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Ramona and the Sometimes: The family that plays together

Courtesy of Ramona Muse Lambert
Like most musician and artist stories these days, the pandemic has taken made Derek and Ramona Muse Lambert's creative paths much more difficult.

Derek and Ramona Muse Lambert have a lot to celebrate. Each of them are releasing albums in the coming month, will appear at Iowa City’s Mission Creek festival on April 9, and have a third child on the way. But, like most musician and artist stories these days, the pandemic has made their creative paths much more difficult.

In October 2020, after 18 years in business, the legendary Des Moines club Vaudeville Mews closed, another pandemic casualty. Derek was managing the venue when it closed. Having lost his livelihood, and needing income, the couple turned to hosting online bingo and quiz shows. As a freelance visual artist, Ramona took to selling her ideas and wares on her website. Fortunately, their friends and community supported their efforts, and the family was able to manage.

Derek and Ramona Muse Lambert prepare for the newest addition to their family.
Byron Dudley
Derek and Ramona Muse Lambert prepare for the newest addition to their family.

It was during this isolation that Derek began tinkering in the couple's basement studio, writing songs and teaching himself how to record and mix. He self-produced his album No Visitor under the band name The Book of Bugs, on which he plays every instrument. The process was difficult, but Derek learned a lot.

Meanwhile, Ramona was recording voice memos on her phone, wherever creativity would strike, often in the shower or while unloading the dishwasher. Those voice memos were the seeds of a new Ramona and the Sometimes album.

The couple also applied for an Iowa Arts Council grant to update their obsolete recording rig, and were thrilled when they got the news that the grant had been approved.

courtesy of Ramona Muse Lambert
The new album from Ramona and The Sometimes is coming later this month.

Recording commenced, with Derek producing, and the band adding parts as they could, usually when they came by for small dinner parties. “We do a lot of eating together,” Ramona jokes.

The resulting album, Did I Miss It? Is It Over? is a delightfully quirky collection of songs that's whimsical, but has some depth and touches of darkness in it. “I like to use lighter subject matter to address heavier ideas,” Ramona says, “I like to write songs where you might think ‘This is cute,’ but on the fourth listen you go ‘Oh my gosh, this is intense.’”

The mix of lightheartedness and seriousness are reflected in the album title, which Ramona says is from a child’s perspective, asking about civilization itself, but from the vantage point of childlike innocence. “We were going to call it ‘The World’s Not Burning,’ but that felt a little too on the nose right now. As the parents of young children, we want to remain optimistic.”

Ramona and the Sometimes performs Saturday, April 9 at Mission Creek Festival in Iowa City. They will also be playing a double album release show with The Book of Bugs and special guests Odd Pets at xBk Live on Saturday, April 30 at 8 pm. The show is All Ages. With a third child on the way, these two scheduled performances will be the last for at least a year.

Bryon Dudley has written about the Iowa music scene for the Des Moines Music Coalition, the Iowa Informer, Little Village, and now IPR Studio One (amongst others). He is passionate about Iowa music, and performs with his own bands: Strong Like Bear, Moonrabbit, Rockets of Desire and The Cherrypickers.