The River Monks Sing Iowa’s Praises in “I Am a Lake”


Although the six members of folk-pop group the River Monks are now spread out across the country, they still claim Des Moines, Iowa, as their hometown. On their new album, Home Is the House, listeners get a taste of the region’s unique musical scene.

“Iowa may not be considered a ‘hotbed,’” says bandleader and singer Ryan Stier. “But like all things Iowa, an absurdly good music scene exists under the radar. … It’s what’s going on behind the scenes that inspires us to not only be an active part of the Iowa music community but to bolster the heck out of its name whenever we go on tour or get interviewed. Iowa has a great, diverse scene that’s honestly the main reason we’re still doing what we’re doing.”

The band’s connection to Iowa and Des Moines permeates everything they do, from their name to their new single, “I Am a Lake.”

“The band was named after the story behind the Des Moines River,” Stier explained to CMT Edge via email. “A group of French settlers noticed some fish-trapping monks in a river and named it ‘La Rivière des Moines’ (River of the Monks). The city of Des Moines, as you might expect, eventually formed around it. The song ‘I Am a Lake’ was written about a day I’ll never forget, spent at Gray’s Lake in (you guessed it) Des Moines.”

With striking vocal harmonies often sung in church-like unison, the song features a chanting, wide-open feel perfect for a cathedral of cornfields.

“Vocal harmony has always been a major part of our formula,” says Stier. “In fact, it may be our mantra. ‘I Am a Lake’ is a case in point. I’m personally fond of harmony because it’s the intention of joining several voices to make one beam of sound energy. There’s nothing else like it.”

Check out the River Monks’ adventurous music video for “I Am a Lake,” which features the band enjoying a gorgeous-looking canoe trip to their next gig.

I’ll bet you can guess where it was filmed.