One of the joys of the podcast format is that it opens up the role of producer to anyone with a recording device and the internet, allowing for extremely specific interests to be explored in depth, episodically. A local gem in the ultra-special-interest category is the Pants OFF! podcast hosted by Brian Campos. The show features in-depth discussions with Iowa musicians about their art, interests and careers as well as samples of their music. Artists from a broad range of genres — from hip hop to folk to metal to pop — appear on the podcast, but what they all share in common is the meta-category of Iowa music.
Of course, if you don’t live in Iowa you might not even realize that there is such a thing as Iowa music or an Iowa scene, much less that there is enough of a tradition to require an on-going podcast dedicated to exploring it. But to the initiated the podcast is an illuminating, humorous and sometimes inspiring series that is as deeply Iowan as the music to which it is devoted.
Now the podcast has released a new compilation: Pants OFF! Mixtape Vol. 1, a generous sampling of conversations and tracks from the show. Sales of the mixtape benefit Iowa food pantries.
Pants OFF! thrives on Campos’ obvious love of conversation. The mixtape highlights a nice mix of candid and insightful moments from interviews, from a funny TMI moment with Ramona Muse to a motivating anecdote about the touring life from Patrick Tape Fleming. Touring is an ongoing theme in the mixtape. Nate Phillips of Traffic Death and Jeff Roalson of Halfloves paint overlapping pictures of road life as a challenging but necessary calling, a devotion that Iowan artists keep renewing not because they are seeking fame but because they genuinely love presenting their music to new audiences.
Campos also leads artists to revealing reflections on the creative process, which is one of the podcast’s greatest strengths. The mixtape includes a few strong songwriting insights from Luke Rauch of Druids and Courtney Krause, as well as a potent exploration of the political undertones of MarKaus’ verses.
The interview clips are interspersed with selections of tracks from the artists themselves which, like the show, run the full gamut of musical modes. Hearing the voices of musicians in conversation may well open your awareness to new musical expressions that aren’t in your Spotify rotation. These artists are your neighbors after all: Hear them out.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 225.