The Phoenix-area rocker talks his band’s 10th album, their annual Mexican sojourn, their personal brand of tequila, and more.
BY JOHN B. MOORE
Roger Clyne and his crew, The Peacemakers, have managed to crack the code.
While a generation of musicians are still trying to cope in a new world where fans don’t buy music, but simply stream it, this Arizona desert rock/Americana outfit has managed to slowly build up a devout global following. Their fans buy the albums (put out on their own Emma Java Records label), they cross the border into Mexico every year to take part in the group’s four-day music festival, Circus Mexicus. And then there’s Mexican Moonshine Tequila, Clyne’s own brand of liquor. All of this is of course anchored by a cannon of fantastic escapist songs that perfectly meld the best of rock and Americana.
Even if you’ve never heard of Clyne’s work with The Peacemakers, you’ve heard his music before. In the ‘90s, he put out two tragically underrated albums under The Refreshments moniker (1996’s “Banditos” was their one big hit, but far from being the band’s best song). He also wrote the instrumental theme song to the King of the Hill TV show. In 1998, Clyne and drummer P.H. Naffah, renamed the group and started life as Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers.
They’ve just released Native Heart, their 10th album and have capped off another successful Circus Mexicus, playing nightly in Puerto Penasco to a crowd of 5,000. As they were about to pack up the bus for another endless tour, Clyne was kind enough to answer some questions recently talking about the band, the shows and the tequila, naturally.
BLURT: You just finished up the latest Circus Mexicus. It seems like a lot of work to pull together – what keeps you doing it year after year?
ROGER CLYNE: Four days of tunes, tacos, tequila in a Mexican beach town… The event draws about 5,000 fiesta-going Peacemakers from around the World. We also do a lot of community and charity work. Pretty good reasons to do the heavy lifting required to make it go off!
I know you guys just did some east coast shows not that long ago and you’re back on the road again. How long do you usually spend playing touring each year? Any thoughts of slowing it down?
We are right now in the middle of a 51-day tour on a new record. We will probably do about 200 performances this year. It may sometimes get a little tiring, but it’s never dull! And if we ever get to retire, we will probably form a touring rock ‘n’ roll band.
Speaking of, congrats on the new record. Have you started playing any of these new songs live yet? What type of response are you getting?
Gracias! We are about two weeks into playing all of the songs on the album live. The response to the new music in the live setting has been nothing short of vivacious! Even the slower songs, in the midst of a fiesta-like live setting, seem to be met with very deep appreciation.
Along with putting on your own music festival, you guys have also put out most of your albums on your own as well. Do you think traditional labels still serve a purpose in 2017?
Yes, I do. An artist and or a band will need to be lucky enough to have a label team who respects their material, direction, and cooperates to nurture and develop that band or artist. That can be a tough ticket to fill in the ferociously-commercial and shallow-attentioned public showcase.
You’ve also got your own brand of tequila, which is brilliant! Anything thing else you’d like to try your hand at?
Gracias! Our tequila, Mexican Moonshine, is a labor of love. But I think we found the one other industry more competitive and perhaps more corrupt than the music industry. We absolutely love stewarding our tequila and sharing our spirit with our fans and newcomers. Thankfully, it is awesome, world-class stuff and the simple reward sipping and sharing is worth the labor.
Anything you guys have tried to start that ended up not taking off?
I’m certain we have had plenty of little projects or chapters throughout the last two decades that weren’t quite as successful… We just try to look up on them as learning experiences and get better with each endeavor.
There was a documentary about your last band, The Story of the Refreshments, that came out not too long ago. How did that come about?
That was the one project in the last couple of decades that we actually didn’t have to organize and fund. We were lucky that Taylor (Morden) from Pop Motion was a fan and wanted to tell the story. I think he did an amazing job and I’m glad that the backstory of the Refreshments and the runway to becoming Peacemakers is finally not a mystery to the public.
What’s next for you?
We have a full year of U.S. touring on the books. I may take a break in Tempe during September to play a residency and a small club to celebrate the 20th year anniversary of The Bottle & Fresh Horses, (An album by The Refreshments); looking at plans to visit Europe and Japan in the early spring 2018.
Between then and now, I’ll try to get in a little camping, desert walking, singing, strumming and writing… basically fiesta, siesta, repeat.
Those are all the questions I had. Anything else you want to cover?
No, thanks for the chance to fly our flag with you awhile.
(Ed. Note: I rarely interject commentary into our contributors’ work, but I feel compelled to offer my own personal tip o’ the sombrero to Clyne. He formed the Refreshments in the early ‘90s not long after I had moved to Arizona, and the band quickly become local heroes on the Phoenix-area scene. In particular, the record chain I worked for, Zia Record Exchange, was a big supporter of the Refreshments and peers like the Gin Blossoms and Dead Hot Workshop—as well as Clyne and his Peacemakers a few years later. I was fortunate, then, to see Clyne perform early on, and have remained a fan ever since. He’s a rare talent indeed. —FM)