Flat Duo Jets was a rockabilly band from the Chapel Hill area of North Carolina, and though their name may not turn many heads nowadays, you can bet they were a pretty big deal in the 80s and 90s. In fact, you could probably go so far as to call them seminal – Dexter Romweber, Chris “Crow” Smith, and Griz “Tone” Mayer had a large and lasting influence on a number of big names in music today, including no less than Jack White.
Listening to Go Go Harlem Baby, the band’s third album which has been recently remastered by Third Man Records, you can hear the beginnings of the White Stripes, especially in the gnarly guitars and cymbal-happy drum playing. Though Flat Duo Jets called it quits in 1999, perhaps their best-known album is seeing new fans with this reissue.
The end of his band didn’t stop lead singer/guitarist Dexter Romweber from pursuing a musical career, however. He currently fronts the Dex Romweber Duo with his older sister Sarah. Dex was kind enough to talk to Randomville about what he’s been up to, and how the past decade has treated him.
Randomville (RV): Thanks for talking with us, Dex. How’s it going?
Dexter Romweber (DR): Well, me and Sarah just got off a tour maybe three weeks ago. We did a short tour of Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia – we were in Richmond the other night, and we’ll be going to Atlanta on Friday.
We’re generally laying low right now, but the shows have been really good. Traveling’s a little hard, but, y’know, we’re doing what we can. It’s been pretty cool.
RV: What’s it like listening to Go Go Harlem Baby 20 years later?
DR: I haven’t listened to [the album] lately, but sometime last year, I brought out all of my old records and listened to each one, and I really dug it. At the time [of release], I didn’t think they were that great, but I have a friend in Reno, and he just loves [our] version of “Harlem Nocturne,” so it’s probably not as bad as we might have thought back then.
RV: What was the impetus that led to the remastering?
DR: I actually didn’t decide that at all – Jack White is taking care of all of that. I played with a friend of mine, named Sam, and we opened for the White Stripes in Boston in the early 2000s. That was the first night that I’d met him. He told me he wanted to make a 45” with me, but that didn’t come to fruition until I started playing with Sarah. I don’t see Jack too often, and I haven’t spoken with him lately, but periodically we’ll meet up and do these projects together.
RV: What’s changed in the 25 years since you began playing?
DR: Well, I wish me and Sarah were making more money, y’know? The scene’s not much different – a lot of people have grown up and moved on, so sometimes I don’t see the same people that I used to run into quite a bit … a lot of new faces, some old ones. I’ve managed to make friends with a few fans that have turned up over the past couple of years. It’s always good to see loyal fans.
RV: Any plans for the future?
DR: We’re gonna be playing with the Meat Puppets for about 17 days, and we’ve got some dates ourselves, too. Some shows in New York City, and then I’m not really sure – we’re driving back home…it’s always a quest. I’m trying to pay off a mortgage, and it’s a quest to keep my house going and earning money as well as I can.
So, that’s what’s coming next. But we have this record coming out, and we’re promoting that about as well as we can. Three and a half weeks across America is a good start to get people to buy a record – I think it’s selling pretty well for us.