Shining bright: The Maytags release “Nova”


Courtesy The Maytags

The Maytags will celebrate the release of their debut EP, “Nova”, with a show at Wooly’s in Des Moines on Dec.2. 

Waylon Sternahgen

Iowa might not be the first place that comes to mind when music fans think of classic soul and rock and roll, but that might change once they hear The Maytags.

The latest project of singer-songwriter Dustin Smith, The Maytags released their debut EP, “Nova” on Dec. 2. With danceable grooves, a two-piece horn section and call-and-response vocals, the band is a modern twist on the Motown formula.

The new band and EP mark a bit of a back-to-basics shift for Smith, who worked as a solo artist before forming the nine-member outfit The Sunday Silos. The transition from the robust Silos to the streamlined Maytags quintet occurred organically as Smith took a stripped-down version of the band into the studio to record what was to become “Nova.”

“When I walked away with the arrangements and the songs, I was listening to the mixes, and it’s just a completely different sound,” Smith said. “It’s a different feel, and it’s a different band. That’s why I decided to roll with a new name.”

“Nova” was recorded at The Bomb Shelter in Nashville, Tenn. Smith chose the studio primarily because it had been home to the sessions for one of his favorite albums, Alabama Shakes’ “Boys and Girls”. In keeping with the band’s retro sound, “Nova” was recorded entirely to tape without the aid of computers.

Recording analog was a new experience for Smith, who had previously only worked digitally. Breaking free of the perfectionist traps offered by Pro-Tools and digital recording was a liberating experience, but it also imposed some limitations.

“There’s no lying. There’s no chopping up a thousand pieces of tape and putting them back together. It’s a very live thing,” Smith said. “They’re going to capture what you’re doing. [If] you mess up, there’s no going back through and punching in [to fix it]. It’s all real.”

The band rose to the occasion, laying down six tracks in just two days. The 23 hours of studio time was a mere fraction of the eight months it took Smith to record his previous effort, the Silos’ 2012 album “Northerner.”

“We were on a mission. I went down there thinking that if there were things that I couldn’t finish I could come back and do vocals and things like that,” Smith said. “But as we started getting closer to Nashville, one of the guys in the band said, ‘There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to finish this thing in two days.’ So we did. Six songs in two days is something I feel pretty good about.”

The Maytags will try to recapture that studio magic in April when they return to Nashville to record a full-length album. They will be working with Andrija Tokic, whose work with the Alabama Shakes’ led Smith to The Bomb Shelter for “Nova”.

The months leading up to recording the album will be spent polishing new material in rehearsals and on the road. Smith’s planned studio timeline for the album looks much closer to the sessions for “Nova” than the sessions for “Northerner”. 

“I’m gonna try to do it in three days, but I’m not getting my hopes up,” Smith said. “I don’t wanna rush it or force anything.” 

The Maytags will celebrate the fruits of their studio labor thus far with a release show for “Nova” this Friday at Wooly’s in Des Moines with openers Gloom Balloon, Kris Adams & The Lefties and Tiny Deaths.

Though Smith is primarily concerned with making sure his audience has a good time, he hopes show goers and “Nova” listeners alike will be able to take some deeper meaning from his work. 

“Take a moment every day and just look at yourself and know who you are and be appreciative of that. Work hard for the things that you have or want or don’t have and just be appreciative and honest,” Smith said. “I hope people walk away from a show and feel like they gained a piece of themselves, where for that one moment they could just feel good.”