Peace Jones
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Peace Jones

Asheville, North Carolina, United States

Asheville, North Carolina, United States
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Press - Random Acts of Funk - Johnson City TN - Summer 2006

Sep 27, 2006 / vol 13 iss 9
The macho magic flute
Local band is pro-woodwind, anti-war
by Alli Marshall

Giving street cred to woodwinds: Paul DeCirce of Peace Jones proves the flute doesn't blow.
"I sort of approach things with a Frank Zappa attitude," professes Peace Jones front man Paul DeCirce. He's talking about the organization of his funk-jam group, but he could also be talking about the art-rock ingenuity underlying the party-hearty hip-hop and reggae-infused cadences. (By the way, it's unquestionably his project – he writes and produces all the material.)

What's so arty about Peace Jones, at first glance, is the use of the flute, especially when layered between '70s-style keyboard solos and quirky spoken-word lyrics a la early '90s De La Soul (back when they still had soul).

But there's also the way the group strives beyond its own musical boundaries, aiming to transcend its jam band leanings. "Peace Jones fits into the crunchiness," DeCirce asserts, "but I like to think we're still progressive."

"Aqualung": the new "Freebird"
Peace Jones got its start in 2004 at one of the Bonfires for Peace productions in Pritchard Park. The grassroots concerts featured up-and-coming area bands, most of which were not yet playing local clubs. While most musical acts have to climb the ladder of open mikes and coffee-house shows before they earn larger, paying gigs, the Bonfire series gave new artists a stage.

"Peace Jones has been [on] a shoestring," DeCirce notes. "[When it comes to] paying one's dues, I'm almost the poster boy."

The musician was penniless when he came to Asheville eight years ago and began busking on downtown streets. He started out as a drummer (and even went briefly by the nickname "Drum"), playing with groups like Paperboy and Scrappy Hamilton while privately honing his guitar and flute skills.

"I'm kind of self-taught in all that," he admits.

As for what it means to be in front of a band holding a flute – an instrument often connected with symphony musicians and grade-school girls – DeCirce has a lot to say.

"Third-grade girl flautists grow up to be college attendees and part of the music market," he shrugs.

But all wind instruments aren't prissy. "There's a school of music that's flute and drum working together," DeCirce reveals. "I associate it with rhythm and drumming, like fife and drum [corps]."

And if those bands historically known for marching ahead of the military into battle aren't macho enough, there are always flautists-turned-rock gods like Clay Cook and Jerry Eubanks of The Marshall Tucker Band, and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull (who, it's worth noting, played not only flute but piccolo).

"Jethro Tull is the main iconic image of the modern rock flautist," DeCirce agrees. "I get a lot of requests to play 'Aqualung.'" Which, by the way, doesn't actually have a flute part.

"But," he adds, "I do have a lot of trouble pulling [my flute] out at some of the county shows we play."

A message you can boogie to
There's more to Peace Jones, though, than the novelty of a guy playing funk on a wind instrument. "Even if you did take the flute away, our sound is interesting on its own," the front man muses. "I think of the flute as the icing on the cake."

Listen to a couple tracks from Peace Jones' EP, Laundry Lady (taken from the soon-to-be-released full-length album, Down to the Bone) and the first thing you'll hear is an infectious, danceable beat. There's a definite Friday afternoon feel when audiophiles crank up the feel-good hip-hop, dancehall and reggae. And the EP's title song delivers on that promise with whimsical lyrics about a crush on a beehived matron of the Laundromat.

But DeCirce isn't satisfied with being the soundtrack to a party. "I feel somewhat responsible," he insists. "If you're going to entertain people and you can make a point in some way, you should."

His point? It's in the band's name. "Some people jones for power," the flautist explains. "We jones for peace."

DeCirce continues, "I don't think there's a lot in the entertainment industry that speaks to world peace or inner peace."

So, listen between the beats for Peace Jones to expound on war, the oil crisis and the need for alternative energy, among other soapbox-worthy topics.

"Some people just don't want to think about it," he acknowledges. "They just want to have a good time; they've been working all week. They don't want to hear a strange man with a flute talking about biodiesel fuel."

What DeCirce does – a tactic employed by reggae great Bob Marley – is sneak the message in between a contagious groove and a catchy hook. First, get the crowd dancing, then expand their minds.

Though the flautist doesn't think the conscious music movement will ever eclipse the Top 40, he points out that jam-oriented festivals like Bonnaroo, which draw many message-toting bands, are beginning to get noticed by the likes of Rolling Stone.

For now, Peace Jones is happily to be gaining enthusiastic audiences at home. "People around Asheville get what I'm doing," DeCirce says.


Peace Jones plays the Town Pump on Thursday, Sept. 28. 9:30 p.m. 669-4808.
- Mountain Xpress, 2006


2004: The Path Narrows (ep)
2006: Laundry Lady (ep)
2006: Down to the Bone (full-length)
2007: Mr. Anderson / Laundry Lady (CD single)



Are there any bands coming up today with fresh perspectives on serious world issues, offering real solutions, positive messages and unflinching musical quality? That's what flute-playing songwriter Paul DeCirce asked himself when he formed Peace Jones in 2004.

Out of this desire for a group to "jones for peace," Paul left 10 years of professional drumming behind him to take up the microphone and, uh, the flute stand. He wrote songs all through the Eastern parts of the USA as a traveling busker before settling on Asheville, and saw so many things that caused his interest (and heart) to ache for the American dream and all wrong with current times that he HAD to sing about it.

Pianist Eric Ciborski's journey in the meantime drove him from a Katrina-battered New Orleans into the safe arms of the Asheville mountains, where he and Paul soon linked music and idea into the PJ sound. New Orleans had been perfect for Eric's barrell-house funky style, and upon hearing Paul's 'hip-hop meets folk' originals, he knew it was a perfect compliment.

With over 20,000 hits in just over a year on their myspace, the band knows their fans are listening, and watching, to see where this promising up-coming group goes, and which movement it will be that puts them on the national map.

Since their first gig in downtown Asheville, the group has matured into a serious musical force with chameleon-like qualities. You'll see Peace Jones performing at a festival for 'jam' fans, an upscale restaurant or bookstore acoustically, in front of a bar full of locals looking for 'the best in vintage' music, or promoting their lyrically conscious originals on college radio.

The band's style is perfect for people looking to dance and also have songs with positive meaning and insight; perhaps Peace Jones is 'intellectual' music, but their usage of humor, metaphor and deep imagery simply combines to 'sneak the message in between the grooves'.

Bassist Greg Terhune and Drummer Todd Omley fill out the PJ sound; their shows have been stellar in '08 as the band is exploring even more musical ideas. One clubs exact words: "funk, reggae, blues, jamming, rock; they do it all so well!"

In 2008, PJ are performing widely in the WNC region and promoting "Down to the Bone," their latest full length CD.


"Peace Jones are a killer band!" -- Kim Clark of WNCW

"What DeCirce does – a tactic employed by reggae great Bob Marley – is sneak the message in between a contagious groove and a catchy hook. First, get the crowd dancing, then expand their minds." -- Alli Marshall, The Mountain Xpress

"Working-class funk-rock with a reggae vibe, featuring Paul DeCirce's artistic use of the flute and quirky lyrics."

"Peace Jones is genius; amazing flute with skilled and funkified keys, strings, and percussion. Sometimes reggae-infused and sometimes straight up funk, these guys do it all so well. Totally original stylings with a natural vibe - nothing forced or corporate about Peace Jones - it’s 100% from the soul." --IndiePro.Com

"Peace Jones combines elements of old and new that result in a varied list of references to classics and contemporaries, including Beck, Jethro Tull and Cake. The rhythm-centered, funky, bluesy grooves serve as a vehicle for DeCirce's lyrics that often have a political message." -- Jer Cole, The Knoxville Sentinel-News

"There's no stopping this pied piper of funk... Peace Jones, as well as their minions of fans, just wanna have fun, but don’t call them unenlightened or unaware. Political incorrectness/correctness doesn’t blur their juice—instead, it empowers their rock ‘n funk adrenaline." --The Indie, Asheville NC