When the 80/35 Music Festival made its lineup announcement last year, The Maytags was one of the least familiar names among the local bands selected. Frontman Dustin Smith had cut his teeth as a solo act before forming the 15-member Dustin Smith & The Sunday Silos, but his new band had hardly played any shows. They were a wild card.
Fast forward to a year later and it's clear that that band is just wildly talented, not a wild card. Just look at the band's March and April schedule: performing at the Des Moines Embassy at South by Southwest, being spotlighted on Iowa Public Radio's Live from Studio One program and headlining the Des Moines Music Coalition's 10th annual Gross Domestic Product festivallater this month.
The Maytags won this year's Juice "Buzz Band" award by reinventing its sound in a more soulful way.
When Smith, 28, went to Nashville last year to record The Maytags' "Nova" EP, he originally thought it would be a Sunday Silos album.
The change in sound was distinct enough that Smith felt it needed a new name.
"I wanted to break away from a lot of acoustic guitar, and I went down with a smaller group because I couldn't get everyone to come down there with me. We were recording on analog tape, and it sounded like old soul and that we were cutting through with that record. So we decided to rebrand."
Smith also wanted to rock a little more, and with The Maytags he has succeeded. The band rocks, but it also exudes soul, with Smith's voice bellowing out a passion that was hinted at with the Sunday Silos.
"I think I've grown as a musician, maybe I wasn't that confident as a musician or a person in general," Smith said. "And soul music is so freeing and the people I'm playing with are so like-minded and in tune with each other. Looking out at a crowd and seeing themlooking at the stage as opposed to their phones or even singing along to your lyrics is such a great feeling."
Looking ahead, in May The Maytags will play a month-long residency at The Lift on Tuesday nights, performing songs that will be featured on the band's upcoming full-length album next year. In July the group will perform at Camp Euforia in Lone Tree and in August The Maytags are heading back to to Nashville to record the new album.
See The Maytags
6 p.m. Monday during The Mixie party at the Des Moines Social Club, 900 Mulberry St., Free.
Headlining Gross Domestic Product April 25 at Wooly's, 504 E. Locust St.
For the last six years Juice has given out Mixie Awards, recognizing talented groups and individuals in the Des Moines music scene. Past winners include Canby, Christopher the Conquered, Dead Horse Trauma, Green Death, Brandon Darner and many others.
As the music writer for Juice and The Des Moines Register, I select the award-winners, with an eye towards a sound and performance style that sets a musician apart, or groups that are helping move the music scene forward. If you're happy with my selections, the credit goes to the many talented musicians and organizations written about in this issue. If you're unhappy, the blame falls solely on me. As I cover local music throughout the year, I'm constantly making notes about what to consider for next year.
Three of the four winners tied into this year's South by Southwest. I selected The Maytags, Bonne Finken & The Collective and Sonic Factory before the Des Moines Embassy at South by Southwest was announced. That did create a good narrative for this year's awards, but it wasn't the determining factor.
So if you see the winners around town, congratulate them and buy them a beer. Not because they won a Mixie, but because they're awesome in general. Same goes for any local musician. In the end it's not the awards that are important, but the support of fans.