Despite national audience, Iowa’s hills most musical, native band says


When Iowa-bred House of Large Sizes first began, the plan was to make its musical mark nationally.

“The goal was definitely to play around the country,” said Dave Deibler, a singer and guitarst for House of Large Sizes. “At first you have no idea what’s going to happen, but once we started playing at places like Gabe’s [now the Picador] and doing some small tours, then yeah, the goal was to play on a national level. And you know, there were a million clubs back then.”

House formed in 1986 in Cedar Falls, where all three members were students at the University of Northern Iowa. The band will perform at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., today at 9 p.m. Admission is $12.

Since its creation, House has had a few drummers come and go, but two members have stayed steady for the 23 years the group has been making music.

After over four years of dating, the band’s bassist, Barb Schlif, and Deibler were married in 1990. When they first got married, Schlif and Deibler found themselves able to focus on a career in arts thanks to their $125 rent.

“I had friends in Los Angeles or Burbank, and they were literally paying $1,500 or $1,600 a month, barely hanging on,” Deibler said. “I didn’t have to work 12 hour days, and I had a lot of freedom. You live like kings, and you’re playing in a band. You’ve got everything you want.”

House’s eventual live success propelled the band to reach its dream of performing all over the United States.

“I hadn’t been to California, or New York, or Manhattan, or Seattle, or Chicago, or Minneapolis, or Dallas, so it was great to go to those places firsthand,” the 45-year-old frontman said. “It was great to see those places, but it also reaffirmed what I like about Iowa.”

By traveling the nation, Deibler and the rest of the band, which adopted drummer Brent Hanson eight years ago, learned that California and New York held no more sparkle than any other state they had visited.

“It’s just another place; it’s just like here,” he said. “There is no golden land.”

He is proud of the state he calls home and where his band became a major staple in live performance, but feels Iowa is in the midst of its own identity crisis.

“With our involvement with the caucuses and Barack Obama becoming president, Iowa’s role has really changed in the last couple of years,” he said. “But we’ve just been taught at a young age that everything’s better some place else. And then when we go on tour — I think it’s better here than it is in Los Angeles.”

Deibler, who writes all of the songs for House, says the band’s lyrics and music attempts to paint what a band from Iowa really sounds like.

“We don’t want to sound like what’s going on in Boston or anywhere else,” Deibler said. “We have a song called ‘North Cedar’ which is a song about Cedar Falls, and people around here reacted to it really strongly because no one writes a song about the trashy part of Cedar Falls. If you’re from here, you have exposure to them. The same way ZZ Top writes about Texas.”

The band, which briefly broke up in 2003 to start families and businesses, does little to suppress the excitement the members have about playing again.

“There is definitely a huge hole in my life when we’re not playing,” Deibler said. “It’s not a great analogy, but you know when you’re at a funeral and you’re like, ‘It’s great to see you, but I wish it wasn’t right now’? It’s like that, but you’re glad that it’s right now and you get to see [the bandmates and fans].”

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