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Bands find inspiration in poetry, psychedelia, & medieval chanting

BY ISAAC HAMLET | MAY 14, 2015 5:00 AM

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Stories can be told from the peaks of crescendos, fingers flying from one side of a keyboard to the other as notes and chords are overlaid by words. This is how Christopher Ford chooses to tell his stories.

Friday at 9 p.m., the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., will host Des Moines-based artist Ford, headlining the night as Christopher the Conquered. Iowa bands Dagmar and Gloom Balloon with share the stage, the latter of which Ford is also a member.

Ford put out Christopher the Conquered’s debut album in 2007. Five years later, he released his second album The Fate of a Good Man.

“I see myself as a storyteller more than a musician,” Ford said. “Try to imagine a film without music. Music sets a tone. So much can be said with patterns in rhythm and tone, and it’s great to be able to take advantage of that.”


For years, Ford had trouble writing songs that reached beyond his own catharsis.

“The reason I was struggling was partly because what I was doing was less rock and more therapy,” Ford said. “I had to figure out how to make that work for an audience, to elevate their experience in that time and space.”

His appearance at the Mill celebrates the release of his newest album, I’m Giving Up On Rock & Roll. Ford said the collection of songs is not only written with the audience in mind but also examines the deep connections we develop for people, places, and ideas — and the process of severing those ties.

“Everyone falls in love with something,” Ford said. “Everyone has a passion and wants to try to improve their connection to that love. In that pursuit, our passion can hijack our identity. When you’re so in love with something that you give up who you are for it, you might need to step back and ask how healthy this is.”

With Christopher the Conquered, piano and poetic lyrics are the spine of Ford’s music. Gloom Balloon, however, veers toward the electric.

“As far as Gloom Balloon’s songs go, they’re sort of downer songs lyrically but performed in happy ways,” said Patrick Fleming, songwriter and member of Gloom Balloon. “Chris calls it a ‘psychedelic dance party,’ but it has elements of folk, hip-hop, classical, and rock-and-roll.”

The group formed when Fleming and Ford started recording with a quartet. The soon began adding more electronic elements.

“Being in Gloom Balloon has been really fun artistically,” Fleming said. “We’re always changing it musically and we don’t really get set on one specific tone.”

Dagmar, based in Fairfield, Iowa, will also perform on Friday. Formerly a trio known as Rock Paper Scissors, Maranda Mallard and Gemma Cohen make up this indie classical duo.

“We’re influenced by the music we have studied and enjoyed both academically and personally, ranging from medieval chanting, to Philip Glass, to current indie-folk rock,” Cohen said.

A year ago, Cohen played with Christopher the Conquered in Italy, and he said he looks forward to hearing the band’s current renditions of those songs as well as how the three groups’ different sounds mesh on stage.

“The great thing about all three groups is that they’re very interactive with their audiences,” Fleming said. “We want people to feel like they were a part of the show when they leave.”


MUSIC
Christopher the Conquered
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Where: Mill, 120 E. Burlington
Admission: $8


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