David Deweese makes sure the coast is clear before he tells a secret about Jerry James, his musical partner in The Foxymorons, even though it's not really necessary. James is, after all, halfway across the country -- in Mesquite. But Deweese, on the phone from his home in Nashville, lowers his voice anyway before he spills James' deepest, darkest secret: The Foxymorons' singer-guitarist -- gasp -- doesn't own an electric guitar or an amplifier. Deweese laughs as he explains that James has only a cheap acoustic guitar and that during the recording sessions for the band's forthcoming debut, Calcutta, he had to borrow Deweese's guitar. His giggling fit makes it difficult to know whether he's telling the truth, especially since less than 15 minutes prior to this conversation, James had warned that Deweese would "try to tell all sorts of lies about the band."
Maybe Deweese is lying, or maybe James was just trying to cover his tracks, but either way, if a guitar player that doesn't own a guitar is The Foxymorons' biggest secret, then there hasn't been a band this squeaky-clean since Potsie Weber, Ralph Malph, and Richie Cunningham were jamming at Arnold's. But The Foxymorons have more secrets than just James' lack of equipment. For one, how did a band that has never played live anywhere and only released one single (last year's "Silver Leaves") in four years end up on American Pop Project, a San Rafael, California-based label run by Maximum Rock 'n' Roll columnist Mel Cheplowitz, who also released early records by Jawbreaker, among others? Even Deweese and James would like to know exactly how that happened.
"We haven't figured that out yet," Deweese admits, laughing. "I know it has something to do with a radio station out in Berkeley. I don't know if he was listening to the radio station or not. Somehow, he heard it or somebody told him about it. He wrote Jerry and asked for a few, said he had a label."
"Yeah, he sent me a package out of the blue," James says from his home in Mesquite. "Some CDs and seven-inches that he had put out on his label, along with a little note that said, 'I like your seven-inch.' And then a few months after that, he sent me an e-mail saying that if we ever wanted to do a full-length, he might be able to help us out. It's weird."
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The situation is a little unusual, but it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the band's debut is being released by a man they only know through e-mails and phone calls. James and Deweese have known each other for a decade, since they were both students at Poteet High School in Mesquite. They've been in a band together for half of that time, yet they've rarely been in the same city -- much less the same room -- for very long. Their friendship has taken place almost exclusively on the phone, whether it was when James was a student at Southern Methodist University and Deweese was in Brownwood attending Howard Payne University, or now, when James lives in Mesquite and Deweese is in Nashville.
And their band was hardly more tangible than their friendship until recently, existing on voice-mail messages and packages in the mail. The postman is practically the third member of James and Deweese's group, carrying their songs back and forth between four-track recorders until they're finished. "It's not the easiest way to make music," Deweese admits, "but it's worked so far."
Calcutta is proof enough that the pair's long-distance relationship is paying off. Recorded over a long weekend in Nashville earlier this year, the disc is a short trip through pop-music history with Robert Pollard as the tour guide, beginning when The Kinks stopped being interesting and ending right around the time XTC started making plans for Nigel. The songs on Calcutta are almost naive, as if Deweese and James found out about rock and roll only yesterday. That's almost the truth: Both claim they weren't interested in music until college boredom drew them to it. That's how their friendship really started, and that's how the band got going as well. Now, the two are so intertwined, you would need tweezers to pick them apart.
"We called ourselves The Foxymorons even when we didn't have a record out," James says. "In our minds at least, it was this big thing, even when we hadn't done anything." He pauses, then laughs. "I guess we still haven't, but it makes more sense now."