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Octopus College Hill Is Making A Record

Photo by Alyssa Leicht
The Cedar Falls band Hex Girls performing at Octopus College Hill on New Years Eve 2018. A song from this performance will be on the Octopus Live Compilation.

As a Serious Music Person, you know that vinyl is a superior way to listen to music unless you’re tuned into Iowa Public Radio’s Studio One.

Heady conversation about warmth of sound aside, if you are into collecting limited edition vinyl presses, Octopus College Hill is brewing up a plan that you should know about.

Later this year, the bar is releasing the Octopus Live Vinyl Compilation, a collection of songs performed by Iowa bands that have been recorded at the Octopus through a Kickstarter campaign.

The album is a collaboration between bands who have played the venue, the bar’s owner, live music enthusiast Ralph Bryant, and sound engineer Luke Scott, Ross Klemz and Cody Brown.

When the bar opened in 2012 owner Dave Deibler was initially against hosting live music because of the work involved with booking and hosting bands. But as a musician who is founding member of the group House of Large Sizes, he realized there was a need.

Credit Johnny Dexter
Peas & Carrot performing at Octopus.

“I knew from experience what went into it, but after about a year of running Octopus, it became clear there was a musical community in the Cedar Valley that needed a home,” Deibler says.

Bryant has cataloguing recordings from shows at the venue since 2014. Five years later, they’ve decided it’s high time to produce some of their favorite recordings into an album.

“I believe what we’re doing here is archiving a moment in time,” Bryant says. “I’m a better person because I’ve gotten to know all of these people.”

They settled upon using the crowd-funding platform Kickstarter to produce the album, unsure if they’d make their goal. Fast forward six days and they had reached full funding.

Bryant says he excitedly messaged Deibler “25 times a day with updates” after the campaign first launched. When they reached their goal, they told the crowd at the next Saturday night show.

“It was amazing. We got to stand up and say this record is happening,” says Bryant. “I’ve recorded live music for a long time, and I was always hopeful someone would be able to use it in some way. To be able to use it in a way to promote what’s happening here, and all of these bands, makes it even better.”


To get a copy of the album, you’ve got to back the Kickstarter or come early to a release show. They are going to be a limited number of presses available for people who missed the chance to contribute to the Kickstarter.

Fans of Iowa music can look forward to some hidden gems on the compilation. The Des Moines band Brother Trucker contributed the song “Burgers and Fries,” which has never appeared on a Brother Trucker album. TWINS contributed a song from their upcoming album, and Hex Girls from Cedar Falls can be heard doing a version of their song “Jet Black Elvis” from New Year’s Eve that includes almost entirely new lyrics.

In addition, the compilation includes many artists that will be familiar to IPR listeners, including Elizabeth Moen, Brooks Strause, SIRES, Holy White Hounds, and Peas & Carrot.

Credit Photo courtesy of Dave Deibler

Hex Girls’ vocalist/bassist Nick Fisher works in marketing during the day, and says it’s awesome how quickly the project got funded.

“I suspected it would get funded pretty quickly, but six days is better than anyone could have imagined, and that just shows the tremendous support from the Cedar Valley and the state of Iowa, and I think there were contributors nationally.”

“The Cedar Valley music scene is leading this,” Fisher continues. “And that really shows what a great music community we have here, and the entirety of the Iowa music scene is represented.”

Octopus will be holding a “Backer’s Ball” on July 6 to celebrate the success of the project.

There will be a total of 250 copies, with no represses in the future, and there will be no digital release of the compilation. Since the Octopus exclusively plays vinyl on the sound system, that’s fitting.

“We want it be exclusive and exciting, and something that only a few people get,” says Bryant. “They spin records there all the time. The magic of vinyl is it’s something you can hold in your hands, and that’s why I think it’s catching on again with the new generation.”

Tony Dehner is a Studio One Host