"Music is not to be toyed with. It's very powerful. If we can keep some kid from cutting his wrists, then sign me up," Ashley Peacock, The Times' frontman, says. The Times' music is powerful, combining Peacock's dynamic voice with a Radiohead/English Pop sound. Peacock's voice has been compared to Jeff Buckley or Coldplay's Chris Martin, holding an honest, passionate, melancholy feel.
"You're broken and you're beautiful. Nothing in between," Peacock sings, the sensitive lyrics playing against heavier vocal emotion. When listening to their album, Begin, two words come to mind: professional and natural.
Peacock is soft-spoken, has blue eyes, a buzz cut and clutches his iPod. He wears an army green jacket, says that "girl jeans" are gonna be the next thing for male singers, and he's a thrift store shopper.
"I'm wearing five dollars," he says.
He wanted to be a lawyer and was "forced into music." In the 10th grade, a friend heard him sing and "told on him" to the choir teacher. When Peacock found out that choir was an easy "A," he signed up. He then studied classical voice in college, but soon dropped out, feeling that classes didn't acknowledge "the heart of music." In 1997, Peacock had his first paying gig as a singer/songwriter; he played solo gigs for six years.
"I put 50,000 miles a year on my car touring," he says. Originally from Michigan, Peacock moved to Cincinnati five years ago on a whim. He thought the vibe was positive, that people were "hopeful as artists, as families."
Peacock released solo records and gathered a backing band, still under his name. Eventually, the backing band staged "a mutiny," and they changed the name to The Times. Peacock and drummer Zach Stutzman have been together since 2003. Stutzman was playing drums at a church when one of Peacock's friends happened to see him. Peacock describes their relationship as this: "He's never had the guts to leave me." Presently, Allan Mayne is on guitar, and on the album, Kyle Lipps plays bass, but they have a rotating cast of three bass players.
Influenced by the '90s British melodic sound, including bands such as Suede, Blur and The Cure, Peacock says, "If a record really reaches you, they're being honest. We put a lot of personal energy into our shows. There's a severe emotional standard we dig into."
Peacock feels that modern music is too "perfect," that machinery can take away the personality behind the vocals. Begin, released last August, was recorded entirely on laptops. The band sneaked into a condemned cathedral in Norwood to make this record. They mixed it themselves, and mastered it at The Bamboo Room, a local recording studio.
In October 2005, The Times was one of 10 bands chosen as a finalist in the "Zippo Hot Tour" contest, gaining Cincinnati music national recognition. As a result, there was buzz among major labels. Peacock says, "I'm not as hungry for fame as I used to be. I'd like to think I have a healthy attitude about it." As far as expectations, he is expecting one thing: a child. His wife is 15 weeks pregnant.
"We're grateful to be in Cincinnati," Peacock says. "The geography is perfect for touring. It's fun to watch appreciation come to bands like The Greenhornes. I'm excited to see what's gonna happen in the next five years."
Presently, The Times is on "the credit card label," he laughs. Although there has been national interest with the record, Peacock isn't "desperate for the deal." In the future, they plan to decide on a bass player and tour. But recently (in the morning before this interview), Peacock received a phone call from Gene Loves Jezebel regarding a possible show with Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star. He comments, "When I think I should give up, it's encouraging to get phone calls like this."
Overall, Peacock believes in a unique voice that taps into "the greater vision of what we're capable of." And as for the girl jeans, Peacock says, "I'm wearing them right now. You can take someone seriously by the pair of pants they wear."
THE TIMES (thetimesband.com) plays Friday at alchemize as a part of the monthly "Exile on Main" showcase series.