My first exposure to Reggie & the Full Effect was freshman year of college, when a theater geek in my Speech Communication class wore a trucker hat with “Keyboards ‘R for Pussies” emblazoned on it every day for an entire semester. As a lifelong ivory-tickler, I was confused — and not just because I was 18 years old. Was this Reggie fan really that much of a hater? Had playing piano really made me that soft? What kind of music did this Reggae guy play? Heavy metal? And if so, what was this goofy theater geek doing listening to it?
A few months later, when I befriended said theater geek and finally got introduced to Reggie & the Full Effect’s comedic brand of emo-punk, synth-pop and, yes, funk-metal, I figured out that the whole thing was kind of joke. See, Reggie was the musical alter ego of James Dewees, who actually played keyboards for pop-punk stalwarts The Get Up Kids and metalcore weirdos Coalesce. The nom de plume — along with other aliases like Fluxuation, a British techno-pop superstar, and Klaus, the Finnish frontman for Nordic metal band Common Denominator — allowed Dewees to own ridiculously titled songs like “Props to Tha Queen of Pop,” “A.C. Lerok … Bitches Get Stitches” and “Image Is Nothing, Lobsters Are Everything.”
Via the Reggie project, Dewees was also able to sarcastically get a few over on the music industry. Debut album “Greatest Hits 1984-1987” actually contained demos that he and Get Up Kids frontman Matt Pryor recorded in 1998; 2000’s “Promotional Copy” arrived with no artwork or track listing, leading many record stores to return entire shipments of the album because they believed they’d actually received promo copies; and 2003’s “Under the Tray” hid its compact disc under the CD tray, prompting consumers to complain about getting ripped off.
Reggie & the Full Effect went in a darker direction on the next two albums, however. Dewees’ divorce led to 2005’s “Songs Not to Get Married To,” which mixed upbeat electronica and metal with serious lyrics on songs like “Thanks for the Misery” and “What the Hell is Contempt?” But 2008’s “Last Stop: Crappy Town” revealed an even darker side of Dewees, as the entire album represented his struggle with drug addiction and multiple rehab stints.
Dewees’ label, Vagrant Records, didn’t take kindly to “Last Stop’s” depressing nature, shelving it for months, remixing it and eventually changing the pacing of the songs. After touring in support of the album, Dewees didn’t speak about Reggie & the Full Effect for several years, reuniting with The Get Up Kids and briefly joining mainstream punk bands New Found Glory and My Chemical Romance as a recording and touring member as well.
In 2010, Dewees played a one-off Reggie show on New Year’s Eve. In 2012, he and Pryor released an EP under their own names while also starting a “Tuesdays with Reggie” podcast. Those efforts eventually morphed into a $50,000 Kickstarter campaign for the sixth full-length Reggie album, “No Country for Old Musicians,” released last November. Songs like “Revenge Is a Dish Best Served at Park Chan-Wook’s” and “Sundae, Booty Sundae” proved that Reggie was indeed back in full comedic effect, while a new DJ/MC alter-ego, Floppy Disk-O, was introduced on “Who Needs Another Drank.”
In a recent interview with Absolute Punk, Dewees said that sobriety was the biggest influence on “No Country for Old Musicians” material: “I stopped drinking and doing drugs, wrote a ton of songs, and reconnected with a lot of the friends I lost during [my] ‘party years.’ The return to form is me being able to do exactly what I want to right now.”
As for that album title? Well, Dewees is a punk veteran at this point in his long and fruitful career; during the Kickstarter campaign, one fan even called him the “emo Jimmy Buffett,” a fact that might be borne out on his upcoming tour, which crosses the country between Jan. 16 and Feb. 22. “I’ve gotten a lot of emails from older fans who ask me to change [an upcoming] show date in their town so that they can find a babysitter,” he told Absolute Punk. “[But] I like the place that I’m in. I got to be a part of a movement that changed the music industry. I was there in the beginning, I was there in the end, and now I’m still here.”
Guess keyboards aren’t for pussies after all.