Thursday, July 21, 2011

Interview: Dexter Romweber on 'Is that You in the Blue?'

Photo by Judy Woodall
On July 26, Chapel Hill rock and roll legend Dexter Romweber and his sister Sarah Romweber will release their second album, Is that You in the Blue?, as the Dex Romweber Duo. The duo will play a CD release show at the Cat’s Cradle on July 22 to kick off a new tour promoting the album.

Triangle Music was able to chat with Dexter Romweber to talk about the new album, upcoming tour and how music is his mission.

Triangle Music (TM): How would you introduce Is that You In The Blue? to music fans whether they have listened to all your records before or if they’ve just moved to the area and are just finding out about the scene? What would you tell them about it?

Dexter Romweber (DR): We recorded it over last winter with Rick Miller at his studio in Mebane and the sessions went really good. We’re real happy with the record and there’s some different types of music on it and some types that I’ve already done. We’re about to do all the work to promote this baby and that includes The State of Things with Frank Stasio on NPR, various radio stations, a big tour that starts in about a week and a half and then a CD release part at the Cat’s Cradle. We dig the record and we’re willing to hit the road and it’s been a long and wild career, you know?

TM: There’s a lots of different styles on the record. What was the inspiration behind applying all those different styles to your music recently.

DR: Is that You in the Blue? is a bit inspired by the ballad and torch songs of early rock and roll. I could just run down the list, you know? Like “Jungle Drums,” the first tune, is very early rock and roll. Pretty wild, you know? And then “The Death of Me” was written by Django Haskins of Chapel Hill and his band The Old Ceremony. We had played with them and he wrote that song for me and Sarah. And then “Gurdjieff Girl” is rather a big band type of song, sort of a big band surf type of song. And then “Nowhere” comes from Benny Joy out of Tampa, Florida who is an obscure rockabilly artist. I won’t go through all of the songs, but it’s just various sources and originals inspired by people that I liked. People like Stan Kenton.

TM: You’re primarily known for these guitar and drum duo compositions, but you also add in additional instruments all the time. Is that something that you have in your mind right away or do you write something and think, “Oh, a piano would sound nice here.” What’s your composing process?

DR: A duo isn’t my favorite format. So when we’re recording we’re able to add these other instruments like sax and piano and other guitars, which I’d prefer to do live. It’s just I found myself in this duo format and it’s more for financial reasons although I’m a big fan of bass and organs and stuff like that. So the studio’s a real chance to experiment with stuff we can’t do live.

TM: Is making music with a family member any different than making music with anybody else?

DR: Yeah, it is, but Sarah has a way of driving me. She inspires me. If I’m in tune with myself, there’s a real correlation that hasn’t been better than that. Playing with friends is different because they share a different history. You just come from a different place. Me and Sarah came from the Romweber family so she knows things about me and vice versa. It’s just different. It’s just different, but it’s not bad though.

TM: Y’all played together as kids?

DR: We did together for a brief time, but then Sarah was picked up by older artists. Sarah got picked up real quick because she was real talented. Then I played with other people. Then at the end of our adult life — well, not the end of our adult life, but through out it we were in separate bands. And then at this time we were free four years ago and we started playing together.

TM: What do you enjoy about playing live back here in Chapel Hill for the locals?

DR: Well, it depends what state I’m in. (Laughs) I mean state of mind. I’ve generally had real fun shows here around the Triangle. It’s really good, though, to get out on tour. Some of the gigs kinda suck, but it’s good to have a mission each day. Waking up in some far off hotel on a cloudy morning has its relaxing moments, you know? Then hittin’ the road to another gig, but some of the drives are real bad. A thousand miles you gotta go. So you’re just sitting in this freaking van and you’re not moving your body, but I don’t want to get too negative about it. It’s a different kind of life.

TM: What do you do during those moments you’re driving a thousand miles and you can’t move to make it better?

DR: Well, at the moment I’m trying not to smoke too much, but sometimes that works sometimes it doesn’t. I think about a lot of stuff. I do a lot of writing. I write all my observations. Last tour we went through Gary, Indiana, and it was one of the most flipped out, decrepit towns I’d ever seen and then when I get to the hotel I write about it. For me it’s an observation of everything that’s going on and trying to catch good times when I can.

TM: You’ve been making music a long time. What drives you to keep making music? What do you love about it? Why can’t you stop? Would you ever want to?

DR: I don’t know. I feel, maybe, it’s chosen me a bit. I think I’m a big fan of the musicians that have come before, you know, the Led Zeppelins, Johnny Cashs and Fredrick Chopins of the world and I feel like I’ve always just been sort of a natural artist pertaining to music. It’s a gift and I try to make the best of it.

I guess the more I observe myself the more I see that performing is a bit of a mission I have in life. It has its ups and downs, but I’m real happy that I left some records behind and I hope people got something out of it. I was at this coffee shop this morning and people kept coming up to me telling me how much they dug my records and it meant a lot to me. It’s cool when you think that you haven’t left an impression and you actually have. So that was touching this morning.

No comments: