The music scene in Iowa in the ’80s was vibrant. Inspired by similar regional scenes nationwide, bands across the state were springing from their garages, basements and practice spaces ready to storm the stages of bars and dorms everywhere. The beacon for this movement locally was the ever-present KUNI studios evening music programming, which regularly featured those bands.
One of the earliest Iowa bands to achieve local and national recognition in that era was Des Moines group the Hollowmen. Formed in 1984 by Tom Armstrong (vocals, guitar), Joe Page (drums), Mike Sangster (guitar, vocals, piano) and Eric Svenson (bass), the band released two albums before splitting up in 1989.
In 2015, the Hollowmen reunited for two shows without Page (who passed away in 2007). One of those shows was at Octopus College Hill in Cedar Falls, run by former House of Large Sizes frontman Dave Deibler. This show led to Deibler and Ralph Bryant tracking down the Hollowmen’s debut EP, Poison for Profit, with the intention of reissuing it on their Octopus Records label.
“I first saw the Hollowmen in 1985 at Dean’s Parkade Lounge in downtown [Cedar Falls]. I wanna briefly tell you why the re-release of their first recordings on Octopus Records is a big deal,” Deibler shared on his Facebook wall. “The Hollowmen were one of the first ‘real’ Iowa bands I ever witnessed. By that I mean they had their musical ‘shit’ together WAY beyond anything I had experienced prior. They had great songs. Really great songs! What really left a lasting impression on me that night was their minimalist approach and commitment to those songs. They were actually listening to each other! I left that show in a haze knowing that I had seen the future.”
Ultimately, Deibler was influenced by that experience to form House of Large Sizes. “Heck,” he wrote, “I stopped smoking pot and drinking for six months to put together HOLS! That’s how much impact the Hollowmen had on me then and now.”
House of Large Sizes had a successful run from 1987 though their breakup in 2003 and were briefly on Columbia Records.
The Poison For Profit EP was only released officially on cassette in Europe in 1985 on the Acid Tapes label. The lack of a U.S. release was due to the fact that their debut full-length, Sinister Flower Gift, came out on Pravda soon after the EP was recorded, and the effort to promote moved to the album.
When Deibler and Bryant started looking into reissuing Poison For Profit, they found that the original recordings made at South River Recording in Indianola had been lost. In a bit of luck, they were able to secure the original cassette master tape from Acid Tapes. The tape sounded incredible — better than any copy circulated by the band. Remastering was handled by Jon Chamberlain at Catamount Studios in Cedar Falls and the resulting recordings are astonishing, to say the least.
Long-time fans and new converts can enjoy a sample of how the remaster turned out in this video for the first track on the EP, “Need It Most,” premiering here. The video was crafted from vintage photos and posters of the band compiled from the band’s own collection and via fans, through an outreach effort on Facebook.
Poison For Profit is available for preorder on clear, lathe-cut, 10” vinyl from the Mohair Pear website. You can also get bundles that include a really great T-shirt. Due out in April, the EP will come with a fold-out poster, show flyer replicas and a copy of the original cassette artwork.