Story by Avery Gregurich
Bacon. Corn. Beer.
This is a short list of the buzzwords non-natives attach to the culture of Iowa.
Musicians Christopher Ford and Nate Logsdon are the co-founders of Maximum Ames Records, and they are working every day to add at least one more axiom to that shortlist of Iowa’s culture: powerful and enduring music.
The two first met in 2008 when Logsdon booked Ford’s band, Christopher the Conquered for a show in Ames.
“He completely blew my mind,” Logsdon said.
Ford was looking to put together a horn section for the band, and Logsdon, who plays trumpet, among other instruments, and sings in his own band, Mumford’s, joined in. Christopher the Conquered toured across the country.
Toward the end of 2010 and into 2011, Ford and Logsdon began thinking about the future. They had been self-releasing their music previously and were looking for possible ways to release both their and their friends’ music in vinyl format.
“Chris and I started meeting on a weekly basis to talk about how we could help each other do that, and as those meetings went on, it came out more and more that we were talking about a label,” Logsdon said.
“Our idea was that if we put together the money to pay for one of our bands to put out an album on vinyl, then we could use the money we made from that to put out the next band’s album,” Ford said. “We developed a concept of what turned out to be a record label — a business proper — but with a very egalitarian structure.”
Mumford’s had been placing “Maximum Ames” on its self-released albums previously, and when it came time to choose a name for the new label, “Maximum Ames” stuck.
The label’s first vinyl release was Mumford’s “Triple Trinities” in the summer of 2011. In every year since, the label has put out between four and six vinyl releases, no small feat considering the cost of the format.
By the end of this year, the label’s lineup will grow from 12 to 14 artists, each representing one of a host of musical genres. The duo says that is exactly the point.
“We’re really proud of the variety on our roster. The base of talent in Iowa is extremely diverse, with a huge range of styles, voices and artistic vision,” Logsdon said. “We’ve never released something that is background music, or safe. Everything that we have released is very distinctive and very powerful.”
“It’s not necessarily about being weird or edgy, but just to be progressive in terms of creativity,” Ford said. “All the artists are pushing boundaries in their own genre, and they represent exciting new sounds that are happening in Iowa.”
Ford said the focus of the label will not change from that initial egalitarian approach, which put the artists’ work before all else.
“We want to create a label that can benefit our own artistic projects,” Ford said. “We want to do this only to the extent that it supports our own creativity, not to the extent that it becomes too much work.”
“Part of the approach to doing that is to just build a great discography, a great catalogue, a great brand and give all the artists represented by the label better opportunities for press, shows and access to new fans,” Ford added.
Along with the record label, the Maximum Ames enterprise also handles two other music projects: the Maximum Ames Music Festival and the Iowa Music Store.
The Maximum Ames Music Festival, which is spearheaded by Logsdon and fellow Mumford’s band member Chris Lyng, is entering its fourth year of existence.
The festival takes place during a four-day period every September and has presented over 100 bands every year. The bulk of these artists are from Iowa and the surrounding region, and each year’s festival includes a nationally renowned headline. The Zombies, Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, Wanda Jackson, the Mountain Goats and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band have all headlined the festival.
During the four days, Logsdon said, there is music everywhere.
“We use every venue in Ames and also convert places that aren’t venues into venues, setting up shows at places that don’t usually have shows,” Logsdon said. “I think that it’s the biggest music festival in Iowa for the amount of artists that participate.”
The Iowa Music Store started in the fall of 2012 and revolves around a simple concept: a “one-stop shop for all things Iowa music,” Ford said.
Fans can go online and purchase music and merchandise from any Iowa artist that the store inventories, not just the artists represented by the Maximum Ames record label. The shop inventories everything from vinyl, CDs and tapes to clothing, posters, tote bags and even buttons.