You may know Dex Romweber from his recent work with his sister in the Dex Romweber Duo. Maybe you first heard Dex in his early band the psycho-surf-rockabilly-garage-punk combo Flat Duo Jets. Or maybe you've heard Jack White, Neko Case, and Cat Power pay tribute to his music.
Whatever the context, the Chapel Hill native continues to record and tour with his own brand of rock-n-roll mayhem. And, occasionally he records a solo album. The latest is called Carrboro.
It includes a mix of originals, some surprising covers and some piano-work from a man known primarily for his guitar playing. He plays the keys solo on "Smile" and "Tell Me Why I Do."
"I wanted to be a classical pianist for years, because my sister Sarah turned me on to Frederick Chopin," said Romweber, adding that the music touched him deeply. Still, he couldn’t commit. He says he ended up playing only one piano recital.
"Certain things came up and I kinda stopped playing piano. But I always could and I had my own style. So when I heard smile, I wanted to cut it on piano," he said.
The album art for Carrboro has a mix of recent photos, including some from his younger days. There was one from the early 1980s outside his old party house. He called it his Horror Mausoleum.
"It was decored (sic) with the spirit of 1930s horror movies and the Munsters and the Adams family. But we lived a wild youth," he said.
Romweber said the Mausoleum was a party house that burned down during a party where people were taking LSD. The fire destroyed his record collection, and almost killed his best friend. "I sunk into a really heavy depression about the whole drug thing,” he said. “It was highly traumatic.”
Romweber says he cleaned up and straightened out after that, but, his life has maintained a pattern of ups and downs.
"It’s been a heavy year. Well, a heavy two years. Because Sarah left our band. We’re on good terms but it’s just been a whole different life that’s turned around again through being in the music industry," he said. "So, yeah. There’s elements of darkness.”