The Foxymorons are barely a local band. Only one of the two members live in North Texas. In fact, what Fort Worth’s Jerry James and San Diego’s (by way of Nashville and Dallas) David Dewese have together may not even be an actual band. Depending on how one defines a band, Foxymorons may be more of an art project, from which an album will occasionally spring forth. The duo’s fantastic, addictive new album, the Matt Pence-produced Fake Yoga (due out November 6) featuring Will Johnson on the drums, will be the sixth record the close friends have released since forming Foxymorons after meeting at a Mesquite church in the mid-1990s.
Between the deliberate pacing of album releases, a dearth of live shows (past or scheduled) and an admitted lack of any connection with the current local music landscape, some fervent locavores or Deep Ellum diehards may stop at the surface and decide Fake Yoga isn’t worth digging into further if they haven’t already. But that would be a narrow-minded mistake, and would miss the point of what a single, well-crafted album can mean, regardless of “how local” or active a couple of creative, talented students of rock music may be.
“Music is a hard way to get rich and famous no matter who you are,” says James, who shares writing and singing duties with Dewese. “But I'm drawn to the spirit of smaller bands that make idiosyncratic records. There's something special about it, and in some ways, our band is a rebuke to the idea of careerism in music. Why would we still make records since our first 7-inch single in 1998? I mean, don't get me wrong; it would be a wonderful thing for us if lots of people heard our music. That's the goal. But in a way, I think there's something cool about just making something. My favorite bands — successful or not — seemed to be in it for the sake of creating something cool and putting it out. There's a certain graciousness to that.”
While there may eventually be a few Foxymorons concerts scheduled, “If things line up just right,” James sees the recorded product standing more or less alone as something that incidentally may add a bit of enigmatic charm to this project. On the surface, purposely scoffing at the typically accepted, unwritten rules of how to conduct a digital-age indie group seems self-defeating. But Foxymorons began as a couple of guys bopping a drum in a church fellowship hall before releasing anything, so James' lack of concern about the potential impact of not touring or hiring a massive PR team to get things rolling for this record is totally authentic.
“I've always thought people engaged with music, or any kind of art, really, because it added to their lives in some way," he says. “I buy books and attend museums regardless of whether I'd get to meet the writer or artist. Besides, bands that rarely play live have always held a certain allure or mystery for me anyway.”
It’s not as though the duo, used to long-distance creation, makes its music in a secretive manner or locks itself in an underground shelter only to emerge every few years with new tunes. Simply put, James and Dewese have active lives outside of music, and living so far apart makes life as a band difficult to plan out in advance. But when it was time to record this collection of songs, parts of which had been exchanged between the two via email for the past couple of years, the famed Echo Lab in Argyle was the obvious choice.
Johnson and Pence, both of the sadly defunct and highly respected Centro-matic, have had a role in most Foxymoron efforts to date, whether it has been as engineer, producer or drummer. James, like so many others in North Texas, was turned onto Centro after hearing “Rock and Roll Eyes” on the (also sadly defunct) Adventure Club radio show. After catching a Johnson solo show in Denton, James soon mustered up the courage to hand his new musical hero a four-track recording of some of the earliest Foxymoron songs, thus beginning a long-lasting friendship.
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“I've loved Jerry and David's songs going back almost 20 years now,” says Johnson, as he recovers from a recent run of solo shows out West. “I've always been grateful for the friendship and musical connection, and have long identified with their lyrical, melodic and aesthetic approaches. To occasionally be included as part of their signature, beautiful noise has always meant a great deal to me.”
As Johnson says, “beautiful noise” is a fine way to sum up what can be heard throughout Fake Yoga. That has not necessarily been the case on past albums where James and Dewese have had a more cleanly defined sound to accompany the strong melodies and poppy catchiness that has bubbled forth from each Foxymorons recording.
James admits that Foxymorons' records are rarely “planned out in advance,” and given the inner workings of the group, a casual approach seems to be the best fit. The evolution of the group’s sound has also been the result of gradual development, a reflection of the two buddies, where they stand with each other and where they are in their lives individually. A new Foxymorons record isn’t about hitting the road to build indie buzz and achieve NPR-flavored stardom, but a practice in friendship and seeing a musical vision through to its proper finale.
“I think all of our records have a certain feel to them,” James says. “This one certainly feels more abrasive and distorted than the last couple of records, but it is still tuneful. There was no grand plan. We both turned 40 since the last album, so maybe making a bratty, noisy record was a reaction to that.”