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Photo By James Moses
Peace in the Jones

Peace in the Jones

Jonesin' to Rock Full Time

By David Lilly. Photos by James Moses

And so they came to kick maximum gluteus maximus. To play, perchance to jam. To paint music outside the lines. Peace in the Jones. What is that?

Peace in the Jones is, first, the name of a rock n roll band. It is also a philosophy and the attitude of a close-knit unit.

Please allow me to introduce you to...

The Jones Gang

To see Tommy Sturgeon, a passionate and intellectual lead guitarist and Kirk Whitehouse, a singer who also plays and loves bass guitar, you might be surprised by their nonmusical connection. Mike Loscalzo, master of his drum-kit domain and backup singer, has been best friends with Whitehouse since forever (well, since age 12). Together as one, these talented and driven men are known as Peace in the Jones. Now that you know that, maybe you have some questions for them, like who are the people behind the names and instruments? What are they like? How serious are they about their music? Last, but not least, where did they get that enigmatic name? Answers are forthcoming so, if you please, make yourself at home and follow the print.

On the Ax

What do you call a guy who has a bachelor's degree in business administration, who manages the band he plays in and is also their booking agent, accountant, publicist, marketer, promoter and chief songwriter (all in addition to his "real" job)? Busier than you want to be, right? Sturgeon earned such a degree and handles all those duties for the band. For every destination there is a journey that begins with one step. He took the first step a long time ago. He just happens to wear a lot of hats, including the cowboy hat he wore through the interview and he seems to like them.

As Sturgeon recalls, "At the age of nine I started my first band. None of us could play an instrument so we each picked what instrument we were to learn. I chose the guitar." He and his friends chose a band name, Century 5, an album title (Electro Rock) and a handful of song titles. Thus, Sturgeon's songwriting career was born. As he remembers it, "We wrote five songs for our album before interest started to dwindle." Those guys he kept in touch with for the next couple of years continued talking about the band, but nobody dug in and so nothing came to fruition. Not at that point, anyway.

He continued, "I started asking my parents for a guitar, but they were unsure of my potential dedication." Finally, years of requests (which parents reading here may recognize as "pestering") paid off when 13-year-old Sturgeon was finally given his first guitar for Christmas.

Peace in the Jones from left, Mike Loscalzo, Tommy Sturgeon, Kirk Whitehouse

Throughout his childhood, the future businessman and band leader listened a lot (or in his words, "went through periods of obsession with...") to artists as diverse as Billy Joel, Barry Manilow, Michael Jackson, Squeeze (still one of his favorite bands), as well as the deeper, R.E.M and heavier, Led Zeppelin.

Later still, in college, he heard Pat Metheny and became a fanatic. "Metheny," Sturgeon says today, "is still my idea of an exceptional guitarist." He says with obvious delight that, right alongside Metheny, James Taylor, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen shaped the focus of his songwriting. As each of us journeys through this life, we're bound to meet those who have been (or will be) crushed by the weight of either Dylan or Cohen. Not Sturgeon; he reveals.

Sturgeon first sang and played in church musicals, including a group that traveled through the south. However, he ensures that, "Professionally, my first show was an acoustic duet with Kirk. We played ten songs in front of 50 people."

In 1991, Sturgeon met one of the major influences of his life. Prior to attending Belmont University in Nashville, he hooked up with Kin Vassy, a former member of Kenny Rogers and the First Edition and for two years he helped Vassy (and Vassy's wife) run a small publishing company.

Sturgeon elaborated, "He taught me most everything I know about not only the business side, but specifically as a songwriter and artist..." Sturgeon stressed that Vassy was a major influence in his life, as he, Vassy, "was motivated by an unselfish love and caring for people and their well-being. His perspective on life and his relationships were guidance for my own...he grounded me in the necessity for compassion and I strive to maintain this outlook."

Ask the average 30-year-old serious musician about the person or persons who most influence them. More often that not, they'll probably name other musicians. Asked that question some time ago, Sturgeon referred to, "the writings of Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung and the teachings of Jesus Christ." Hmm, maybe that's why Whitehouse referred to him as `the deep one' of the band.

The Bassman Cometh

With long dark hair, a dark goatee and piercing eyes, Whitehouse is a conspicuous figure onstage or off.

At age 10 (and prior to the goatee), he was involved in baseball and basketball when, lo and behold, he was given his first guitar. At age 11 came guitar lessons and at age 12, after becoming friends with Loscalzo, the two started a heavy metal band with two other friends.

If you learn nothing else about Whitehouse, you need to know that the man loves to sing. Since he is the lead singer with Peace in the Jones, that love, that cosmic jones, comes in pretty handy.

The ironic aspect of his life is that, until age 13 when Whitehouse gave his first performance of singing in "public," he had never even considered singing. Then came a fateful trip to King's Island.

As Whitehouse tells it, "The first time I sang out loud for anyone was at a Soundtracks at King's Island. It was like five or ten bucks, you pick a song you want to sing and you actually go into a studio...kinda like karaoke. They give you a tape of it afterwards. Anyway, this girl that I went with, we picked out `Just You and I' and Tommy heard it and he was like, `dude, you gotta start singing!'"

Whitehouse further recalls, "I didn't even really know what was up with vocals...I wanted to be a lead guitar player for a heavy metal band at that time." Calmer heads prevailed, however, as Sturgeon convinced his cousin to join the high school chorus and Whitehouse, shining with enthusiasm, added, "I just totally fell in love with being a vocalist...I went to solo and ensemble in state and all kinds of stuff, just loving music." All kinds of stuff, including in his senior, being the only person in Kentucky to achieve a perfect score on a tryout for chorus.

Early in high school, he developed what we'll call a serious "jones" to be the lead singer of a rock n roll band. Ergo, before becoming great friends with the bass, Whitehouse became a guitar-playing vocalist. He continued, "I really got heavy into the Doors and Zeppelin, Floyd, Hendrix, all the classics."

Jam-band anemics snicker if you must, but speaking of classics, he has claimed that his life changed dramatically when he attended his first Grateful Dead concert. Though it might've been tough for him to describe in words, Whitehouse offered, "Then I understood how a live performance could really move one's soul." He continued attending Dead shows and added, "I started exploring that whole improvisational kind of thing," and the art of improv became his course of personal study and love.

So, you're probably wondering by now what's all the talk about this dude and his bass guitar. Well, the gospel according to Whitehouse goes like this. "One night, " he said, "it was kind of just by default because we couldn't find a bass player who would stick with us. The last straw was when we had a gig booked at the Butchertown Pub and the guy we were playing with ended up not showing up." So, talk about improvising; the keyboard player tried to fill in by playing bass notes. Whitehouse continued, "After that I was like, that's it, I'm going to start playing bass." Two weeks later, our singing bassist hero got an amp and a bass, never suspecting he'd fall in love with it. Of course, this was after much friendly persuasion from Sturgeon and Loscalzo to play the bass.

Carrying on, he said, "I loved playing rhythm guitar and it was a lot of fun and then when I discovered the bass it became a whole different - now it's hard to imagine not playing the bass, it's weird. It's really hard to play and sing at first. I always told the guys when we practiced to slow our songs waaay down," so he could grasp them and gradually begin to sing while playing. "That," as Whitehouse says, "is a summarization of my life in music." To this point, anyway.

The Time Keeper

Speaking of the aforementioned Grateful Dead, everywhere you look in Loscalzo's living room you see Phish this and Phish that. It wasn't always that way, though.

His dad being a minister, Loscalzo moved a lot throughout his childhood. Despite that sort of nomadic life, he managed to make good friends in each new locale. There was always music, too.

"My parents," he says, "were huge Beatles fans and my dad was also a drummer when he was in high school, for a Beatles' cover band...I guess I inherited that love of playing drums." Besides the Beatles, his other major musical influences as a child included Chicago.

Loscalzo got his first drum set at age 12. Before that, he says, "I remember in second grade, I picked up a pair of pencils and just started playing on pillows and didn't really have any idea what I was doing. I used to tap on the hymnals in church, listening to my dad preach...it's funny now that I actually play in the orchestra at my dad's church."

As the son of a clergyman, there were certain restrictions on which artists' music reached his ears. The forbidden included Prince and Run DMC. Did he manage to listen anyway? Well...it would be best if you asked him.

Regarding influences, he continued, "As I got older it was Led Zeppelin and John Bonham. He is still my all-time favorite. He played so hard and so from the heart...and I've learned a lot from Neil Peart of Rush...Jon Fishman, the drummer from Phish, is very jazz oriented and very experimental and improvisational - I've been to a lot of Phish shows."

Moving along, Loscalzo recalled, "I met Kirk in seventh grade and I thought he was probably the coolest looking guy in the classroom. Something told me I needed to meet this guy somehow. I overheard him telling someone that he played guitar. I told him I played guitar and it just hit in cool with him, though he knew I was bluffing...He invited me over to his house and made me bring my drum set." They hit it off musically and have covered a lot of miles and played a lot of gigs between then and now.

Keeping up with the Joneses

The physical resemblance between Sturgeon and his cousin (it's true, they're cousins, but not two of a kind), Whitehouse is, well, minimal. Regardless, their relationship is more like that of brothers and has been for most of their lives. In fact, all three are more like brothers than friends and cousins. Music and performing are in the trio's genes. Whitehouse and Sturgeon displayed it early on when, as young boys, they'd spend weekends lip-synching to hit records, creating their own radio stations and using jam boxes to record music they'd created.

Several years later, the two spent the summer of 1994 playing musical instruments along with Loscalzo in Whitehouse's mother's basement. The trio managed to play some shows for private audiences, for which they first earned a few bucks.

"The first public show," Sturgeon recalled, "was that summer of `94 with Steve Lowe and it was before we started calling ourselves Peace in the Jones; at that point we were called Gypsy and the Mother Fly. Mike was drummer, I was lead guitar, but Kirk was rhythm guitar. Steve was our bass player." Lowe played with them that summer, but for only one professional public performance. That same summer, Sturgeon added, "I brought in a band, some friends of mine out of Nashville and they played the Rudyard with us, so that would've been our first professional public performance as three of us."

"That December," he continued, "we played with a new bass player (who only played this one performance) and a new keyboardist, Mark Cherry." (Sturgeon and Cherry had become friends while attending Belmont University in Nashville.)

Sturgeon proceeded, "We played together on a couple of occasions. It was spring of 1994, my junior year of college. That summer I went back to Louisville and started the band with Mike and Kirk (and Steve Lowe). At the end of that summer, I asked Kirk and Mike to move to Nashville with me to continue the band." Loscalzo and Whitehouse are both three years younger than their lead guitarist and had just graduated from high school at the start of summer. They agreed to the move and to keep the band going.

Sturgeon resumed, "I then approached Mark about working on some original material with the purpose of some live performances," so with him on guitar and Cherry on keyboard, the collaboration ensued.

Rolling along, he stated, "In May of 1995, for our third performance, we first used the name Peace in the Jones, with me on lead guitar, Mike on Drums, Kirk on rhythm guitar, Mark Cherry on Keys and Dan Immel on Bass." That configuration of PitJ remained until 1997.

1997 also happened to be the year the first PitJ album, Just Stop to Listen, was released.

They went through four more bass players (seven in all, since the beginning) before the previously mentioned incident that inspired Whitehouse to switch from rhythm guitar to bass in the summer of 1998. "Kirk," his cousin carried on, "always sang our lead vocals."

In 1999, Cherry left the band, a move that prompted a partial return to Louisville.

As two of our three musical heroes returned to the city they gladly call home (Loscalzo stayed awhile in Nashville), they took a breather to take stock of wants, needs and goals. In short, it was time to reevaluate life. That time off turned into two years. At the end of 2000, Loscalzo came back to town and Peace in the Jones resumed as the trio they continue to be.

Press-ing on

As is often the case with music groups we call "jam" bands, from PitJ's inception, the core membership of Sturgeon, Whitehouse and Loscalzo, as well as the others who have come and gone, has always striven to build a grass roots following. I was taken aback by how amiable and gracious the three were towards me (and each other) the entire time we spent together. Word of mouth (or print) helped verify for me that that quality of character is genuine. It seems to be a sort of natural "peanut butter" they spread incidentally wherever they go that is surely instrumental in the trio and their music sticking with the people they encounter at any venue they play.

The aforementioned word of mouth, ranging geographically from southeastern Illinois to southwestern Ohio and down into Tennessee (and they've played Augusta, Georgia), includes various testaments regarding this same warm and friendly demeanor.

A club manager in Bowling Green once said not only that PitJ was the "nicest" band he had ever dealt with, but that they had been "hand picked" to open the then-new bar, Van Gogh's in Bowling Green (KY), in part because of that. They have been praised by co-workers for their professionalism and by regular bar patrons for attracting a diverse crowd, as opposed to the standard meat market and received accolades for being so graceful at the art of getting along with audience members from various walks of life.

When I inquired about the band's policy regarding audience recordings of their shows, Sturgeon responded, "We have always encouraged taping and trading of our shows. We've got quite a nice stash from over the years."

Mr. Joyce Would be Proud

As it turns out, I was only the latest person in a long line of curious folks to ask these gentlemen about the origin of the name, Peace in the Jones.

As Sturgeon explained, "There's the way I came up with it and there's the `what does that mean?' way, which are two different things...what it means is, James Joyce had an idea of the function of art and aesthetic arrest, which is basically when your fears or desires are brought to a calm state and you are lifted above that. So the `jones' is normally kind of set on this with desire; jonesing for food or jonesing for basketball, etc., so Peace in the Jones would be a way to express aesthetic arrest, which is the function of art...then there's, again, along the lines of `jones' being synonymous with desire and `Peace in the Jones' meaning to have calm in your desires and motivating you, as opposed to conflict or hostility motivating your actions or desires."

When Sturgeon mentioned that it could also be a metaphor for nirvana, I asked if he meant the band or the state of being. His response was, "The state of being...the origin doesn't sound as good. I was just piecing words together on a skiing trip, thinking of band names and these words kind of fell into place like a jumble."

While we're on the topic of names and their meanings, the brand-spanking-new six-song EP by Peace in the Jones is called Manna and the Devils. Some of it is great driving music; the rest is great for introspection. I could try to explain that name to you, but it's best that I direct you to the band, whose contact address is below. Guys? Thanks, man. You can take it from here.

Until further notice

For all your PitJ-related questions, music, business and concert needs, Mr. Sturgeon will be glad to hear from you and can easily be reached via peaceinthejones@peaceinthejones.com. The band's website at www.peaceinthejones.com/ awaits you with a warm, friendly and rockin' atmosphere.