‘Bad boys’ Mint Wad Willy rock out in Iowa City farewell

BY RYAN FOSMARK | JULY 24, 2009 7:15 AM

Alcohol and rock are Mint Wad Willy’s specialties. The group has grown into a full-on, whiskey-guzzling rock ’n’ roll band — a far leap from its acoustic beginnings five years ago under the moniker Artichoke Hearts. With two records under its belt (the latest of which was recorded at nationally revered Sound Emporium Recording Studios in Nashville), Mint Wad Willy is moving to Omaha in search of a larger, better-fitting music scene.

The Yacht Club, 13 S. Linn St., will host “Fuck Mint Wad Willy” — an aptly named farewell show for the group. Opening bands the Treats and Bold City Lights will start the festivities at today at 9 p.m. Admission is $7, $5 with a nonperishable food item for the Crisis Center food drive.

“I’m sure they’ll all get really drunk, and I’m sure they’ll do something entertaining,” Yacht Club manager Pete McCarthy said. “Their big red-head is usually good for something. “

Nick Johnston, the big red-headed bassist/guitarist/vocalist for Mint Wad Willy, and guitarist/bassist/vocalist Derek LeVasseur noted the band is generally hard up for friends in the local music scene. The members remembered a rift-building argument with Camp Euforia, getting kicked out of the Picador, and a near knife fight at the Mill that resulted in one of the members being banned from the venue. Despite all that Mint Wad Willy has done to further the image of what lead guitarist Michael Fett calls “the small-town villain rock group,” the Yacht Club has never held a grudge.

“Nick would make jokes that we were always kind of the bastard child of the Yacht Club,” LeVasseur said. “For some reason they never got rid of us. They should have drowned us in the river, but they didn’t. They’ve always taken care of us.”

The members of Mint Wad Willy are known to usually have a high blood alcohol content while playing, which often makes them cause a little bit of mayhem.

“This is our last show, so we’re really going to be in the mindset of ’we don’t give a fuck,’” LeVasseur said. “We’re going to say and do everything we can to offend everybody.”

Venues aside, the group tends to be an outcast among the other local bands as well. With a very different style that just doesn’t seem to fit anywhere in the city, Mint Wad Willy finds itself critical of other musical approaches.

“That’s kind of where our stance on music is — we’re more about playing live and having fun with our friends,” LeVasseur said. “Whereas other bands in Iowa City are like, ‘Yeah, listen to me play this four-minute solo and tell me how this sounds and scream in my face.’ Where we just want to have a good time.”

All the members, save drummer Royce Kensinger, who is going to Sioux City, are moving into a house in Omaha. Without jobs lined up, they will be in a bit of a bind to pay their $500 rent. But none of them seemed very worried about the situation, as long as they get to keep playing music.

“We’re all very blue-collar,” LeVasseur said. “We just do it because if we didn’t do this, we would be fucking robbing people or breaking into houses. The aggression of playing music — I love it.”

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