'I am doing what I need to do' 

The Flat Duo Jets’ Dex Romweber returns

THOSE OF us familiar with The Firesign Theater's motto "Forward into the past!" couldn't help but think time was folding in on itself several years back when The White Stripes first burst upon the national scene. Hadn't we seen this somewhere before?

Sure we had. It was called The Flat Duo Jets. Now, to be fair, both Duo Jets were male, and they wore whatever they damn well pleased (regardless of color scheme), but as far as two-piece groups of minimalist, reverb and distortion soaked electric guitar and trap set drums, the Duo Jets were through with it before Jack and Meg knew what to do with it.

click to enlarge The Dex Romweber Duo
  • The Dex Romweber Duo

A love of obscure C&W, R&B, garage-rock and surf records? Check. Raw, primal, sometimes spooky guitar tone? Check. Bombastic, ragged-but-right arrangements of their own loud and boisterous originals in a similar vein? Check. Charismatic vocalists with impressive manes who could bellow and coo in the same tortured sentence? Double check.

The Stripes took the world by storm (and wound up inspiring countless stripped-down, bass-less, two-piece power “trios” at approximately the same time the Jets’ Dexter Romweber (a romantically maniacal frontman if there ever was one) was hovering near the lowest profile of his career. Long after their heyday as scene-stealers in the cult rock scene documentary Athens, Ga. - Inside/Out and several years after their brief flirtations with the major labels, the Duo Jets were disbanded, and Dex was playing to small crowds of hardcore devotees.


Here's a vintage clip of The Flat Duo Jets doing their thing back in the mid-'80s:


Fast-forward to 2009, and in some measure, the world is righting itself.

Dex, finally united musically with his drummer sister Sara (late of Mitch Easter’s power-pop should-have-beens Let’s Active and the shambolic early ‘90s Southeastern rawk mess Snatches of Pink), just celebrated the release of their brand-new album Ruins of Berlin. That disc —which features guest appearances by such critically-acclaimed Romweber fans as Neko Case, X’s Exene Cervenka and Cat Power (who Dex and Sara memorable opened for at our own Trustees Theater last year)— finds the sorely underrated song writer and interpreter at his most focused and captivating in at least a decade.

The record (and its accompanying tour) follow Two Headed Cow, an acclaimed ultra-indie documentary on Dex’s life and music that introduced him to many who’d literally never known this American musical treasure existed. It’s a bona fide resurgence which at the moment finds the humble and private musician doing as many as three interviews a day.

Happily, even Jack White’s getting in on the action. “Dex Romweber was and is a huge influence on my music,” the superstar trumpeted recently. “I owned all of his records as a teenager. (He is) one of the best kept secrets of the rock and roll underground.”

Dex was initially apprehensive about this increased scrutiny into his life and music, but is slowly acclimating himself to his second (or third) go-around at the fame game.

“In the past week I’ve been feeling really good about it,” he admits, adding, “and I didn’t think I would!”

“Fact is, I was drawn to living a life more dedicated to myself. But it’s a good feeling, and I think that comes back to the sense that I am doing what I need to do.”


Here are Dex and Sara playing at Chapel Hill's famed Cat's Cradle club in late 2006:


Asked if he worries that some audience members now being introduced to his music may incorrectly assume he’s just another pretender jumping on the bandwagon, Romweber chuckles at the thought.

“That would be really crazy! (laughs) The fact that the White Stripes could hit it so big actually helps us. The truth, for us, that stripped-down format had a lot to do with finance. Anyone who does this for a living understands right now it’s a real struggle to make this your job.”

While Romweber says he has mixed emotions about the final version of the documentary (which some feel portrays him in a bad light) he admits that nights when the venues show the movie in lieu of an opening band, such as this Savannah date, can bring out great performances.

“At times they play the film and I feel such a surge of energy to hit the stage. Those have been some memorable gigs. I don’t feel I have to top it. It almost makes things more exciting for me.” cs

Read the full interview here.

Dexter Romweber Duo + Dex Doc Film

When: Sat., 10 pm

Where: The Jinx

Cost: $7

Info: myspace.com/dexterromweberduo, myspace.com/twoheadedcow


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Jim Reed

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