Blurt

NOT FAKIN’ IT: The Foxymorons
BY JOHN B. MOORE

It’s not easy to be a fan of the indie duo The Foxymorons.

On average there’s been about a five year gap between each album. And once that new record does come out, despite usually being worth the wait, chances are they won’t be playing those songs live any time soon.

But you suck it up, and to quote a million kindergarten teachers out there, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” Because there are very few bands out there that can put together such a brilliant marriage of Pavement’s guitars and off-kilter lyrics and Brian Wilson’s sweet as honey harmonies.

There are also very few stories in the history of rock that begin at church camp, but that’s part of what makes The Foxymorons so unique: their origin story, and the knack for taking two seemingly disparate musical influences (that separately have launched a thousand bands) and combining them to create a wholly original sound. Imagine the Beach Boys or Big Star as a lo-fi band.

Foxymorons: Jerry James and David Dewese founded the group in the mid-‘90s in Mesquite, TX, and started by putting out a handful of 7-inch singles. In the two decades that have followed they’ve teased out five full lengths, the latest being Fake Yoga.

Not knowing when the band would resurface again, we used this as an excuse to reach out to James, who was cool enough to take some time recently to talk about the latest record, try and explain the long absences between records and once again, talk about that fateful church camp meeting.

BLURT: As a long-time fan of your music, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out how frustrating long a wait it tends to be between releases. What is the biggest reason for the wait? Is it a lack of inspiration? Are you guys simply busy with other things?

JERRY JAMES: We really never intend for it to take so long between releases. If we were smarter and more ambitious, we’d release a record every other year. But our approach to the band has always been so casual – and has always taken a backseat to our friendship – that it takes us a long time to get around to recording. Not to mention the fact that we live a thousand miles from one another.

Where are you both living now?

David lives in San Diego. I live in Fort Worth, TX.

Given the distance, how do you pull together songs for an album? Do you get together for a few days or a few weeks and play each other what you’ve been working on and build on the songs? Or do you guys send each other demos back and forth so you can react to them in real time?

David and I are really good friends so we usually see each other a few times a year to hang out and do fun stuff. And at some point, we’ll usually pull out an acoustic guitar and strum out songs we’ve finished or are still working out. When we started out making records, it was common for us to send tapes back and forth in the mail or sing a song into the other dude’s voicemail. These days we usually just wait until we’re in the same room.

How do you know when you’re ready to go into a studio to record?

At some point, we know we’ve got a collection of 12 or 14 songs that fit together and feel like a record. But even then, we’ll drag our feet and it will take a while before the record button ever gets pushed.

How do you guys work out the music? Do you sit in a room together or work separately?

A little of both. We usually write songs separately and bring them to the band to take apart and/or build upon. Sometimes the songs change a little; sometimes they change a lot.

I know these has been covered before and is almost lore at this point, but can you talk about the Sunday school classroom and the drum and how it led to your first recordings?

David and I met at church camp and attended the same church as teenagers. Shiloh Terrace Baptist Church. There was a Sunday school classroom that had a drum kit set up and the front doors at church were typically unlocked. So we’d head up there, lug in guitars, amps, and a tape recorder and make some joyful noise. We covered songs like The Lemonheads’ “It’s a Shame About Ray” or Pavement’s “Box Elder”. It was a really fun antidote to summer boredom.

When did you first start work on the songs that eventually made it onto Fake Yoga?

We started recording demos of some of those songs in David’s basement in Nashville before our last record, Bible Stories, had even come out.

Is there significance to that album title or did you just like the way it sounded?

Well, for one, before I started a proper yoga practice, I would make up ‘fake’ yoga poses to do in the morning to get the blood flowing. But also, there are lots of debates in the culture about ‘fake’ vs ‘authentic’ which is interesting and funny to me. Fake punk. Fake outrage. Fake grassroots. Fake tans. Plus, it sounded cool.

The new record sounds not too far removed from your earlier, more lo-fi releases. Was that a conscious decision to go back to that similar sound?

Not really. We’ve always liked noise and the songs were just sort of turning out that way. But you’re right, the songs from our first 7” single would have felt right at home on this record.

A bulk of the interviews and reviews I have read about your music over the years almost always cite Pavement, Big Star and sometimes the Beach Boys. Are those pretty accurate musical touchstones for you?

Yeah, those are really special bands to us. We were both Pavement obsessives in the ‘90s – maybe me a little more than David. And we both love weird pop music and Big Star is definitely a band to which we’re both drawn.

What do you when you are not working on Foxymorons’ music? Are you involved with any other music projects?

David has released a few solo records and leads worship music at his church. As for me, The Foxymorons is the only musical project in which I’ve ever been involved. Other than that, the last year or so has been one of travel and creative projects.

Any chance you will tour at all when the record comes out?

We’re always open to the prospect of touring but it all depends on the right circumstances. At this point, we’re just thrilled that we get to make music and we are really happy about this record. We’re available for whatever comes.

So what’s next for you?

Who knows? It’s hard to say. We both lead full lives but this band has been really important to us. And it’s fun to quietly put out records regardless of how people respond to them. I think making our particular kind of noise is a privilege and an extension of a great friendship.
http://blurtonline.com/feature/not-fakin-foxymorons/

Magnet Magazine

THE FOXYMORONS: REAL MUSIC, FAKE BAND

The thrill of collaboration keeps the Foxymorons fresh at the precipice of 40.

David Dewese and Jerry James, the friends that make records as the Foxymorons, met at church camp when they were in high school. They discovered they had an affinity for noisy, primitive rock bands. Since they both played rudimentary guitar, they thought about starting a band.

“In our late teenage years, we pretended we were in a band called the Foxymorons,” says James.

“We didn’t play music or write songs,” says Dewese. “I remember braggadociously telling waitresses we were in a band called the Foxymorons. It was a great name for a fake teen punk band 20 years ago.”

Eventually, the duo honed its chops and began writing and recording. “Our first single was done on a four-track cassette tape,” says James. “I recorded drums, guitar and vocals and sent the tape to David. He added guitar and vocals and sent it back. We traded the same cassette tape a few times until we were satisfied.”

They pressed up a seven-inch single and mailed it to radio stations, fanzines and distributors. A copy found its way to Mel Cheplowitz at American Pop Project Records, who asked the Foxymorons if they’d like to put out an album. They said yes.

Although they’d never played live, their debut album, Calcutta, got stellar reviews. As soon as it was out, Dewese moved to Nashville to play in an alt-country band. James stayed in Texas. They’ve maintained a long-distance collaboration ever since, and just finished work on Fake Yoga, a return to the primal sound of their debut.

“We’ve been a bit precious and ornate with the musical arrangements on our last few albums,” says Dewese. “We really wanted to strip away all those layers and get back to the raw elements of being in a rock band. We purposely recorded with a limited palette of options. We wrote separately, as usual, later realizing we’d both consistently left out bridges, extra verses and even some choruses.”

While Fake Yoga has elements drawn from country and pop music, including the duo’s sweet, Beach Boys-flavored harmonies, the album is dominated by their distorted, almost metallic guitar work.

“This album reminds me of the music we played when we started out: noisy and primitive, but still melodic,” says James. “Fake Yoga is a brattier record than our last couple of releases. Maybe it’s because we’re turning 40? I’ve always been drawn to no wave-inspired guitar rock, the artier side of punk. Or it might have something to do with the fact that I see a lot of guys my age playing in Texas country bands. I mean, nothing against that, but I’m not ready to do that yet.”

Dewese and James work separately, but by the time they’ve recorded a song, the interplay between them has always transformed the tunes into something unexpected. There are no album credits or liner notes, except those crediting their drummer, Will Johnson from Centro-matic.

“There can be something inherently narcissistic and counter-productive about getting too concerned about credit,” says James.

“It’s not important for us to notate who performs what, since we constantly exchange instruments and vocals,” says Dewese. “We sing and perform everything, and happily credit friends like Will, when they help out. As a long-distance duo, we record most of our records one instrument at a time. We built (the songs on Fake Yoga) over a corny drum loop, one guitar or vocal at a time. We had Will record his drums last, so he was playing along to our completed songs with that corny drum loop running in the background. What a dude!”

James says the method they’ve developed over the years suits their idiosyncratic writing and production style. “The process is very organic,” he emphasizes. “Sometimes I listen back to our records and think, ‘How did it end up like this?’ One of the exciting things about making records is the heady process of sharing ideas and letting things happen. We’ll blatantly rip of some small thing—like a guitar part, a vocal inflection, a harmony—from our record collections, be it the Byrds, Big Star or Half Japanese, and it becomes its own thing and takes us down a new path.”

—j. poet

http://www.magnetmagazine.com/2015/12/04/the-foxymorons-real-music-fake-band/

Fort Worth Weekly

Of every band in North Texas, The Foxymorons may be in the weirdest place. Since forming in Mesquite in the mid-1990s, the duo of singer-songwriters David Dewese and Jerry James has achieved some national love, having received positive reviews from Pitchfork and Paste and having played sanctioned showcases at South by Southwest. But The Foxymorons don’t really exist outside of their recorded products. While James lives near the Cultural District, Dewese has spent the past five years in Southern California after 13 years in Nashville. Getting together to play shows is a teeeeensy bit tricky. The fact that The Foxymorons started out as just a fun thing for two friends to do is amazing. That they’re wrapping up their fifth studio album and sixth recording overall –– with Centro-matic’s Will Johnson on drums! –– is miraculous.

Recorded this spring at The Echo Lab in Denton with producer, longtime collaborator, and Centro-matic drummer Matt Pence, Fake Yoga will have about a dozen tracks and come out this fall, James said. However, he added, “Things always seem to take longer than we hope or would like.”

Recording began in earnest at James’ house in December 2013 during one of Dewese’s not-infrequent Fort Worth trips. “We typically just collect these songs,” James said, “and then eventually we record them and put them out in the world. It’s like a message in a bottle or something, and then we sort of move on and can’t wait to do it again.”

Indie-rock has rarely been catchier, shinier, or bubblier than on Foxymorons’ Bible Stories (2010), Hesitation Eyes (2005), Rodeo City (2001), and Calcutta (1999).

On Fake Yoga, though, expect a little more crunch and bite, James said. Life changes are partly to blame/credit. James left a job and did some traveling, and both he and Dewese have left their 30s in the dust. “I think that even though we feel perpetually 25, I think [aging is] something that we had to reckon with in different ways,” James said. “Ironically, as we’ve gotten older, we’ve made a record that’s noisier and more abrasive than our younger selves would have made.”

James said that Fake Yoga is laced with themes of anxiety and escape. Restlessness. “Maybe those things are in all of our records,” James said, “but maybe [it’s us] speaking to our younger selves.” Maybe, he said, the rowdiness is also a “reaction” to the fact that The Foxymorons’ previous couple albums were “refined”: neat and sparkling. “Maybe we’re just in a place where we wanted to make a racket,” James said.

Though you might think that James and Dewese are writing and recording in a vacuum, they’re actually pretty tuned in. Well, a little. “I always feel like we’re on an island,” James said. “We play guitars, electric guitars, and that’s the music we’ve been inspired by, and in a way, maybe the fact that we made this noisy guitar record is a reaction to so much synth-pop and electronic dance music. We just want to hug guitars.”

James isn’t sure what will happen after Fake Yoga comes out. A record, he said, is “a thing you put out into the world. You hope some likeminded people appreciate it. At the very least you’ve made this thing that you like.”

Typically, bands tour after putting out an album or EP. The Foxymorons don’t have that luxury. “We’ll see,” James said. “Maybe some shows. We’re just taking it a day at a time. But I would love to play shows in support of it. We’re gonna gather together some friends, do some sort of record release show or something, maybe just a low-key thing, just have people together in a room, somewhere in Fort Worth, to share drinks and listen to music or something.”

And that brings up a “wonderful thing” about Fort Worth. “There’s a real community around creative endeavors,” James said. “That’s the amazing thing about Fort Worth.”

If we demand it, maybe a local Foxymorons show will happen. We should.

You Set the Scene

http://yousetthescene.blogspot.com/

Going on over a decade as a band, the Foxymorons are set to release their fourth long player next Tuesday. Their last record got positive reviews from All Music and Pitchfork and regular play on Morning Becomes Eclectic. The new record’s already getting tons of spins on KEXP (song of the day) and gotten a video premiere on Pop Matters.

You Set the Scene: What’s going on in Ft. Worth?
Jerry James: Man, every morning the weatherperson on the radio tells me it’s going to be 105 with a heat index of 110. I’m over the summer. It’s mostly movie theaters and frozen yogurt for me until the fall.

YSTS: We’ve had an incredibly mild summer; it’s just finally starting to heat up. People are predicting an Indian summer. First off, love the album cover – where’d the photo come from?
JJ: Thanks! I took it while on a houseboat in Kerala, India about ten years ago. Somehow it seemed to be right for the cover.

YSTS: Tell me how you got started playing music.
JJ: I had always felt too uncool for rock. In middle school, the older tough dudes in my shop class were into rock and I felt like I’d get laughed out of the room if I tried to engrave the name of a rock band into a class project. It was all hair metal or whatever, but still. So that left me with Top 40. But eventually, I remember my dad handing me a twenty and asking me to take his car to the gas station for a fill-up. I saw a copy of Rolling Stone with Nirvana on the cover at the gas station and used the change to buy it. Dad wasn’t happy. Anyhow that sparked an interest in Nirvana and eventually I found myself at the used CD bins buying Dinosaur Jr, Pavement, and Gram Parsons albums. It happened really quickly – from Boyz II Men to Pavement in the span of 18 months. How did it happen? Somehow the ethos of punk rock and indie rock made it seem possible to make up songs. I felt like I was sneaking in through the back door.

YSTS: Were your parents really strict and did they immigrate from India or were they born here?
JJ: My parents immigrated to the US from India in the early 70’s. Oh yeah, they were pretty strict by American standards but it could’ve been worse. Some of my Indian friends had super-strict parents. I used to attribute my parents’ weird idiosyncrasies to being Indian but I’ve come to realize that everyone’s parents are weird.

YSTS: So, when did you finally pick an instrument?
JJ: Around that time, I picked up a crummy acoustic guitar, which is still the primary guitar I used to write songs. My band mate David showed me a few chords and pretty soon I was trying to make up songs. Every time I’ve thought about upgrading from the cheap-o guitar, David’s like “don’t bother.” I’m not sure what he means by that.

YSTS: Your band mate, David, lives in Nashville. Tell me a little bit about how the writing/recording process takes place.
JJ: We like each other in small doses – I’m being facetious here, sort of – so it works out to make music long-distance. We used to mail each other 4-track tapes or I’d find a song strummed into my voicemail at work. Lately I’ve been sending him songs I record into the voice memo function of my phone. At some point, we’d work out the arrangements, try to muck up the other person’s songs, and record it cheap and fast at a studio in Nashville or Dallas. This last record was recorded at David’s house in Nashville.

YSTS: LA seems to play a big part in the lyrics on this record, both in the songs David sings and the songs you sing. Do some of these songs date back to when you were living here? Or do you just get musically inspired by the idea of Los Angeles?
JJ: We’re both kind of fascinated with the idea of California. In fact, he’s somewhere out there right now on a solo trip in a rented car driving around soaking up beach vibes. I think living in Los Angeles subconsciously influenced the record: the old Largo, browsing at Skylight books, Sunday afternoons at Amoeba, almost getting hit by a pool cue at Little Joy…I miss it.

YSTS: Why five years between records? What have you been up to?
JJ: We never intended to take that long. David transitioned to a freelance day job and did a lot of international traveling. Plus, our creative energies were directed to a new project, a clothing line that we started, so we put our songs on the backburner. I’m hoping the next record comes out much faster.

YSTS: Is there much of a scene in Ft. Worth? Or does most of the action take place in Dallas and Denton?
JJ: A friend made me a mix of primarily Fort Worth bands that seemed pretty cool although I’m not really too knowledgeable about the scene. People here seem to talk about Telegraph Canyon a lot though.

YSTS: Who are some of the local bands you’re into?
JJ: Around North Texas, people talk about Telegraph Canyon or Sarah Jaffe, although I don’t keep up too well. I’m sure there are lots of smaller, exciting bands but I’m not sure.

YSTS: What about Centro-matic and all the Will Johnson/Matt Pence projects?
JJ: Oh yeah, don’t get me started. Not only do they make great records and play awesome live shows, but they’re really nice people as well. Will was super-encouraging when we were making 4-track recordings around ‘97/’98. He also sat in on drums on an earlier record, Rodeo City. And we’ve been collaborating with Matt Pence in some capacity for a few records now.

YSTS: Any local blogs or music publications that you can share with my readers?
JJ: We Shot JR is a blog with a distinctive voice and a pretty well-informed underground/independent sensibility, although I’d advise you not to read the comments.

YSTS: I know you’re a breakfast freak. What’s your favorite local breakfast spot?
JJ: There’s a place called Paris Coffee Shop that’s been around since the 1920’s. It’s got a really comfortable, friendly vibe and the food is delicious. My favorites in the morning are the pancakes and biscuits. The pies are also awesome. There’s usually a line of regular ol’ timers but it’s worth the wait. I’d also recommend the Montgomery Street Café which is really tiny so I usually sit at the counter. It’s got pictures of Annie Oakley and Wyatt Earp on the walls and breakfast is inexpensive and good.

YSTS: And any favorites from your time in LA?
JJ: Oh man, Los Angeles has some great breakfast places but my favorite is The Griddle on Sunset. Hands down. I feel like everything they serve is as good as it gets. I lived within walking distance of it at one time, but convenience has little to do why it’s my favorite. I recommend just buying a single pancake, though, because they’re huge. The plates of left-over pancakes that I’d see get taken back to the kitchen could feed a family for weeks.

YSTS: Best barbecue spot?
JJ: There’s a family-run place called Angelo’s near where I live. It’s been around forever and I always see the same guys behind the counter and the same woman at the register. It looks like it’s right out of the 60’s. Lots of dudes in cowboy hats and boots and the beers are served in giant frozen schooners. People rave about the brisket but I get the ribs. Oh yeah, I should mention all the massive “hunting trophies”, i.e. taxidermy on the walls.

YSTS: Best burger?
JJ: I was just at Kincaid’s a few days ago. Awesome burgers and milkshakes and the meat is cut and ground in the store daily. It’s another place that’s been at its location for decades. Its claim to fame is that it served thousands of burgers in a single day after it was voted the best burger in the country by some publication. But the thing that makes it for me is that no matter how long it’s been since I’ve been in, the smiling lady at the counter, Lynette, always greets me by name. How do you like that?!

YSTS: How’s it compare to your beloved In-N-Out?
JJ: Ha! Don’t put me in that position. I love them both. The rumor is that one’s about to open in Garland, near Dallas. I bet it’ll be mobbed all the time, though.

YSTS: Best tex-mex?
JJ: This is a tough one. I always take people to a place called Joe T Garcia’s near the stockyards. People argue the merits of the food – although, for the record I think the fajitas are great – but what’s not up for debate is the amazing vast outdoor patio, which is actually more like a massive garden with a decorative swimming pool, fountains, and connecting courtyards. Somehow I feel like I’m vacation in California when I’m there. I heard a rumor that Fleetwood Mac would fly out to Texas just for a meal there. I don’t know if that true, but it’s a good story.

YSTS: Drink of choice?
JJ: I’ll answer by category: Guinness, gin-and-tonic, vanilla milkshake.

YSTS: Favorite thing about living in Ft. Worth?
JJ: People are totally friendly and I live near the FW Modern which is a fantastic museum.

YSTS: Least favorite thing about living in Ft. Worth?
JJ: Honestly, I can’t find a bad thing to say about it. Oh, well it’s absurdly hot right now.

YSTS: Your favorite book?
JJ: I’m glad you didn’t say novel. I’ll pick Franny and Zooey. Short stories are my favorite format and these are both good. I was just at the doctor’s office and saw Jonathan Franzen on the cover of Time. I’ll probably pick up his new book, although I never got around to The Corrections.

YSTS: The Corrections is great. One of my cousin’s a book scout and she was right when she said every Midwestern son should read it. Favorite film about Texas?
JJ: Patricia Neal just died so I’ve been thinking about Hud lately. She’s so good in it and Paul Newman plays such a great and despicable character. I really love that movie. I know Dazed and Confused was filmed in Austin, but does it count as a Texas movie? I don’t know, it makes me think of Texas.

YSTS: Two great choices. And yes, I’d definitely consider Dazed and Confused a Texas film. Favorite film about LA or set in LA?
JJ: I’d like to think of something less obvious, but Swingers is such a Los Angeles movie to me. I always liked driving past the Los Feliz 9-hole golf course because of it.

YSTS: Yeah, that came out right around the time I originally moved to LA. I remember the only guy I knew dragging me around to all the spots, The Dresden, 3 of Clubs, Derby. Any must see TV?
JJ: I probably can’t suggest anything most people don’t already know about. Mad Men and Curb Your Enthusiasm are about it for me these days. I watch almost no television, unless it’s on Netflix. I’ve added Breaking Bad to the Netflix queue.

YSTS: All great shows, but that’s a lot of uncomfortable TV. Five desert island records?
JJ: These could change anytime.
Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Wilco – Summerteeth
Nirvana – In Utero
Big Star – 3rd / Sister Lovers
Neil Young – On the Beach

YSTS: Interesting. I think I’d pick different records from the last three. Last question – any plans for a tour this time around? How about another LA show [they played Spaceland and Sea Level when their last album came out]?
JJ: Nothing planned yet. We’d love to tour. I’m glad we got to play Los Angeles at the time of our last album and I’d be thrilled if we could make it happen again.

YSTS: Thanks for the time.