In 2012 Bruce Bales wanted to help Iowa bands make music videos, so he started sending out Facebook messages. Over 200 of them.
"I remember that moment being kind of terrifying," Bales said. "It never felt desperate, but I worried that it might seem that way. I stressed that I wanted to work with people, rather than for them. I'm big on collaboration."
At first there were only a few responses. Des Moines band Diamonds for Eyes and singer-songwriter Dustin Smith were two early responders. From the early responses, Bales and his company, DEFT, ended up making the Dustin Smith & The Sunday Silos video for the song "Let's Ride It."
Smith credits Bales with providing an affordable option for local bands. The explosion of videos that have followed is one of the big reasons DEFT is winning a Mixie this year.
"Bruce definitely filled a huge void in the city as far as the visual side of our music scene," Smith said. "Just a couple bands were making videos even two years ago and then here comes Bruce with a couple GoPros ready to dive head first into a scene and make something happen."
Since then, Bales and his team, that includes Jason "Moppy" Reed and Justin "Jefferson" Augustus, have made videos for Annalibera, John June Year, Gloom Balloon, The Maytags, In Rooms, The River Monks, Unknown Component, Mighty Shady, GoodcaT and many others. DEFT has also worked on projects like the Kickstarter campaign for The Nitch by Satyrus Jeering. DEFT filmmakers also traveled to Puerto Rico to film Parranderos Latin Combo recording its debut album.
Sometimes bands approach DEFT with their ideas and other times the band and DEFT flesh out the video together. Gloom Balloon recently released a seemingly one-take video by DEFT, "Prettiest Song," in which singer Patrick Tape Fleming's head is removed mid song.
"The concept was mine, then we had a meeting at The Lift over some beers talking it out," Fleming said. "Bruce is real good at imagining set design, so we worked out how we could physically do it."
Coming up, DEFT has videos coming for Brooks Strause, Christopher The Conquered, Mighty Shady and Mr. Nasti, among others. The group is also working on a video for the Iowa Arts Council highlighting its fellowship program and is also crafting videos for The Gretel Project, an interactive theater installation at the University of Dubuque.
Bales said he still gets the occasional very delayed response from his initial 200 Facebook messages. He wants to keep working with local bands, helping them share their music through videos.
"This was always about a belief in the music that was coming from Iowa," Bales said. "Everything we do is rooted in that belief. Something special is happening here."
See DEFT's videos