Getting Off the Bull Print
Music - Feature Stories
Tuesday, 19 November 2002 18:00
Dave Deibler pretty much gave up the rock lifestyle about five years ago. After “riding the bull” for 10 years with the Iowa-based power trio House of Large Sizes, he needed a break. “You have to get off that damned animal and lead it around a bit,” said Deibler, guitarist, singer, and songwriter for the band.

So you’ve probably seen a lot less of House of Large Sizes in recent years. The band has dropped back from a performing schedule of 185 shows a year, and this Friday’s performance at RIBCO will be HOLS’ first in the Quad Cities in two years, by Deibler’s account. And while there’s been a live record and an odds-and-ends collection in the interim, the new self-titled record (on the What Are Records? label) is the band’s first proper album since 1997’s Glass Cockpit.

Deibler doesn’t like to look at it as five years between recordings, though. “Eight records in 16 years,” he said. “That doesn’t seem quite so long.”

Yet he also doesn’t apologize for the interval between new material. “I don’t really see us on a deadline,” he said.

That’s the laid-back attitude of the 39-year-old Deibler at this point. HOLS has gone from what its members did all the time to something they enjoy doing when they feel like it. Deibler, bassist Barb Schilf (also Deibler’s wife), and drummer Brent Hanson are still cranking out snotty, catchy, tight, and poppy punk numbers with big, rubbery bass lines and whiny vocals, but they’re not killing themselves doing it – either physically or creatively.

“There’s no manual for being in a band 16 years,” Deibler said. Indeed, while House of Large Sizes is the contemporary of many of the bands with which it’s often compared – particularly the Pixies, formed the same year as HOLS – this outfit has outlived nearly all the others, typically by a decade.

House of Large Sizes was certainly on the path to burning out. For roughly 10 years, the band sought fame and rock-and-roll fortune. “We did everything that we needed to do,” Deibler said, including scheduling gigs with little regard for family, friends, or holidays. The band “took every precedence.”

In the post-grunge signing bonanza for rock bands, HOLS got itself a major-label deal and released My Ass-Kicking Life in 1994 on Columbia.

After that, Deibler went through a philosophical period in which he found it difficult to write because he was over-analyzing the process. “I really took the songs apart,” he said. He came to the conclusion that “the perfect song is silence” and then realized that he was engaging his brain too much. “I really try not to look in there too much,” he said of songwriting. “It has a way of kind of just happening. … Songwriting is not at all an analytic thing.”

Still, Deibler is clearly a songwriting minimalist. “I really like less and less and less,” he said. As a result, there’s little fat in HOLS songs.

The new album is a return to a simpler time. Fans have compared it to early HOLS recordings, and while Deibler recognizes that, he doesn’t seem to put much stock into it.

The record was initially meant to be released two years ago after a whirlwind writing and recording period, in advance of a tour with Frank Black & The Catholics. But it never came together, and the band shelved the songs for a year and a half.

“The songs were written very quickly,” Deibler said. “I had 18 months to mess with them, and I didn’t.” There are fewer disconcerting elements – such as time-signature changes or abrupt stops – but they’re still there, just less extreme, Deibler said. It was a matter of “finding subtle ways to mess” with the songs.

Deibler was also able to refine the lyrics and vocals at his home studio, and without the pressure and cost of studio time, he feels they’re an improvement. “Even at a cheap studio, you don’t want to do that,” he said.

Yet as lackadaisical as Deibler sounds toward his band, he doesn’t appreciate it being tagged a “hobby” instead of a full-time job. “I hope it’s more than a hobby,” he said. “It’s a tool.”

House of Large Sizes headlines a show on Friday, November 22, at RIBCO, with Driver of the Year and Volante. The fun starts at 10 p.m. For more information about House of Large Sizes, visit (http://www.houseoflargesizes.com).
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