Interview: The Muse-Lamberts make beautiful music (and art) together

Ramona and Derek Muse Lambert, former members of Leslie and the Ly’s and newlywed artists living in Des Moines, will perform as The Snug Tops at White Rabbit on Feb. 28 at at 4:30 p.m. Also featured at White Rabbit this month is their collaborative painting show, “It Takes Two.”

Little Village recently interviewed Ramona Muse Lambert by email about the various musical and artistic pursuits that she and her husband are engaged in.

Little Village: How did you meet?

Romona Muse Lambert: We met because of Leslie and the Ly’s when Christopher the Conquered went on tour with us. Derek was like their fourth choice for a drummer and said “yes, please” to tour! We were buddies for a few years and then he came on tour in 2012 as the drummer for Leslie and the Ly’s. Its hard to resist a man drumming on a spinning platform.

When/where did you get married?

We got married Sept. 13, 2014, at Skate West in West Des Moines. My dad’s family runs the rinks in Des Moines and I was like… let’s do this. Let’s make this work.

What were some of the creative aspects to your wedding ceremony (because I imagine it was a fun-filled blowout with swimsuits, jumping rope and original songs)?

We didn’t perform at our wedding. I know way better musicians than myself. We had Kate Kennedy (of Pennyhawk, Neon and Nude) and Dustin Harmsen (of many projects including January Rabbit and H.D. Harmsen) play, they did a mean cover of “If There’s Such a Thing as Love” by the Magnetic Fields, among other amazing numbers.

We completely revamped the entire rink to look like a wedding venue, a lot of painted paper, tissue paper, best potluck ever, my brother DJed the late skate, and my mom made these killer bouquets out of ditch flowers. It was so magical. No swimsuits but all the kids dressed as animals. We know so many people that have such talents and so we just let the thing make itself into the wedding of perfection.

Where did you learn to draw?

My parents were both artists. All I did as a kid was draw. I have probably accumulated more hours of drawing in my life than any other activity. Derek and I both went to country high schools in central Iowa, and I went to ISU for a BFA.

Good Bridges  -- painting by Ramona Muse Lambert
Good Bridges — painting by Ramona Muse Lambert

And how did the It Takes Two project start?

Jessica Smith at the White Rabbit asked us to do it months ago and so we had been pondering it since. We decided that the audience and ourselves would most enjoy illustrations of some of the most outstanding duos in the history of pop culture.

Curious what's happening this weekend? Sign up here to stay in the know.

Was Derek in a band before becoming a Swimsuit?

Derek has his own band, Derek Lambert and the Prairie Fires, solo stuff, and he drums in the band Pure Gut. He has been in many bands playing many instruments.

Who are some inspirations as musical, visual artists or performative artists?

In high school I was obsessed with Beck and the Moldy Peaches. Also Poison Control Center! Still am. Then in college I was really inspired by Of Montreal and the Magnetic Fields. I stand by all of these things still! Currently I am into anything that is accessible and bringing art into a more popular setting that has been seen traditionally.

Postcard by Ramona Muse Lambert
Postcard by Ramona Muse Lambert

Do you have jobs besides as artists?

I teach mostly kids’ classes at the Des Moines Art Center. Derek is the head sound engineer at the Vaudeville Mews.

How do you balance work/art?

Over the years as I have been able to cut out more and more of the random part time jobs and make money at art. I just treat the art like work. Meaning learning to schedule my time and set goals, which has been one of the most challenging and rewarding parts of becoming a real grown up.

How does the music complement the visual art or vice versa?

With my music I am always writing collections of words and making songs out of that, and with visual art I am doing the same thing with images. So lately I have been using an overhead projector to project illustrations on transparencies using some of these correlating images. It has been nice to make the solo/Ramona and the Slimdudes shows more of a comprehensive collection of all parts of my ever evolving ideas.

Can you give advice to young artists who want to become the next Swimsuit/Slimdude/Snug Top?

Slow and steady wins the race. Show the world your most authentic self and someone will identify with you and be delighted by that. Help a weirdo out.

Bowgger  -- painting by Ramona Muse Lambert
Bowgger — painting by Ramona Muse Lambert

Or visual art advice for young drawers?

Practice practice practice. Do stuff for free, then someone with $$ to pay you will see your work and be like, “Can’t live without it, here is some $$.”

Thats how art works, do it because you love it and then hopefully someone can help you afford to do it. Experience as much as you can before you expect it to pay your bills.

What’s next for Ramona and the Swimsuits? And what’s next for The Snug Tops?

Well currently Ramona and the Swimsuits is on hiatus because my guitar and bass player are expecting their first baby in April! I am so excited to meet that little musical prodigy. Lately we have been doing Ramona and the Slimdudes, which is Derek and was my brother Willy Muse, but he just moved to NYC, so we are working on a new bass player.

We have an illustrated book with an album download code for sale at the White Rabbit currently. Derek is working on a solo album and an album with his band Derek Lambert and the Prairie Fires. Snug Tops are just kind of a hobby. We like to play weddings and special romantic events. We play at our house all the time, so maybe someday we will come up with a tape.

Ramona and the Slimdudes songbook at White Rabbit
Ramona and the Slimdudes songbook at White Rabbit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


A collaboration between The Englert Theatre and FilmScene


Help us build the greatest small city for the arts in America—right here in Iowa City. Learn more »

Donate Today

Strengthen • Grow • Evolve is a collaborative campaign led by two Iowa City-based arts nonprofits, The Englert Theatre and FilmScene that seeks a major reinvestment to strengthen the arts through modern and historic venues, innovative programming, and new models of collaboration.

For 18 years...

Little Village has been telling the truth and changing our little corner of the world.

If you can, help us head into the next 18 years even stronger with a one-time or monthly contribution of $18, or any amount you choose.

Little Village
2019 Give Guide

Get to know some of the nonprofits helping to make the CRANDIC a better place to live.