A Pair of Rock ‘n Roll Lovebirds: Jen & Rob’s Dreamy Life
Much of the great music coming out of Fort Worth for the past few years owes itself in one way or another to a pair of rock and roll lovebirds.
Perhaps Robby Rux was never a natural fit as a landlord but, after busting his shoulder, his days of laying bricks were behind him. The outstanding drummer and his otherworldly talented wife Jen first met in high school in 1986 and have been married for 22 years. In fact, they have been performing together live and in the studio for most of that time. The six-unit red brick apartments built in 1911 may not have always been easy to keep up, but they attracted musicians with low rent, and the Ruxes were able to record in their home studio.
Thus, their label Dreamy Soundz was born and many of Fort Worth’s burgeoning music scene have passed through their modest DIY compound in Fairmount. Recording on equipment from the height of the Analog Age, a generation of artists have developed under the tutelage of the Ruxes and their vast collection of records and gear. Those bands include Fungi Girls, The Longshots, Jake Paleschic, Solo Sol, Vincent Neil Emerson, Oil Boom, the legendary trio Year of the Bear, and most recently, The Fibs, who released their sensational self-titled debut in September. Jen and Rob toured the West Coast with front man Preston Newberry at the start of October.
Jen, guided by an impeccable ear, can probably play anything you set before her, including bass and guitar, often alongside a Theremin – the electronic instrument played without physical contact often heard in science fiction films of the 50s and 60s. The peak of her powers, however, may be found behind a mixing board with amps and microphones from a certain era. For a time, she taught the basics of audio engineering to high school students not to mention enlightening the musicians she records, of whom she says, “I just can’t record music I don’t like.”
At a certain point, their little home studio had outgrown the 100-year old building as Rob elaborates, “We had amplifiers in the bathtub and it became a little much to live around.” So, five years ago, they joined their psych-rock forces with local garage rockers Lo-Life Recordings to establish DreamyLife Records, gaining a little record shop and developing the spacious Cloudland Studio alongside musician/engineer Britt Robisheaux with the assistance of like-minded financial partner, Jim Vallee, who joined the group and helped expand their resources.
Vallee was looking to invest and was immediately able to help improve the label’s business standing, “There’s no guide book for this sort of stuff. But I’ve worked with small businesses my whole life, and I know the financial considerations necessary to make it work.” With a broad experience in booking, promotions and radio in Boston and Maine before coming to Texas, Vallee is conversant in both music and money, imperative for executing the studio design, “It is a great advantage for the label to be able to record at will.”
Recently announcing a move to Main at South Side from their third location in the back of the Fairmount Community Library, The Record Store has acted as DreamyLife’s spiritual center, it is often the weekly Happy Hours that draw folks to the music. An example of that growing reach is a project that unites original Texas Psych-Rock artist John David Bartlett with Dallas neo-psychedelic troupe Acid Carousel to re-record Bartlett’s album from 40 years ago, lost when the label that owned the masters folded. Each year, they release the sensational Group Therapy compilation, exposing music fans to another great batch of local artists like Ting Tang Tina, who’s hooks the Ruxes have been raving about for months and you will be too. The three young ladies and their drummer fellow all met at School of Rock and have clearly put in the work to find their sound.
Vallee smiles describing the Ruxes, “There’s love in everything they do, which is easy to see as Robby hustles between the record store, venues, marketing, engineering and playing drums.” In recent years, the role of labels has changed, revolving more around publishing and licensing. Therefore, the focus has been on building relationships with bands, other indie labels and venues outside of Fort Worth, encouraging artists to tour and build their audiences. Andy Pickett continues to ascend with his superlative piano rock, War Party returned this year with the outstanding Pure Destroyer, and Denton’s Pearl Earl have found friendly fans across the country. This process is enlivened by rad local venues like Shipping & Receiving and Main at South Side connecting Funkytown’s scene to the state-wide or national conversation.
An Austin native, Lyle Brooks relocated to Fort Worth in order to immerse himself in the burgeoning music scene and the city’s rich cultural history, which has allowed him to cover everything from Free Jazz to folk singers. He’s collaborated as a ghostwriter on projects focusing on Health Optimization, Roman Lawyers, and an assortment of intriguing subjects requiring his research.