For more than three decades,Flat Duo Jets have been the American rock underground’s secret, as hugely influential among musicians as they are obscure to the broader mainstream. And much of the Jets’ reputation is based on their first full-length album, the roots-rock landmark Flat Duo Jets, originally released on Dog Gone Records in 1990 — and coming back into circulation as a three-disc vinyl box set, Wild Wild Love, to be released by Daniel 13 on Record Store Day, April 22, 2017.
Singer/guitarist Dexter Romweber and drummer Chris “Crow” Smith were still teenagers when they formed Flat Duo Jets in Chapel Hill in 1984. Inspired in equal measure by the Cramps’ haunted rockabilly and vintage drive-in horror movies, they cooked up a metallic version of rockabilly that sounded as if it had been launched into the deepest quadrants of the astral plane.
“I had this place behind my mother’s house, The Mausoleum, and that’s where we formed the Jets,” says Romweber. “It was this campy ’40s horror kind of place. Gothic, but not English neo-gothic – more like the ‘Addams Family’ – and that’s what we tried to make Flat Duo Jets.”
The combination of Romweber’s wild-eyed rockabilly howl, madman surf guitar and Crow’s pulverizing runaway-train drums made for a stage show that blew minds all over the college-radio circuit. The Jets spent just enough time in R.E.M.’s hometown to appear in and steal the 1987 documentary Athens, GA: Inside/Out before they expanded to a trio lineup and connected with producer Mark Bingham to record Flat Duo Jets, an album that still sounds just as powerful today.
“No overdubs, no nothin’, just straight to tape like it was 1957,” Bingham says of the recording sessions. “So we had to do it right the first time. It was very seat-of-the-pants, which seemed fine with what the Jets were doing.”
Disc One of Wild Wild Love has all 14 Flat Duo Jets tracks, including “Wild Wild Love,” which they played in a career-making 1990 performance on “Late Night With David Letterman.” Disc Two adds a baker’s dozen outtakes, and the ten-inch third disc has all six tracks from the 1984 cassette-only mini-album (In Stereo), appearing on vinyl for the first time.
“About 1,500 of the cassettes were spun up at a manufacturing facility in Burlington, one whose usual output was gospel recordings and self-help narratives,” says (In Stereo) producer Josh Grier. “This really was the definitive home-grown product.”
As an added bonus, the Wild Wild Love box-set package also includes a 40-page booklet with vintage show flyers and photographs, plus liner-note essays by Bingham, Grier and critic David Menconi.