On a hot September afternoon about 10 years ago, my first wife and I decided to relax with a couple of plastic-cup margaritas after a 20-hour drive to Rocky Point, Mexico. It was our first trip to the shrimping/tourist town on the northern coast of the Sea of Cortez, and we got to talking with the burly, 60-ish gringo at the table next to us.
Turns out he was an old Mexico hand, a film-production logistics guy who had worked with James Cameron when they shot the
Titanic water scenes not far away. He shared a few stories about Cameron and offered some advice about hanging out in a Mexican town for a week — how to tip, how to handle the beach-combing vendors, how not to cop an attitude with the locals. How not to get arrested.
A few minutes passed, and as we three looked out over the water, following a small flock of pelicans gracefully winging their way against the afternoon breeze, the gringo said, “You know, some days down here, it’s pretty hard to get motivated.”
We hadn’t been there 25 minutes, and we already knew what he meant.
On subsequent visits, we began to notice a pretty healthy bloom of telephone-pole handbills around town for Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. Graduating from a party-time house band playing Rocky Point and Cholla Bay watering holes on Friday nights for the college and RV crowd (for whom the three-hour drive down from Phoenix and Tucson is like a trip across town), the Tempe-based quartet has grown into something of an institution in the town, hosting their own twice-annual multi-band mini-festival called Circus Mexicus, an event that drew 2,500 people only weeks ago. Not exactly Bonnaroo, but not bad considering the swine-flu and narco-madness blights against Mexican tourism these days.
Clyne, who played in the short-lived outfit The Refreshments back in the ’90s, has also established himself as a long-distance road warrior, doing 200-plus dates a year across North America, with a keen reverence for his roots in the deep American Southwest. It shows up in his songs — paeans to running, or not running anymore, characters poured from the shadows of saguaro cacti, outlaws and itinerant misfits.
“You know, when I go back to the old Bruce Springsteen recordings, there’s definitely a sense of place. His muse, the characters that meander through the screen doors and the swamp. But I think it’s a natural part of the artist that you have to expand. Hopefully, if you’re doing your job right, you can keep that sense of place that may be New Jersey, but also anywhere U.S.A., or anywhere worldwide.
“Hopefully, my sense of place here in the Southwest will lend me a very, very distinct color. The heroes and villains may be dressed a certain way, they may have a certain accent, but ultimately what’s most important is that their heart is the same as someone else’s heart on the other side of the world. The landscape of the human heart is what we need to explore.”
Fair enough, but has the business stamped a kind of homogeneity on rock music in the 20th century?
“Yeah, maybe. I can’t cite anybody who I think is writing with a real sense of place, with other than perhaps, arguably, Jimmy Buffett, or maybe some flavor-of-the-week country artist… I just don’t hear it very much.”
Clyne recently welcomed a new member to the Peacemakers, guitarist Jim Dalton. Front Rangers will recognize Dalton’s name as lead axe-man for the bruising Denver-based country-rock outfit The Railbenders, and Clyne says he’s looking forward to following up their recently released web-only live CD, Glow in the Dark, with a studio CD later this year, with Dalton sharing songwriter duties.
“He’s a really prolific writer, a great singer/songwriter in his own right. He and I have been co-writing a lot together and really, really enjoying the fruits of our labors. And we’re writing on the road, which I never really had the spiritual bandwidth to do before.”
We remarked that it seems Clyne deeply personalizes the band and his writing, and we wondered if bringing in someone new was a risky venture, playing to a hardcore following.
“Yeah, holy cow, it is very risky. It was a very stressful time for us, when Steve [Larson] departed and we brought in Jim. But… he’s just naturally a great guy, beyond his talent. It’s very, very important for someone to contribute to the band onstage. But a close second is the ability to actually live with the guy 200 days out of the year, on the road. You have to be able to jibe with someone every day to create that atmosphere where you make your job actually enjoyable.”
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On the Bill
Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers perform with The Railbenders at 9 p.m. on Friday, June 19, at the Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St., Boulder,
Naked arm wrestling
Local rockers Ego vs Id challenge the Boulder music scene
by Adam Perry
Vol. I and Vol. II, the first two EPs by local indie-Americana rockers Ego vs Id, sent sparks through the Boulder and Denver music scenes, but haven’t brought the band national attention. With the fall 2009 release of the young group’s debut full-length, 23-year-old co-frontman Nate Cook & Co. hope to reveal the great potential so apparent on their self-released EPs and at many local shows. Cook spoke with Boulder Weekly by phone last week about the recording process, the band’s new drummer and more.Boulder Weekly: How’s the album coming?
Nate Cook: Really well. It’s slow going, but what we’re trying to do takes time.BW: And you started recording in January?
NC: We started February 8th, and where we’re at now… it’s gonna sound ridiculous, but we’ve got basically three songs completely done. So you do the math on that. We’ll see how much longer it takes. We’re shooting for October or November, so we’re hoping to be wrapping in July or August. This album’s a fucking monster. I don’t wanna suck my own dick yet or count my own chickens or some other idiom that applies, but I’m telling you this is a beast. You hear the word “revival” thrown around a lot [in this area]. You have the folk revivalists and the alt-country revivalists… and I guess what we’ve started to realize is that we don’t fit into the revivalist thing, because what we do comes naturally to us. It’s just what we love. And we have more of a pop sensibility than some of the stringent revivalist people, [so] our goal is to make something new. We’re really excited about it, and it’s really not something I’ve heard come out of Boulder or Denver.BW: So what’s the state of the Boulder scene?
NC: It’s kinda been stagnant if you ask me. There’s not a whole lot of new shit going on. Last night I went to that Troubadours show at the b.side lounge and was there for maybe half an hour before I left. They’ve got some good stuff, [but] it’s definitely not my thing.
There’s some cats up there who can write, but… I went to a Troubadours show years ago, and it was the exact same shit I heard last night. No one’s doing anything new; it’s the same fuckin’ bands, the same fuckin’ songs done in the exact same way. Everyone sounds like they wanna be Iron and Wine and they wanna be some bastardized version of Gram Parsons. But people are doing their thing, and there are lots of people going to see live music. That’s really something new, I’d say. That’s a good sign of people really reinvigorating their interest. BW: How has the new drummer affected the band?
NC: Brian [Dillon] is the shit, basically. He’s been around a long time, and we were really, really lucky to get our hands on him. He’s super busy — kind of a pro, I guess. But he really liked our material and fit like a glove personality-wise in the band, too. Our former drummer [Rich] is fantastic, and I really liked playing with him, but Brian live adds an element that launches the material further. BW: How has the competition and friendship between you and [co-frontman] Robbie [Stiefel] evolved?
NC: Robbie and I have problems, and that’s inherent in what we do. [We’re] two songwriters with two different styles of songwriting arranging — when we first started it was brutal. We’d get in horrible fights and wouldn’t talk for a long time. Nowadays, it’s still kinda rough, but we’ve been together so long now that it’s almost like getting in a fight with your brother. We just keep going. That relationship, to be honest, is probably a lot of the reason why we’ve done so well, because he pushes me. We’re both in a constant struggle to put out better material than the other one, and it advances us as artists. BW: Why not change the name of the band to Nate vs Robbie instead of Ego vs Id?
NC: [Laughs] Yeah, totally. We never actually designed it to be that way, because I had the name Ego vs Id before I met Robbie, but it ended up being the exact right name for the band. Sometimes I’m the needy little bitch, and sometimes he’s the overbearing and pious one, and sometimes we switch it.BW: When I visited Ego vs Id in the studio recently, there was a guy with a video camera doing a documentary. What’s the status of that?
NC: When I get a few drinks in me and there’s a camera around, I kinda start hamming it up a little bit. I was challenging people to an arm-wrestling match in the buff, so to speak… and I think it made him uncomfortable, and really the rest of the band uncomfortable, so he stopped coming around. If he’s gonna get scared the first time I get naked and challenge him to an arm-wrestling match, he’s probably not right for our band.
Adam Perry writes a music-related blog called Beautiful Buzz at www.adamperrywrites.wordpress.com
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On the Bill
Ego vs Id and Statewide Emergency open for The Swayback at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24, at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder, 303-443-3399.
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