Peace of the action
Local band Peace Mafia speaks of unity and acts with energy
Boiling down a band’s sound to a single word or phrase is always a dicey affair. Sometimes it’s best to let the band tell you. Take Peace Mafia, for instance.
“It’s Haight-Ashbury syrupy psychodelia with punch and the grind of a stuck-open throttle freight train,” a Peace Mafia press release explains.
“It’s modern rock with a twist,” said the band members during our interview.
You’ll notice that verbs are key here: punch, grind, twist. After seeing Peace Mafia live, I might also add jump to the list, since the five band members often channel their considerable energy into collective onstage jumping. Dressed in sleek black ensembles and strumming passionately on their guitars, the band emits a clean, hard sound as they bounce around the stage.
“Our strength is melody,” says lead singer Joey Vegas. “And of course, big guitars.”
Listening to Peace Mafia’s self-titled demo CD, it becomes apparent that the band takes its time in crafting music; they sometimes take as long as a year to develop a song. The resulting tunes have a polished, radio-ready sound. But they’re not too polished.
“We like having the raw edge, but we like the songs to be the best they can be,” explains rhythm guitarist Debra Dee.
One can find a similar paradox in the band’s name.
“It’s kind of an oxymoron,” Dee says. “We’re into family and friends and pulling people together for a good time at [a] show. We’re into unity and peace, but here we are in Nevada …”
“It has a toughness to it,” Dee and Vegas conclude, describing both the band’s sound and their attitude.
“But we definitely concentrate on the unity side. There’s enough evil out in the world today,” Dee says.
Lyrically, the band concentrates less on evil and more on mystery; they are obviously influenced by the darker, mythic side of Nevada culture, from gangsters to UFOs. They are also big fans of Art Bell’s radio show. One of their songs, “Revelator,” is about “remote viewing” and “revelations.” For this song, the band shot a wonderfully artistic music video in which several band members don secret agent-style garb.
While the band draws much of its thematic inspiration from Nevada culture, several of the band members are actually transplants from the Los Angeles area. Vegas worked as a hip-hop DJ in Santa Barbara. Dee played in an all-girl rock band in L.A. Drummer Chris Ericson played in punk bands in Hollywood. Lead guitarist Romney, who has a classical guitar background, has played in numerous bands in Boise and Phoenix. Bassist Robert Finn is a seasoned player who is, as Vegas and Dee describe him, “more Nevadan.”
Vegas says that Peace Mafia has been shaped by its big-city roots.
“I think the bands in Southern California very much have it together,” he says, explaining that professionalism and perseverance are a must for those who want to succeed in the competitive L.A. music scene. “We really brought that ethic [to Reno].”
And this ethic is definitely getting them places. The band has a new CD, a second music video in the works and a ton of shows booked around town. All that onstage jumping may just rocket Peace Mafia into veritable rock stardom.