Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Week Of Independents: Day 2

"We're an independent band and so we don't have to play by anybody's rules but our own. We decided to put the art before the commerce, and you know, put meaning in songs and try to be a part of a world community via the Peacemakers, truly, and that's what people have responded to. Instead of worrying about writing for radio, or predicting or following trends, we just shot the art from the heart and bingo - it worked." - Roger Clyne

Back in 1996 a little band named The Refreshments had their fifteen minutes of fame. Their song, "Banditos," got some airplay and a quirky video on Mtv, and the band contributed the theme song to King of the Hill. Then they recorded a second album, imploded, and got dumped by Mercury Records.


Lead singer/rhythm guitarist/main songwriter Roger Clyne crawled from the wreckage and decided that he was done with record companies. Striking out with his own self-financed label, Clyne packed his gear into a van, set out on the road with a group of like-minded musicians, and hasn't looked back since. Ten years later he's the head of a small, successful, homegrown business - one that he, his bandmates and his support staff have built from the ground up. You can buy Roger Clyne tequila ("Mexican Moonshine"), travel to Mexico for the group's annual Circus Mexicus show (a pilgrimage I'll be undertaking for the first time next year), purchase an entire wardrobe of Peacemaker-branded clothing, and help yourself to a catalog of great albums. Clyne keeps it all reasonably priced and in fact you can purchase the entirety of his catalog - nine CDs-worth of his work with The Refreshments and The Peacemakers - for fifty-five dollars.

Clyne and his compatriots cultivate an atmosphere of laconic relaxation and tequila-fueled fun. Attending one of their shows is a little like hanging out with a big group of drunken friends, and their live shows are often compared to Jimmy Buffet in terms of fan dedication and general alcohol-related shenanigans.

All of this would be interesting but essentially meaningless if their musical output weren't so consistently kickass. During the course of a decade, the Peacemakers have slowly evolved from shitkickin' honkytonk layabouts, to hard-edged, philosophical cowboy troubadours, to older-n'-wiser, zen-cool, Siddhartha-ian beach bums. And each step in this evolution feels earned, feels organic, feels a part of the life experience of these specific people. Roger Clyne won't ever order you to Evacuate the Dancefloor, or offer you his Umbrella-ella-ella, but he will spin you gritty, dust-caked tales of blood and avarice and broken promises ("Well I did before what I'll do again/So forgive me father if I have sinned/But the old wood cracks before it bends"), then offer up some pointed-yet-non-histrionic political commentary ("I'm hearing whispers from our history books/The Kings, Queens, Bishops, Knights and Rooks/And the blood they spilt the gold they took/was always first the pawns'"), then turn around and offer up a snarky Zen koan like "I'll be free as soon as you enslave me."

There's something for everyone in the Peacemakers' catalog. If you're a fan of tongue-in-cheek country-fried rock n' roll, there's "Honky Tonk Union." If you prefer more introspection and simultaneous fire with your southwestern rhythms you can try "Sonoran Hope & Madness." Need more Springsteen and Petty and poetry and muscular guitar licks? Try "Americano." Want a mental dip into cool, summery waters with some dark undercurrents? Check "No More Beautiful World" - it's the perfect album for sipping margaritas on any Eve of possible Destruction.

Sample RCPM:

Performing Americano @ Danny's North
Performing "Preacher's Daughter" @ Circus Mexicus
Performing "Green & Dumb" (Great footage/sound quality, and maybe their best song)
Performing "Jack vs. Jose," a song about a clash between Whiskey and Tequila drinkers.
Performing "Maybe We Should Fall In Love" acoustically with drummer PH Naffah.

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