One band you’d like to sit in with: The Police
Movie you can watch over & over: The Life Aquatic
Comfort food: Dark Chocolate
A third generation Arizonan, songwriter Roger Clyne regularly bares his soul in rock ‘n’ roll originals that are often tinted with Southwest influences: a verse in Spanish here or a line about a desert landscape there.
Though neither of his parents is particularly arts-focused – his mother is a retired schoolteacher, his father a cowboy and rancher – Clyne and his brother, now a sculptor, are deeply creative. Early on, Clyne had a musical bent and by the age of five was writing songs and singing them a capella into his father’s tape recorder. His parents divorced when he was in grade school and Clyne commuted between Tempe and his father’s ranch southeast of Tucson, seamlessly changing from a city-smart skateboarding punk to a horse-crazed desert rat with each visit.
Clyne was an excellent student who participated in school musicals and choir but nonetheless, enjoyed tweaking the power structures of his high school community and rebelling accordingly. He kept a journal which served as his “psychic dumpster,” listened to David Bowie and Camper Van Beethoven, and prided himself on his “outsider” status, especially when he transferred from a Catholic program to a public high school in 11th grade. A road trip with buddies to Los Angeles in his junior year inspired him to start a band that played Ramones and Aerosmith covers and quickly became a popular act in the Tempe all-ages clubs.
Music did not truly become central to Clyne’s life until he entered Arizona State University. In yet another contrast, Clyne pursued his psychology degree with an anthropology minor while playing in a string of college rock bands until he put together The Mortals in his sophomore year. Playing covers of R.E.M., The Clash and The Violent Femmes, Clyne began weaving his originals into the band’s set list. Soon, requests for his songs outnumbered those for covers and The Mortals started opening for top-tier local bands including Dead Hot Workshop and the Gin Blossoms, as well as the nationally known Goo Goo Dolls. In his final college years, Clyne and several others – including a reggae band – moved into a commune-style apartment that became a center for philosophical, music-charged gatherings.
Around the same time, one of his closest friends, Mike O’Hare, started making plans to go to Southeast Asia. Roger decided to go along. They began their trip with one-way tickets, stopping in Hawaii for a few days first, then landing in Teipei, Taiwan for two months to earn some fast cash. Teaching English was highly profitable for Westerners as most Asians needed the practice from native English speakers so they could learn proper pronunciation. After landing the sweetest job…a class of airline stewardesses, Clyne and his friends and new acquaintances from around the globe he met at the youth hostel, carried on in typical youthful fashion of too much Mekong and other indulgences while stashing cash from teaching classes. Roger also made money by busking…playing his guitar and singing on the sidewalks and subway tunnels for money. Sometimes he was tipped with flowers and even once a batch of soup. The people of Taiwan had just experienced a decade-long ban on sad songs, so as long as Roger kept, “The Boxer,” by Simon & Garfunkel or, “Country Roads,” by John Denver flowing, the money would pour in. He earned enough to not only by a plane ticket back home to the States, but also stop off in Thailand and surf for a month before heading back to Arizona with some savings to put in the bank.
Once home, Clyne had to get serious and finish his last semester at ASU so he could graduate. As he received his degree he did not feel like he was done as a singer/songwriter. The Mortals (with a few lineup changes) became The Refreshments. Fueled by a summer hiatus at his father’s serene ranch with his fellow world traveler and best friend, Michael, and girlfriend (and future wife) Alisa, Clyne penned many of the songs that would become The Refreshments’ first album “Wheelie,” released in 1994. The band played South by Southwest in 1995 and was quickly signed by Mercury Records. P.H. Naffah was auditioned to replace the band’s departing drummer and almost immediately, the group began recording the songs for Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy. Released in 1996, the disc was Radio & Record’s ninth Best-Selling Debut Album of the Year, went to #1 on Billboard’s Heatseeker Chart and spawned two popular radio hits, “Banditos” and “Down Together.” Mass-market adulation seemed imminent as The Refreshments performed on national late-night shows and Clyne wrote and performed the “King of the Hill” theme song with the band. Though the Refreshments released The Bottle & Fresh Horses in 1997, their efforts went unsupported by a change in label management and the band eventually disbanded in 1998.
Seeking a respite and inspiration, Clyne and Naffah twice scaled California’s 14,000-foot peak Mt. Shasta and took a weeklong sojourn through their favorite Arizona desert. They then returned to the Phoenix club circuit and began playing happy hours as a duo. Over several months, they added lead guitarist Scotty Johnson (who eventually left the band in 2002), bassist Danny White and guitarist Steve Larson and officially became Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers. Jim Dalton, who joined in 2009, is now the cherished lead guitarist in the band. Nick Scropos, who grew up in Chicago’s suburbs alongside P.H. Naffah and sharing the stage and road trip to Tempe, AZ for a stint at ASU together, is now the bass player. Nick joined RCPM in 2004.
Clyne is as passionate and pure about his music as he is about his dedication to his wife and three children. In both worlds, he’s matured and become more sure and committed to his purpose. The band’s web site tracks hundreds of postings by fans that laud Clyne as one of the greatest, albeit under-recognized, songwriters of his generation. The proverbial roller coaster continues to run, but with the momentum of praise from the media and fans, Clyne may soon have to get accustomed to a lot more attention.