Peace in our times

Peace Mafia

Peace Mafia members, from left, Debra Dermody, J-Zen, Joey Vegas and Eric J in their northeast Reno hideout.

Peace Mafia members, from left, Debra Dermody, J-Zen, Joey Vegas and Eric J in their northeast Reno hideout.

Photo By David Robert

The Peace Mafia is onstage, their fists punching the air, their heads grooving to the beat, with huge smiles all around. Wearing mostly black—and pulling it off in a fancy, un-goth-like way—is lead vocalist and guitarist Joey Vegas, who laughs as he claims to be “103 in music years.” He sports a jazz musician hat with a pair of shades and a button-up collared shirt. Rhythm guitarist Debra Dermody pulls it off with black pants and a white T-shirt. The rest of the group—bassist Jason (aka J-Zen) Brown and lead guitarist Eric J, the newest member of the band—matches accordingly.

Offering the crowd a nice blend of what Vegas refers to as “alternative, psychedelic, melody and songwriting all in a blender,” the Peace Mafia doesn’t sound like the reggae band you’d think their name implies. It’s more like a chill blend of modern, alternative rock.

With musical inspirations stretching from the Beatles to the Smashing Pumpkins, Social Distortion to Donovan, this four-piece band of buddies is without musical limitations. Members don’t like their sound to be compared to anyone else’s sound.

The band takes the “Peace” part of its name seriously. One of its songs, “Off the Grid,” is, according to Vegas, about “selling everything you have, buying a plot of land, catching rain for water, solar power, wind power, living off the land, and saying F-you to the IRS.”

And the “Mafia” part?

“We’re one big family,” claims Dermody, getting nods of agreement from her bandmates.

Having been together for about two years, the Peace Mafia has come far in making a name for itself. A number of the band’s tunes have been played on MTV’s hit show Road Rules, and the members are currently working in the studio, putting together a few songs for an upcoming album.

Dermody says the Peace Mafia isn’t just doing this for fun, although that’s a huge part of it. Instead, the group wants to make something of its music so that other people can relate to and benefit from what they hear.

“We try to get into TV and film of any kind,” she says, acknowledging that nearly any recognition is good recognition.

This group of energetic musicians is different from your basic run-of-the-mill band, as their quick taste of fame shows. Right after their most recent performance, people literally flooded up to the stage and bombarded the group with pens and paper for their autographs. Although the Peace Mafia has a long way to go in what they’re trying to accomplish, they’re excelling, and fast.

“We’re all about togetherness, but with peace,” says Eric J.

“We’re definitely pushing a peaceful theme,” adds Vegas. “It’s all about laying off the drugs and going straight for the peace.”