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.

Ways to Connect

IPR/Al Schares

For the third year in a row, NPR invited unsigned musicians to enter to win a chance to perform at NPR's Tiny Desk in Washington, D.C.  The entry period has now closed, and right now the judges are watching the submitted videos in search of the next great undiscovered artist to play at the Tiny Desk and tour the U.S. with NPR and sponser Lagunitas.

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Woods formed in Brooklyn in 2005, and have been steadily releasing their music on Woodsist Records, the Brooklyn-based label founded by band frontman Jeremy Earl.  Their latest record, however, is on Jack White's Third Man Records.  Woods Live At Third Man Records is part of an on-going series of full-length albums recorded in front of an audience in The Blue Room venue of Third Man Records in Nashville.  The albums are released on vinyl only.

IPR/Tony Dehner

Wayne Coyne, best known as the leader of the long-running band The Flaming Lips, is having a busy year so far, and it's only February! The latest album from The Flaming Lips, Oczy Mlody, was released in January, with a tour beginning in March (including a stop in Des Moines in April). And now he has a traveling art exhibit entitled Works By Wayne Coyne Featuring King's Mouth, which will be on display at the Waterloo Center For The Arts now through April 23rd.

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Toronto native Katie Stelmanis is classically trained (she began performing at the age of ten in the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus), and had been writing and performing music for several years before the band now known as Austra came into being in 2009.  Stelmanis released her debut album under her own name in 2008, then decided that a band name would be better.  In time, "Austra" was settled upon, referring not only to the mythological Latvian goddess of light, but also Stelmanis' own middle name.  Future Politics is the third full-length album from the indie synthpop group.

IPR/Tony Dehner

Mark your calendars. The third annual Hinterland music festival is happening August 4th-5th in St. Charles. The lineup has been announced, and it's terrific.

"We wanted to pick something a little bit different than what we did last year -  kind of bring out a different crowd, but also kind of accommodate the crowd we had curated here from the beginning," says Sam Summers, organizer for the festival. 

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The XX formed in London in 2005, and released their debut album in 2009.  That record was a critical and commercial success (eventually winning the UK Mercury Prize for best album) and The XX have continued their forward momentum to this day.  The trio's third full-length record, I See You, was highly anticipated by fans waiting four years since the last album, although they did have the solo release from group member Jamie XX (Jamie Smith) to tide them over.

IPR/Tony Dehner

The Studio One Underground Series continued on Feb. 2, with a live broadcast of The Max Wellman Quintet from The Basement venue of The Des Moines Social Club.  Wellman sang a variety of classics from the Great American Songbook, accompanied by Damani Phillips, Benjamin Oliver Poppen, Steve Charlson and Ron Roberts.  Max Wellman was in fine form, backed by this group of skilled jazz musicians for two sets.

Listen to the Max Wellman Quintet right here!

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Jonathan Rado and Sam France formed Foxygen in 2005, while the two Californians were still in high school. From the beginning the duo have been influenced by the avant-garde and psychedelia, but they also have an affintiy for late 1960s/early 1970s classic rock and songcraft.  Foxygen's sprawling 2014 album, ...And Star Power, contained some nice Todd Rundgrenesque tracks, but also found the band indulging their experimental side a bit too much.  For their latest release, Hang, Rado and France are still eccentric and experimental, but much more focused.

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The Flaming Lips have been bringing their psychedelically-informed sound to listeners for over 30 years.  They have established themselves as a must-see live act (did I see you at the Gentlemen of the Road tour, Waverly, summer 2015?)  On record, Wayne Coyne and company have been as creative, experimental and out-there as anyone, but they have also recorded music that is melodic, accessible and song-oriented.  The Soft Bulletin (1999) and Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (2002) are in that vein, and remain the go-to Flaming Lips albums for many fans.

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Kaiser Chiefs are a fine example of a band that is very popular in their native England, yet remain marginally known  in the United States.  They formed in Leeds under the name Parva in 2000.  After one album, and the usual record label intrigues, Parva re-invented themselves as Kaiser Chiefs in 2003.  The name is derived from the Kaizer Chiefs, a South African football team.  The original lineup of the band has stayed nearly intact, with only the founding drummer being replaced a few years ago.

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Dr. Dog have been playing and recording their folk-rock/baroque pop music since around the turn of the century, when they began as a local band in the Philadelphia area.  Late in 2016 they dropped a surprise album titled Abandoned Mansion.  In the band's own words:  "Its a mood record...Nothing too jamming or atonal.   No blips or bloops or anything else that might unsettle you...We did a song a day for two weeks.  And, almost everything is tracked live...Thematically, this is Dr. Dog meat and potatoes.  Our proverbial wheelhouse.  Songs of the oldest questions.

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After being in the game for over 50 years, Neil Young seems determined not to settle into professional old-fogeyism.  His new album Peace Trail was reportedly recorded in just four days, with most of the ten tracks recorded on the first or second take.  Many critics are saying this would have been a better album if the artist had just spent more time refining it.  Obviously, a spontaneous, off-the-cuff feel was what Young was going for.

Chris Ford

On Dec. 1, Studio One returned to The Basement venue of The Des Moines Social Club for our second annual live broadcast of A Conquered Christmas.  Christopher The Conquered and Special Guests provided a generous helping of holiday (and some not holiday related) songs.  A lot of great Iowa talent was heard, and it was a night of fun and frivolity for both the musicians and The Basement-filling live audience! 

Have a listen! 

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I like to think of Kristin Hersh as a kind of godmother of indie rock.  Her band Throwing Muses had an impressive run in the '80s and '90s, and sporadically since then.  In the 21st century, she formed the band 50 Foot Wave.  She has also released many solo albums over the years, and she's authored a few books.  As she's done twice before, Hersh has paired a book and a CD for her latest work, Wyatt At The Coyote Palace.

IPR/Tony Dehner

We received around 1,800 albums this year, and we put just under 900 of those into rotation on IPR's Studio One. There's been so much incredible music released this year; it's impossible to get to all of it. Never fear! We've created a guide. 

Below, you'll find lists of favorites from 2016 from all three of IPR's Studio One Tracks hosts, alongside lists from IPR's Sean McClain and Clay Masters.

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Houston, Texas native Robert Earl Keen graduated from Texas A&M (with a B.A. in English) in 1978.  He then moved to Austin and began performing live in various venues there.  By 1984 he had released his first album and started touring outside of Texas.  Over thirty years later, he's become one of those treasured Lone Star State troubadours, continuing to record and tour (maybe the road does go on forever).  In 1996 Keen recorded No. 2 Live Dinner at one of the quintessential Texas honky tonks, John T. Floore's Country Store in Helotes, Texas.

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Australian musicians Luke Steele (of the alternative rock band The Sleepy Jackson) and Nick Littlemore (of the electronic dance duo Pnau) first met in 2000.  They worked on various projects together before forming Empire Of The Sun in 2007.  The duo's  approach to synth pop is definitely coming from a glam rock perspective, with both members having a background in visual art.  Their live show features headdresses and elaborate stage sets.

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Pretenders formed in England in 1978.  The band was fronted by an American:   songwriter, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Chrissie Hynde, originally from Akron, Ohio.  Through the decades and many changes of personnel, Hynde remains the only member who has been in every incarnation of the band, although original drummer Martin Chambers has returned after an absence of several years.  Hynde moved to London in 1973, just a few years before the rise of punk rock in England.  She wrote about music, and played with various bands before The Pretenders came together.

Moby (born Richard Melville Hall, a descendant of Moby Dick author Herman Melville) has been making electronic dance music since the early 1990s.  He has had great success with many of his records, often by  bringing songcraft and melody to the genre.  Moby started out playing in punk and post-punk bands, and he brings that energy to his latest full-length album, These Systems Are Failing.  This is definitely a collection of songs rather than extended dance tracks.  Moby has long been known for his support of animal rights,  veganism, and environmentalism.

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Conor Oberst is a busy, creative guy.  The Omaha native began writing songs and performing at a young age, and self-released his first solo cassette tape of songs when he was 13.  Oberst's best-known band is Bright Eyes.  Here are some more of his bands:  The Faint, Commander Venus, The Magnetas, Park Ave., Desaparecidos, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, and Monsters Of Folk.  He co-founded the independent record labels Saddle Creek records and Team Love Records.

IPR/Lindsey Moon

The Eastern Iowa band Wooden Nickel Lottery returned to IPR's Cedar Falls studios for a live set on Nov. 15.  The four-piece band came to play, with a set featuring most of the songs from their sophomore album Down The Line, plus one from their debut record, and a brand new song!  It's a fine performance, and you can hear it right here!

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A phantogram is a type of optical illusion, and also a cool band name for the duo of Josh Carter (guitar and vocals) and Sarah Barthel (vocals and keyboards).  The two friends have known each other since junior high school, and formed their musical collaboration in 2007 in upstate New York.  At first, they called themselves Charlie Everywhere, playing gigs and recording some small label EPs.  In 2009, they changed their name to Phantogram, and released their debut album in the fall of that year.  Three is, of course, their third full-length.

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Regina Spektor was born in Moscow in 1980, where at 6 years old she began classical training on the piano.  Her family left the Soviet Union in 1989, moving to New York City, where Spektor continued her classical training and also eventually broadened her musical tastes.  In time, she began writing her own songs and performing as part of the "anti-folk" scene in New York's East Village.  She began self-releasing CDs of her music in 2001.  She signed with Sire Records in 2004, and has gone on to great success in recording and touring.

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Husband and wife duo Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst are Shovels & Rope.  Both of them are very talented and capable songwriters, lead vocalists and multi-instrumentalists.  Watching them perform (you may have caught their great set at this past summer's Hinterland Festival), one never finds oneself pining for more band members.  Shovels & Rope are a solidly roots-based band, but for them that can mean anything from folk to rockabilly, alt-country to country-punk.

IPR/Tony Dehner

Brother Trucker played two live sets for Studio One Tracks as part of our live broadcast from the Des Moines Social Club on Oct. 27.  The band is celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2017, with a new album expected early next year.  Brother Trucker played songs from that forthcoming release, plus old favorites and some well-chosen covers.  Those covers included versions of songs by some of their fellow Iowa musicians.

You can hear both live sets right here!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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