Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers

Earlier this year, my family was in Tempe, Ariz., and we went to dinner with Roger Clyne and his family. After dinner, all the kids wanted to go back to the Clyne’s casa to play hide-and-seek.
“I get the night vision goggles first,” said one of Roger’s sons.
Night vision goggles? Whoa. These guys are serious.
Then came the light sabers.
I asked Roger’s son, Otis, what the boundaries for the game were? He proceeded to point to a stop sign about six homes down on one end of the street, and about six to eight homes down the other side of the street. Front yards only. Both sides of the street are fair game.
The night of hide-and-seek, which ended with a soccer game in the front yard, is something that always comes to mind whenever I hear Clyne’s new song, “Heaven On a Paper Plate.” Specifically the line, “Angels versus devils in the alleyway, squirt gun fight,” another regular summer-time occurrence on Clyne’s street.
The whole song, in fact, could be subtitled, “Roger’s House,” a place where neighbors and friends can be found pouring through his back gate on any given night.
“I like to keep it simple, keep it close,” Clyne said of the latest song by himself, PH Naffah, Jim Dalton and Nick Scropos, who collectively make up Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers, or just RCPM to fans. “It’s a great old neighborhood.”
On Thursday, RCPM will return to Salt Lake City for a show at The State Room, 638 South State. The Peacemakers have been called the “best live band in America.” People who know me probably think I came up with that line myself. It was actually written by the New Haven Register a couple of years ago. But I’m not disagreeing with it.
For over a decade, RCPM have heavily toured the nation, playing an average of 150 dates a year. Clyne and drummer Naffah formed RCPM from the ashes of their former group, The Refreshments, another popular Arizona band who had a Top 10 alt-rock hit with “Banditos” on an album that has become a cult classic, “Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big and Buzzy,” and wrote the theme song for TV’s “King of the Hill.”
After the Freshies broke up, rather than seeking another major record deal, Clyne took control of his own destiny and began releasing albums on a 100% independent label. The idea was that art would lead commerce.
That dedication has resulted in five consecutive studio albums reaching the top 10 of Billboard’s Internet Sales Chart, including two No. 1’s, and a hardcore following of fans.
It’s Clyne’s music that initially attracts individuals. But it’s not until one actually attends a live RCPM show that one actually “gets it.” “It” being the synergy created between band and audience, who feed off each other’s energy all night. It’s where the audience knows the words to every song, no matter how deep into the archives the band goes, and are expected to sing their “parts” to make the show work. Clyne is one of the most charismatic frontmen in rock. His ethic of balancing fun and hard work on stage has also earned him the reputation as a lead singer who never phones in a performance. Night after night (sometimes a dozen of them in a row) it’s 110% energy. And no two set lists are ever repeated.
For RCPM, 2010 marked another successful year. The band completed their first tour of the UK in February, toured the States twice over, and had their best Circus Mexicus event ever. Circus Mexicus is the band’s annual fiesta weekend in Puerto Penasco, Mexico, highlighted by a four hour concert by RCPM, typically attracting thousands of people from across the U.S.
Clyne admits it was also “kind of a chaotic year” due mostly in part to the delayed release of the band’s next album. The band was originally scheduled to go to Nashville in the spring and record their new release. But the flooding problem the city experienced in the spring also directly affected their producer, leaving his studio literally in several inches of water.
“We had big plans to release it at Circus Mexicus. It threw everything into a less prepared state,” Clyne said.
In the end, the band recruited the services of longtime friend/producer/engineer/mixer Clif Norrell (Rush, No Doubt, R.E.M.), who also produced The Refreshments’ “Fizzy Fuzzy” album.
But pushing back completion of the album disrupted the schedule for the rest of the year, including touring and releasing the CD. For independent bands, most tours have to be booked 90 to 120 days in advance. And releasing an album in the fourth quarter when so many of the major labels are putting out greatest hits packages and Christmas albums, didn’t make sense.
Now, Clyne says the goal is to release the new album within the first 90 days of 2011.
The band was expected to go over final mix notes for the album on the tour bus this week. But waiting for the release is still not easy for Clyne, who admits he has to resist the temptation to continually tinker with it.
“I hate not having a deadline,” he said. “It’s the painting that’s still just in your room. Right now it’s still on my pallet. But I gotta stop looking at it because I’ll keep adding to it.”
He hints that the new album, in typical Clyne fashion, presents dichotomies. In this case, Clyne, a dedicated husband and father of three and in his 40s, sings about reckoning and the disillusionment of where his life is today versus where he envisioned himself being “in my immortal 20s.” Life may not be where he envisioned it, but in many ways it’s better.
“I have a lot of responsibilities I carry, but they also carry me,” he said. “I’m happy to be the people’s poet in America’s gypsy rock-n-roll band. My kids are almost as old as some of the college kids who come to our shows. I’m calling people under 30 ‘kids’ and I friggin’ love it.”
“There are times where I express some personal disappointment, no more than I have in the past,” Clyne continues about the new album. “If I’m going to paint it with a dark cloud, I’ll frame it with a certain lining.”
Between touring half the year, writing and recording a new album, helping with household chores when he’s home and helping with kids’ homework, in his “free time” Clyne also plays on three soccer teams in Arizona, and helps coach his sons’ teams. All of that begs the question, How do you have time to do so much?
“I have a lot of really good people helping me out. I’m very conscious of trying to keep that balance,” he said.
All of Clyne’s priorities intertwine into a sort of wheel, he explained.
“In order to be a good father and husband, I have to have a business,” Clyne said. “Because of my artistic commitment, I can be a provider. It’s a very very good symbiosis. If you remove any one piece, it might just fall apart.”

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