Interview: Dewey Defeats Truman

interview by tom maxwell

Being involved with a band’s meager beginnings can be a very rewarding experience. Here at the Fix we’ve seen a number of our “babies” grow up right in front of our eyes. Poised to be a hell of a find, dewey defeats truman are making a name for themselves all around the world, but are sparsely known at home. The band’s most recent release ‘the road to nowhere maps e.p.’ is a robust indie rock record with big hooks and really reminds me why I like the guitar so much. Also, the vocal harmonies are pretty fucking insane and really get me singing along. One of the best new bands around lives in your backyard and you probably didn’t even know it!!! These questions were answered by James Reader whose credits include bass and vocals in the band.

For those readers that haven’t heard your band, how would you describe it to them?
James: What? Your readers haven’t heard of the band? What the fuck, man? No, I’m kidding. Well, we’re an indie rock band. Yeah, we have shades of emo in us, but we don’t see that as such a bad thing. We get compared to everyone from Superchunk to the Get Up Kids. The Get Up Kids thing we find odd. We get a LOT of that. Frankly, we just don’t see it.

It’s been a while since your last release “the road to nowhere maps.” Was the response everything you hoped it would be?
Man, I’d have to say it was better. Overall, the reviews were great, and we got a ton of them from coast to coast. We also got press in England, Scotland, Australia, Spain, Germany, Japan, Indonesia, France, shit, all over. Which is great, because now we get fan mail from all over the world. It’s a kick when someone in Russia or Japan writes: “Hello, I am liking to the band of great.” Hehe. But really, that’s what it’s all about. And you know, when we did our SXSW tour last March, we had lots of write-ups and blurbs in cities we played, which really helped our draws, even into the Midwest. So yeah, our label (Has Anyone Ever Told You?) did a great job with the E.P.

So your focus is on keeping it an organic three piece. Is there any reason for not using more instruments and experimentation?
I think at first that was a reaction to the fact that keyboards were suddenly everywhere, and being used as featured instruments. We didn’t want that, and to date we haven’t used keyboards at all. But that could change. And you know, it seems like every year we discuss adding a second guitar player, because there’s just so much more you can do. But, in the end, it’s just another ego, and one more idiot that can’t make a tour. So, we stay a trio. Why, do you play guitar?

Are you kidding, I sure do! So in the future you plan on changing it up a lot or keeping the sound fairly similar?
Well, right now we’re definitely looking to grow as band, and that would include exploring new types of instrumentation when we record, recording techniques, song structures and arrangements, that sort of thing.

You guys have been part of the local San Diego scene for quite some time now. Do you feel like you’ve established a fairly large core following in the nation’s “finest city?”
Boy, that’s a loaded question. We simply don’t play here enough. Honestly, we’re not big scenesters anymore, so we don’t “hang out,” and have any kinships with other San Diego bands, for the most part. So, we don’t really have much of a draw at all. It’s actually twice as good or better, in other cites. We’ve talked about moving to Lawrence, or Omaha, where bands are much more supportive of each other, and everyone’s so nice. But fuck, let’s get real. They get all this powdery white shit all over the ground, and it gets very cold. And they don’t have beaches, either. What’s up with that?

What’s next on the agenda for dewey defeats truman? Six years and two albums (with a split 10″ with San Diego’s Slowcoach in early 2003) is not very much production, but what you have done has been very good. Do you expect this dragging your feet in the mud to change?
Yeah, we take our time with things, I’ll admit that. But we like to make sure we’re putting things together right. Also, we all have other responsibilities, so it’s a matter of balancing careers, relationships, and so forth, with the band. And yeah, right now we have a 7″ coming out, it’s a project we did with our pals Slowcoach. Initially, we were going to do a split e.p. with them, but they just recently broke up, and we were unhappy with the final mixes of the songs we contributed, so that’s on hold. But, while everything was still moving forward with that, we thought it would be fun to set up both bands at once, set up some mics, and see what happened, maybe tag that stuff on the end of the split. So we drove up to Goleta to the studio where they did their Silver Girl release. John Lyons was there to engineer, so while he was setting up the mics and getting the tones right, we just all started fucking around. Two drummer, two bass players, and two guitarists. By the time he was ready to roll tape, we had a few ideas, so we just told him “Let it roll,” and did these songs on the first takes. They came out real good, and they didn’t sound like either band, so after the whole project was put on hold, we knew these songs had captured something and agreed to release them. The upcoming 7″ are those two songs. I think we’re going to call it “The Bitters.” Beyond that, we just started writing again, and will have another full-length out sometime this year.

If you could change one thing about the American music scene what would it be and why?
That’s easy. I’d end Corporate radio. That would change things in a hurry, wouldn’t it? And, as an added bonus, we’d never have to hear Creed again!

Hope you don’t piss anyone off, but what is your favorite venue?
In San Diego, that would be the Casbah, hands down. Great sound, and free Jager.