“If we were smarter and more ambitious, we’d release a record every other year”: Jerry James holds forth on the Texas duo’s whenever-we’re-ready approach to cutting records, their maybe-we-will approach to touring, their church origins, those Pavement comparisons, and more. Hey, they’re smarter and more ambitious than half the bands currently going—why do you think they’ve lasted this long, anyhow?
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.
Below: a great friendship.