formed in British Columbia in 1999, and were off to a solid start with Chris Walla of Death Cab For Cutie producing a few of their early tracks, and the respected indie label Sub Pop releasing their first EP and full-length album.  Hot Hot Heat started out as a noisy electropunk band.  Over time their sound evolved, with the edges of their music smoothed a bit.

J Mascis (guitar, vocals), Lou Barlow (bass, vocals), and drummer Murph formed Dinosaur in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1984.  After a couple of albums were released, a group called Dinosaurs, comprised of veterans of some of the most notable San Francisco bands of the 1960's, sued the younger Dinosaur over the use of the name.  Thus they became Dinosaur Jr., with more years of the typical rock band ups and downs ahead of them.  In 1997, with Mascis the only remaining original member, the group disbanded.

IPR/Tony Dehner

The Minneapolis-based band We Are The Willows stopped by IPR's Cedar Falls studios recently to play songs from their album Picture (Portrait), and to talk about the unique lyrical inspiration for this music.  It's a fascinating story, and We Are The Willows skillfully deliver the heartfelt songs written by frontman Peter Miller.  

Have a listen to their set, right here!

Kathleen Hanna has very solid indie rock credentials.  She fronted the 1990's feminist punk band Bikini Kill, a group that is credited with creating the Riot Grrl movement.   Fans responded to Hanna's punk zine writing, the lyrics of the songs and Bikini Kill's uncompromising attitude and energy as a live band.  Hanna went on to form Le Tigre later in the '90s.  Also, she's married to Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) of the Beastie Boys.  Hanna recorded a lo-fi solo album as Julie Ruin in 1998 when she was between bands, and in 2010 The Julie Ruin became a full-fledged group.

The Avett Brothers formed at the turn of the century in Mount Pleasant, North Carolina, with a lineup that has remained constant to this day.  Brothers Scott Avett (banjo and vocals) and Seth Avett (guitar and vocals), along with Joe Kwon (cello) and Bob Crawford (double bass), are the core band.  The group is joined by additional members when they are on tour, and The Avett Brothers have the reputation of being a great high-energy live band.  True Sadness is their ninth studio album, with Rick Rubin returning as producer.

Identical twin sisters Tegan Rain Quin and Sara Keirsten Quin began their musical partnership in Calgary, Alberta in 1995.  They began  writing songs and playing guitars together (and also recording themselves) while still in high school.  Tegan and Sara's official debut album was released in 1999, and Love You To Death is their eighth full-length studio release.  Greg Kurstin produced, and he also plays guitar, bass, keyboards and drums throughout the duo's new record.  Kurstin also produced the sisters' previous album, the very successful Heartthrob.

American vocalist and musician Alison Mosshart and British guitarist Jamie Hince had both been in other bands when they met in London in 2000.  They began exchanging ideas for songs by sending each other tapes.  In time, they started writing and recording their songs using a drum machine to fill out the sound, and that's how The Kills were born.

IPR/Tony Dehner

Things My Friends Say, the new album from the Quad Cities band Chrash, has just been released.  The trio stopped by IPR's Cedar Falls studios on July 14 for a live set and some conversation.  Chris Bernat (guitar and lead vocals), Paul Blomquist (drums) and Kim Murray (bass) performed many of the new songs, plus reached into the Chrash back catalog for some old favorites.  And, of course, a quirky choice for a cover song.  

Have a listen to this live set from Chrash!

Kevin Mazur/

Paul Simon has been a major figure in music since Simon & Garfunkel's heyday in the 1960s, and on through an always interesting  solo career that continues to this day.  In recent years the songwriter and musician has released an album of new material every 5 or 6 years.  This allows Simon to rewrite and perfect the songs to his satisfaction.  Stranger To Stranger is his 13th solo album.  Simon experiments with the music, collaborating with the Italian electronic musician and producer Clap!

Kristin Kontrol is a new musical project for Dum Dum Girls leader, Dee Dee.  Dee Dee's real name is Kristin Welchez, and adding "Kontrol" to her first name was a spontaneous decision that just felt right for her new incarnation.  Kristin was looking for a new direction.  She was inspired enough to write 62 new songs, whittling them down to the 10 that make up the album X-Communicate.  The idea was to combine genres and to go beyond her work with Dum Dum Girls.  "The first music I felt was mine was classic 80s pop and 90s R&B," she says.

Colvin & Earle is a collaboration between veteran singer-songwriters Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle.  The two first met early on in their careers, and in 2014 they toured together for the first time.  That led to this new album, comprised of original songs plus some well-chosen covers.  As the artists' press materials for Colvin & Earle explain:   "This new way of working is different for both of them.  (Earle) is splitting the writing duties and supplying slouching harmonies in several tracks.

Last summer, Des Moines-based singer, songwriter and performer Christopher The Conquered was sharing a stage with Natalie Prass.  He handed her an early copy of his new album I'm Giving Up On Rock & Roll.  She in turn passed it on to Ryan Adams.  After hearing it, Adams expressed his enthusiasm about the record on various online platforms.  Adams called Christopher "the real deal," and the album "crazy and incredible."  I'm Giving Up On Rock & Roll was recorded at famed Ardent Studios in Memphis, with Patrick Tape Fleming producing.

The Jayhawks began in Minneapolis in the mid-1980's as an alternative country rock band.  Since then, the band has gone through changes and had periods of hiatus.  Founding member Mark Olson has left The Jayhawks a couple of times (this time perhaps for good).  Founding member Gary Louris currently leads the band, and Marc Perlman is the other remaining member from the original lineup.  Paging Mr. Proust is the ninth Jayhawks album, with Peter Buck, Tucker Martine, and Louris producing.

IPR/Tony Dehner

 On June 2, the Studio One Tracks broadcast was live from the Kum & Go Theatre at the Des Moines Social Club.  It was the Iowa Music Project Showcase, with all of the performers featured on the new Iowa Music Project release (on CD and limited edition vinyl via Iowa record label Maximum Ames Records this summer). All Iowa artists (27 in all) are heard on this new album, representing a variety of genres.  Find out more at

Fruit Bats is yet another instance of an actual band evolving from the starting point of the musical alias of a solo singer/songwriter.  In this case, the musician is Eric D. Johnson, who started as Fruit Bats in 1997.  By 2000, Johnson was the guitarist in various bands, including Califone and The Shins.  He was also a banjo instructor at the famed Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago.  By 2001, Fruit Bats was a band, with their debut full-length record released that year.  In recent years, Johnson had continued making music, but had put the Fruit Bats name to rest.

City Sun Eater In The River Of Light is the ninth album from the Brooklyn-based band Woods.  They formed in 2005, so that's nearly an album a year.  Songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Jeremy Earl leads the band, and also runs Woods' label, Woodsist Records.  Woods is a band that have made their name in the realm of lo-fi psych folk (or freak folk, if you prefer).  Their new album is only the second to be recorded in a proper studio.