By Emily Clingman-Johnson
When Peace Officer hit the stage, there were maybe 30 people in the crowd.
“All the free beer ran out by the time we played, so we figured our show would be a flop,” Andy Kromarek said about the band’s appearance at the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas earlier this year.
“But after people in the street heard a few songs, they started coming in from outside,” he said. “And suddenly, there were like, hundreds of people.”
That’s just the kind of energy Kromarek and the band thrives on. Peace Officer has a message and long-term professional goals, but the ultimate aim for each show, in Kromarek’s opinion, is for people to come away saying, “That was f***ing awesome!”
“It’s hard sometimes at loud shows to hear what rappers are saying,” Kromarek said, “So for me I want to put on a kickass show in general, so that fans will buy the music and then contemplate it as they listen to it in their own lives.”
Peace Officer is eight years in the making. The six-man ensemble started out as a local reggae band but has evolved into more of a hip-hop act, backed by reggae beats and some electronica.
“We like to call it dub-hop,” said vocalist Nick Lawton.
Dub-hop is not to be confused with another emerging style: dubstep.
“We have electronic moments, but we like to keep it organic and avoid those screeching basslines,” said Lawton.
Lawton’s enthusiasm for using the mic to draw predominantly young fans to the band’s shows is clearly important to him.
“We get to talk about social issues,” he said. “In a lot of cases the young kids really relate with our lyrics and messages because they are being pulled in so many directions these days. They understand social conflict.”
Lawton’s love for hip-hop has been inspired by legends such as Tupac and Bob Marley.
“Tupac addressed minority rights and corruption. Bob Marley sang about social change, consciousness and living on a higher level,” he said.
“If it were up to me, I would just stand up and talk to people about issues, but music engages them, and it’s a tool to present some ideas that we have,” Lawton continued. “I hope they are coming away with positive ideas to improve the community.”
Though only Lawton (Wiled Wombat) and Kromarek (A.K.) were interviewed for this story, they spoke for the entire band – bassist Brian Zeiger (The Brain), drummer Loren Jones (Senoj Nerol), M.C. Shane Cooper (Shaneye) and keyboardist Jared Scherger (Jahred) – regarding their passion for music, social change and solid friendships.
“You have to be good friends to spend so much time together,” laughed Kromarek.
Armed with fervor, talent and a unique performance style, Peace Officer is working on a third album, mostly testing out new songs on the road before recording them. Already this year, they have been to Wyoming, Idaho, Texas, New Hampshire, Utah and have played at various Colorado venues. They are getting ready to head out again on a regional tour that will include new states, like Montana. The ultimate goal: the West Coast.
“Places like Seattle, Portland and Eugene are hot spots for hip-hop,” Kromarek said.
Wherever the band plays, fans can expect a high-energy performance.
“We’re different from other hip-hop bands because we’re an actual band,” Kromarek said. “A lot of hip-hop shows are just DJs and turntables. With us, everything is live and we can feed off the crowd.”
“Our cross-genre style attracts a lot of different fans,” said Kromarek. “The reggae kids love what we’re doing, and so do the electronic kids. It’s a big goal of ours to remove the ‘cliqueiness’ and bring everyone together for a good live show.”
Peace Officer is hoping to get some airplay on independent and college radio stations as they tour.
“College towns, cities in the middle of nowhere – that’s where people are hungry for new music and entertainment,” Kromarek said. “Laramie is really fun because 300 people will show up.”
“And they come on time,” Lawton said with a sheepish grin.
Eventually the band would like to be self sufficient, meaning that they can quit their day jobs. They envision being picked up by a strong independent label and “touring hard.”
“Europe,” Lawton summed up.
Success doesn’t come easy, however, and Kromarek offered a few words of advice for other aspiring musicians.
“Take your promotion into your own hands,” he said. “Don’t just wait for the right person to hear you play and then make you famous. Make yourself (or your band) famous. Get out there wherever and whenever you can.”
For a limited time, Peace Officer is offering all of their music for free online at peaceofficermusic.com. You can also catch them live at 320 South in Breckenridge on November 4, The Shack in Boulder on November 17, and the Hideout in Fort Collins on December 9.