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LAist Interview: Dexter Romweber of the Flat Duo Jets

Dexter Romweber
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The Flat Duo Jets, a legendary yet diminutive rockabilly band from Carrboro, North Carolina plagued by naiveté and drug-usage, will forever remain under the radar. Prolific and tremendously influential acts like these will be respected by a select few and tucked away in the bottomless vat of musical history. And although their existence, as well as their untimely demise, is thoroughly documented in 2008's "Two-Headed Cow," it is likely that you'll only be watching by chance. But that's not going to stop front man Dexter Romweber from trekking onward. He will never cease to wonder about the places he finds himself. Romweber's utmost force and continual failure are the very embodiment of the artist as a shapeshifter in the grand scheme of things.

LAist: How did the Flat Duo Jets come together?

DR: It started in a garage, in a very small room that we used to call "the Box." It started some time in 1984. We were just hanging out one day and listening to music, doing what young people do. I had already been playing guitar since I was eleven. But we had some instruments in our garage and we just went in there to play. And I think the first song we played was a country song called "Born to Lose." Then we slowly started learning more material and getting local gigs. And a fellow named Josh Grier from a local record company called Dolphin Records heard our live performances and he really dug them. So he decided to release our six-song cassette in '84 or '85. We didn't have a real major release until five years later.

LAist: What was the music scene like in Carrboro and Chapel Hill around then?

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DR: Well, I've seen many scenes come and go there. And things were a lot different when I arrived there when I was eleven. Me and my sister came from Florida. I'm the last of seven kids and we arrived in Chapel Hill in the summer of '77. So the bands in those early days were of the post-hippy persuasion. New-wave and punk hadn't really started charging up there. It wasn't really until the early '90s where I really noticed more of a scene there. I mean, there was always sort of a scene, but there were really many different chapters to it. And many bands came and went; Like my first band that was playing around in bars was called Crash Landing and the Kamikazes. And that was before the Flat Duo Jets. My sister played with the Kamikazes for the while, but then she got picked up by some older musicians that lived on our street. Suede was the first incarnation and then Mondo Combo was the second. And that was the early '80s.

But by 1990, ten years later, there, of course, were people like Superchunk, Archers of Loaf, the Sex Police, the Pressure Boys and the Back Shack, who we played a lot of gigs with—they were friends of ours. But to be honest, that really wasn't my kind of music. I wasn't really a part of that because I was listening to a lot of different material at home, which was early jazz records and a lot of rockabilly, eventually classical music. And even though the Flat Duo Jets were a part of that scene, it wasn't really my scene.

LAist: So you guys really stood out in a big way...

DR: We were really influenced by early rock and roll. We loved the Coasters and we listened to stuff that no one else was really listening to.