Reggie and the Full Effect
Interview with James Dewees
Interview and Photos by Bill Jones
The bands with which James Dewees has performed reads like an All-Star roster for the underground and rock scenes — Coalesce, The Get Up Kids, Leathermouth, New Found Glory and My Chemical Romance. But with the exception of only NFG, every one of those bands has called it quits. And of the four that have, three have seen a rebirth in recent years — the exception, in this case, being My Chemical Romance, which just called it quits this week.
But maybe the most personal Phoenix story of the bunch for Dewees — a tale of yet another band that staked its claim to a corner of the scene, died and has risen once again — is that of Reggie and the Full Effect, a band that’s musical stylings are as eclectic as the three alter-egos that drive it, all of which come from the mind and the musicianship of Dewees.
Dewees Wednesday, March 13, heralded the return of Reggie with the launch of a Kickstarter for his upcoming album, No Country for Old Musicians — a fundraiser that runs until Friday, April 19. I exchanged emails with Dewees at the end of March to discuss the revival of his solo project, the break-up of My Chemical Romance, the announcement of a side project called Death Spells with Frank Iero, funding things via Kickstarter, and why musicians nowadays can’t seem to decide if they want to keep their bands going or not.
In 2008, you had a farewell tour for Reggie and the Full Effect, spent some time with My Chemical Romance and had a reunion with The Get Up Kids. What was going through your mind at that time when you decided that would be it for Reggie?
Honestly, I thought Reggie had been done since Last Stop: Crappy Town was recorded in 2006 and I heard the news that it was not going to come out. Then, in 2008, when it was released, I thought I should at least tour on it. But at that time [My Chemical Romance was] knee-deep in the Black Parade touring cycle. So I figured it might as well be the last hurrah for Reggie.
What caused you to change your mind and bring the band back again? Did it have anything to do with the recent announcement of MCR calling it quits?
All my friends in the last few years have been asking/begging me to bring Reggie back and do a new record and tour. So last year, while in Los Angeles, I sat and looked at all the music I had been writing and realized I had a new Reggie record written and I didn’t even know it. The timing of MCR’s official break-up had nothing to do with me relaunching Reggie. I didn’t even know Gerard [Way] was going to do that. Everyone in MCR has been working nonstop for so long that I think finally everyone just wants a break and wants to move on — be dads, be husbands, return to a little normalcy after all the years of insanity — which I think is great. Being a part of it for 7 years, I got to see firsthand how crazy life becomes when you are that famous. It has immense ups but also has immense downs. The ups were always worth it, though.
In the wake of MCR, you announced Death Spells with Frank Iero. How did that come about?
We kind of just started messing around with all of these crazy electronic demos I had made. I sent them to Frank, and he started adding vocals to them, and we have just been building it from there.
You announced some shows already, so I’d have to imagine the music is pretty far along?
Yeah. We have a record ready to go — about 11-12 songs. We have been working on it since September in our free time. He will come to Long Island one week, then I’ll go to Jersey the next week.
Any info on a planned release date?
So far not yet, but we hope to have a date set very soon. I am super excited for people to hear what it is. I think it’s gonna blow people away.
Not to just lump you in with a wide group of bands, but it seems like a lot of bands lately — like The Get Up Kids, My Chemical Romance and Reggie — are calling it quits, having reunions, going on hiatus, starting up again and so forth. Is there something about the music industry in general these days that’s causing a bit of wishy washiness for bands?
It is a lot tougher now to be in an indie band in America. The industry has really taken such a huge hit — not as many people into rock music and buying records anymore. As everyone gets older, life (just like for everyone else) gets more complicated, and responsibilities change. So for some people in bands, the decision to stop is really more on a personal level. However, there is a return to underground that’s happening. There is a whole new group of bands playing basements, alleys, anywhere they can. They just want to play great music whenever and wherever. The scene will always evolve. It’s a great process, but it does take a lot of time.
So you decided to bring Reggie back with No Country for Old Musicians? How long have you been writing for it?
I started writing it last March, off and on. We were in LA working on the new MCR record, and I was living across the street from the studio, so I was there all the time. And if I am by gear that can record music, I will always make something. I can’t help it. It is like when someone says, “Don’t touch that. It is hot!” but then you touch it anyways, because you can’t help it.
Why did you decide to go the Kickstarter route with it, rather than shopping it around to labels?
After learning about Kickstarter, I thought what a great way to get fans involved in the process. I mean, it always boils down to the band and the fans in the end, anyways. You can’t be a functioning, touring band for too long without the support of your fans. They are the lifeline.
Are you happy with the response you’re getting so far?
I am overjoyed with the outpouring of support from everyone. It is kind of unbelievable how many people want a new Reggie record. I never realized how much people loved it. It makes me feel very special to have that kind of die-hard support from fans young and old.
There are a few short teasers with the Kickstarter video, but what can fans expect from the album, musically?
It is really more of a return to where I started. I mean, if they can keep remaking Spider-Man, and Superman. [Laughs] I enlisted [producer] Ed Rose to do it with me. He and I have a long-standing relationship with Reggie. It wouldn’t be the same without Ed.
It looks like with some of the incentives, there are options for Common Denominator and Fluxuation tunes. On the album itself, will all three of your alter-egos be prominently featured once again?
Everyone will be there, although Fluxuation will have its own EP.
How do you write for three different voices?
I write what I write. Some days, I wake up and a Fluxuation song is in my head. Some days it’s Common Denominator — those days are weird but fun. Most days I wake up and write my normal, silly stuff.
When and where do you actually plan to record? When do you hope to have the album finished and released?
I am doing most of pre-production here in New York. Then, the final recordings with Ed in Lawrence, [Kan.] June is the time. If the Kickstarter succeeds, it will be done in June. The backers will get the digital copy the day it is finished being mastered, and then the physical release will most likely be October.
When can fans expect another Reggie and the Full Effect tour?
Right now, we are looking at December/January for the start of touring. I love being on the road, so I hope to be out at least a year.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I just want to say thank you to you, and to everyone who is helping me out with the Kickstarter — all the MCR guys, Chad [Gilbert] from NFG, Andy [Hull] from Manchester Orchestra, Adam [Lazzara] from [Taking Back Sunday], Tim [McIlrath] from Rise Against, Gabe [Saporta] from Cobra Starship, Anthony [Green] from Circa Survive. The list is amazing of my friends who have been helping me promote the Kickstarter. I couldn’t ask for better friends than the ones I have. They are amazing!