Dexter Romweber has pursued his distinctive musical direction with a single-minded determination for the past four decades, beginning with his first junior high band in Batesville, Ind. Since then, Romweber has worked with and been cited as a seminal influence by some of the biggest names in music. But varying combinations of bad timing and worse luck have denied him the commercial success he clearly deserves.
Romweber’s first major exposure came through his groundbreaking guitar/drums outfit Flat Duo Jets (FDJ), with Chris “Crow” Smith on drums. The duo’s debut cassette EP, 1985’s In Stereo, earned them national attention with a feature on MTV’s The Cutting Edge and an appearance in the Rock documentary Athens, GA: Inside Out. FDJ’s eponymous 1990 full-length debut was followed by an extensive tour supporting The Cramps, whom Romweber has tagged as a huge influence.
Go Go Harlem Baby (produced by legendary musician/producer Jim Dickinson) came out in 1992 and was ultimately discovered by a young Jack White, who has claimed Romweber and FDJ as one of his primary influences (Romweber has subsequently recorded a 7-inch and a live set for White’s Third Man Records), a sentiment echoed by many others over the years.
FDJ managed to record six more albums before disillusionment and personal differences separated Romweber and Smith.
Romweber’s excellent 2001 solo debut, Chased by Martians (featuring drummer Sam LaResh), was undone by the collapse of the label that released it and the release date’s proximity to 9/11. In 2004, Romweber signed with Yep Roc and released the vibrantly charged Blues That Defy My Soul. LaResh departed in 2007, replaced by Romweber’s older sister Sara, longtime drummer for Let’s Active and Snatches of Pink.The sibling version of the Dex Romweber Duo debuted on Bloodshot Records with 2009’s moodily wonderful Ruins of Berlin, which was followed by 2011’s Is That You in the Blue? The twosome’s latest, Images 13, drops next month, and it’s an amalgam of everything that has erupted from Romweber’s fevered creative genius from the start — twisted ’50s Rockabilly and romantic Pop, high-octane ’60s Surf, raw, electric Blues and even strains of Jazz and Exotica.
DEX ROMWEBER DUO performs a free show on Thursday, March 13 at MOTR Pub with Grotesque Brooms. Details here.