By all outward appearances, Dexter Romweber is a man out of time.
For his guitar, he favors the Silvertone 1448, which was manufactured between 1962 and 1966. The guitars were made from scrap wood and Masonite, molded into a flowing, curvilinear Art Deco body with a swoopy headstock. They were small, about three-quarters the size of a standard guitar, and light, weighing a hair over five pounds. Most had but one low-output lipstick-tube pickup and came with a guitar case that featured a built-in amplifier. They sold, at Sears, for about $67.
Romweber’s played them since his earliest days with Flat Duo Jets, the seminal psychobilly twosome with whom he first rose to prominence. He played a 1448 during the Duo Jets’ appearance on Late Night with David Letterman in 1990, Romweber’s closest brush with mainstream success.
What: Dex Romweber Duo
Where: Conundrum Music Hall, 626 Meeting St.
When: Saturday, May 10, 9 p.m.
With: Los Perdidos, Thee Knee Jerks
Price: $12 ($10 advance)
More Info: conundrum.us
“They’re really not too clean,” Romweber says when reached at his home in Mebane, N.C. “They’re like blues guitars or something. You see blues guitarists playing them. They really have the coolest sound, and they were inexpensive, too.”
Nowadays, well-kept models can fetch nearly $800 on eBay. But the reason Romweber prefers them isn’t for their retro value. He simply loves their sound — a raw, bassy tone that Romweber describes as organ-like.
“They were made during the time when The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone and One Step Beyond were being made,” he laughs. “They really have that kind of feel about ‘em, that look and that sound from that really wild era of culture.”
Over the course of a quarter century, first with Flat Duo Jets and currently with his sister, Sara, in the Dex Romweber Duo, the guitarist has mined that culture for an idiomatic sound that touches on a host of proto-rock ‘n’ roll sounds rooted mainly in the ’50s, but occasionally sliding all the way back to the ’40s.
But Romweber’s aims aren’t retro. The songs on Images 13, the duo’s latest longplayer, are imbued not with a sense of nostalgia, but a sense of timelessness. Stylistically, the album is all over the map: Dex’s guttural snarls pierce the rusty switchblade strut of “Roll On”; his soft, lonesome croon carries the spectral ballad “Baby I Know What It’s Like to Be Alone.” Sara’s whipping snare rolls propel the amphetamine-surf workout “Blue Surf”; her soft mallet work underscores the tender “We’ll Be Together Again,” a cover of an obscure song written after the death of Eddie Cochran, one of Dex’s favorite musicians.
“Blackout!” re-imagines the Peter Gunn theme as a cool, noir-colored instrumental, while a version of The Who’s “So Sad About Us” offers a sunny, mod-rock counterpoint.
The record even references Dex Romweber’s favorite sci-fi television show, One Step Beyond: “Weird (Aurora Borealis)” is the duo’s take on Harry Lubin’s original theme for the show’s far-out moments.
“I mean, it’s a six-minute song and it’s an orchestral song, but we condensed it down to this slightly rock ‘n’ roll duo kinda thing,” Romweber laughs.
Images 13 is far and away the duo’s most versatile offering to date, but the songs never feel like rote genre exercises. It’s just the Romweber siblings doing what comes naturally.
“We both decided that we didn’t want to be another retro rockabilly band,” Romweber says. “It was important that we add different styles.”
As the barn-burning forebear to every two-piece garage-punk outfit out there, Dex has been doing for decades the same crash-bang guitar-and-drums thing that Jack White and The Black Keys piloted to chart-topping success, and that current acolytes Japandroids and Ty Segall mine for critical cachet. He and his sister, though, sound much better doing it. And if it sounds, from time to time, like a throwback, it isn’t. It just isn’t of its time.
“There’s a line in a Johnny Cash song that says, ‘Born a hundred years too late, and two hundred years too soon,’” Romweber says, reciting part of “The Folk Singer.” “I’ve really always felt like that.”
Delicious Downtown Breakfast
Tony’s is open for breakfast every day from 7:30-10:30! Conveniently located on Washington St. right off Main. Stop in for something filling and delicious before work! Follow us for updates on specials.
A two-day outdoor art and crafts show celebrating its 38th year. Being held on September 5 & 6, 2014, Click for details
Back to School Tattoo Specials
Magnum Ink is offering 1/2 off all tattoos for students over 18 as well as 2 for $60 on letters or numbers for state employees. 1405 Rushmore Road, Suite B, right off of Broad River.
Make Your Own Beer and Wine!
Come get started on your “liquid hobby” and help us celebrate our 46th year in the Columbia area. Bet Mar Liquid Hobby Shop: 736 St. Andrews Road.
Happy Hour and Sushi Specials All Week
Red Bowl in Lexington now has great early bird and late night sushi specials 7 days a week, as well as 99-cent kids meals on Saturdays! Click here for special information and hours.
Not Your Typical Greek Restaurant
Ariana’s in West Columbia serves up delicious all-natural, low carb dishes, as well as homemade bread and baklava. Come try the best salad dressing in town! Location info and hours here.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
Pool Cleaning-Full and part time available. Must have a clean driving record, be organized and have a professional appearance. Starting Pay is $10.00 per hr, please call for an interview, please bring a copy of your Driving record and a list of all past employers with duration of employment listed as well as telephone numbers for references. Cal 803-865-1200
Company seeking carpenters, plumbers, masons work is year around with a 40 year old company. Starting pay is $10.00 but experienced individuals will be compensated accordingly. Must have a clean driving record and must bring a copy of your driving record to the interview. Please call 803-865-1200.
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Real Estate Spotlight
Mungo Homes. Celebrating 60 years of our family building for your family. mungo.com