House of Large Sizes reunites for first performances in a decade
Today, Dave Deibler is most well-known as the co-owner of Octopus, a bar and live music venue in Cedar Falls. But in the '90s and early 2000s, he spent his time fronting House of Large Sizes (HOLS), a rock band that toured the country playing with acts like Cheap Trick, Built to Spill, The Hold Steady and Smashing Pumpkins.
“Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins would come to our shows. I [don’t] even think he had the band name at that time. And we got to be a little friendly and then they opened for us in Madison because they were recording at Smart Studios,” said Deibler. “That was pretty memorable, too, because it was right before their particular bomb exploded. But the thing I remember about them is that they were constantly arguing and backstabbing each other.”
For his 60th birthday, Dave Deibler decided to do something he hasn’t done in ten years: play a rock show. On Friday, July 7, HOLS takes the stage at 80/35 for one of their first performances since they played the festival in 2013. During their performance, the band will be inducted in the Iowa Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.
“There's a community that supports House of Large Sizes,” said Deibler. “I really appreciate them being there for us, and I want to hang out with them again….It's a wonderful thing to have people rooting for you [and] supporting you.”
HOLS, which takes its name from a Minneapolis store Deibler used to walk by on his way to work at McDonald’s, was formed in 1986 at the University of Northern Iowa by Deibler, bassist and vocalist Barb Schilf and drummer and vocalist Dave Berg. The band has seen three more drummers since then, and takes the stage at 80/35 with Brent Hanson, who joined HOLS in 1999.
Similarly to Deibler, Schilf is best known today for being the co-owner of Octopus, which opened in 2012, as well as Mohair Pear, a piercing and apparel shop next door to Octopus she opened in 1994. Mohair sells items like HOLS vinyl, purses rife with '90s nostalgia, and, oh yeah, chocolate vulvas.
The House is in the House
When HOLS formed in 1986, Schilf had never played bass, and Berg didn’t have any punk rock experience. But the trio started playing shows around Iowa, and by 1989 the band signed with Tuscon’s Toxic Shock Records, which released their debut album, One Big Cake. In 1992 the band signed with Columbia Records and went on tour to promote their third LP, My Ass-Kicking Life.
The band left Columbia in 1996 and released five more LPs – Little HOLS on the Prairie, Glass Cockpit, Not for Sale, Idiots Out Wandering Around or I.O.W.A. and House of Large Sizes – with Boulder, Colorado’s independent label What Are Records?
The band went on hiatus in 2003. Deibler and Schilf (who are married) wanted to adopt a child. Deibler described the process of adopting as a full time job, and they needed time to move through that process, both legally and emotionally. But Deibler also said it was simply time to take a break – the music economy was shifting more toward streaming after the millennium, and Mohair Pear was gaining traction.
“Twenty years is a long time for a band. I don't really look at it like, ‘Why did they stop?’ It's like, we probably should have stopped five years before that,” Deibler laughed. “But it was all we knew. I was in the band since I was 23.”
What to expect at 80/35
In preparation for their 80/35 set, HOLS is playing two warm-up shows at Octopus on May 26 (with 10 Watt Robot) and May 27 (with The Rumours), over the weekend of Deibler’s birthday. Deibler said preparing for this set has been difficult, both due to his age and time off from playing shows and because the band doesn’t have access to the songs their labels haven’t uploaded to streaming.
“The physical aspect and the singing aspect of this has proven a challenge,” said Deibler. “There’s no other thing in your life where you go around screaming for 70 minutes.”
But HOLS wants to give fans the same kind of rapid-fire, energetic punk rock set the band put on in its prime. Deibler said he’s been writing lately and the band is looking at putting out another EP, but at 80/35 they’re focusing on playing HOLS classics and other songs from the back catalog that haven’t been played live in 20+ years.
Even more than his set, though, Deibler is excited to check out all the up-and-coming acts at the festival. He said it’s important to him that the community keep supporting local Iowa arts and artists, as being an artist has made his life so much better.
“Sometimes people bitch about festivals,” he said. “They're like, ‘I don't know any of these bands.’ Well, that's the point, right? I don't want to see a band I've seen eight times. I want to see a bunch of new stuff.”
80/35 presents a unique opportunity to do just that. The nonprofit festival has five stages, only one of which is paid. Grab a ticket to see HOLS on the main stage on Friday, July 7 at 8:30 p.m. (who knows – this could be their last performance for another ten years), and then wander around the free stages to soak in the up-and-coming talent. Shameless plug: We recommend popping by the IPR stage on Friday, July 7 at 5 p.m. to check out Big Salt, a Minneapolis punk band we discovered at Octopus.
“I just hope everybody knows what a fantastic festival [80/35] is. It's not packed like sardines. It's very affordable. It's right downtown. It's a treasure to the state of Iowa. It needs to be supported.”
80/35 takes place July 7 and 8, 2023, in downtown Des Moines. Visit their website to buy tickets.
Have questions or comments about this story or want to get in touch with Dan? Follow her on IG at @heyimdanray or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.