Good Year for Bad Days

Their record company just dumped them; Fiesta Bowl sponsors think they're dips; but Tempe still love its Refreshments

Drummer P.H. Naffah, 28, is also a Midwesterner, a doctor's son from suburban Chicago, who came to Tempe to go to college. P.H. stands for Paul Habib.

Like the other Refreshments, he's a self-taught musician. As a kid, he would go to the basement to pound on his drum kit for hours, harboring a fantasy of being a rock star, without thinking of studying toward that goal.

Instead, he studied biology at ASU, which pleased his father, because it meant that P.H. would be a physician, too. From 1985 until 1993, he played in a band called Rain Convention, then quit when he graduated from college to work for a cabinetmaker in Fountain Hills.

He'd taken the med-school boards, but hadn't actually applied to medical school, which irritated his father. And he was irritated himself that his job started so early in the morning that he could neither play in a band nor even go out to see other bands.

The Refreshments called on him in 1995 as a replacement for a drummer who wasn't working out.

Naffah is the steadiest of the four band members, quiet and rarely ruffled.
"I've never been a very conflicted person," he says, and the other band members agree.

Buddy Edwards recalls a road argument on the bus with Clyne and Blush over their play list for a college-town gig. Edwards wanted the band to play an equal number of songs from each album--to sell records, rather than just slip into a frat-house song list to get the college kids off their seats. And he wanted the show to end at some predictable point--Blush and Clyne would just as soon play until they drop.

As the fight escalated and the vibe whirled through the bus, Naffah, Edwards recalls, walked right up the aisle, through the shouting, refusing to acknowledge that it was even happening--effectively ending it.

Roger Clyne is the soul and center of the Refreshments.
On a recent December morning, Clyne opened for rapper Puff Daddy.
Clyne's mother teaches elementary school in Gilbert, and he'd agreed to visit a library full of students who were curious about what it was like to be a musician.

Though he projects confidence while hiding behind a guitar and a microphone onstage, here on a stool in the school library, he was kept off balance by a barrage of grade-schooler questions that were as focused and to the point as any journalist's.

"Why are you called 'the Refreshments'?" a child asked.
"Because it was the only name we didn't get into a fight about."
"What kind of car do you drive?"
"An old Toyota Landcruiser with a cracked windshield."
"Did you like math?"
"No."
The kids all cheer.

"Who doesn't have trouble with math?" he asks back. Hands go up. "Okay, you guys are freaks."

"Did you ever cry while singing a song?"
"Yes."
They ask which famous musicians he knows. Clyne fumbles around with names from Seven Mary Three and other grown-up bands.

"Do you know Puff Daddy?"
"No." Unsatisfactory answer. The kids press until Clyne says, "I am pining to meet Puff Daddy, and if I ever do, we'll reconvene and I'll tell you all about it."

Then he offers a good alternative: "We play the song on King of the Hill."
A cheer goes up. Then another gleam of recognition:
"Do you sing 'the world is full of stupid people'?" one girl asks.

"Yes, I do," Clyne answers firmly, "but it's 'everybody knows the world is full of stupid people.' If you take that as true, then that means that somebody's thinking that about you and me, too."

Clyne's mother is the sister of Republican Congressman John Shadegg; his grandfather was a political strategist for Barry Goldwater. His father is a working cowboy. Since his parents divorced when he was quite young, Clyne split his time between Tempe--he attended Brophy for two years--and his father's family ranch near Sonoita, south of Tucson. There he learned to rope and herd cattle.

If his Uncle John is a free-market advocate of logging and ranching and mining, Clyne is a radical environmentalist--his first job out of college was as foreman on a crew cleaning up the Salt River bottom--and a radical egalitarian.

He drives an old truck and lives in a commune with his longtime girlfriend Alisa Jellum, his 10-month-old son Otis, his brother and one of the band's roadies. Though he writes most of the band's songs, he insists that the royalties be split evenly among the band members, reasoning that they spend the same amount of time onstage as he does.

All of which makes the band's L.A. manager, Michael Lustig, smile.
"As much as Roger tries to make it a democracy, he is still the leader," Lustig says.

Clyne describes himself as a control freak; the other band members see his control as generosity.

"The thing I absolutely adore about Roger is his ability to be unbelievably selfless," says Buddy Edwards. "If you were to call Roger and say, 'I have a problem with my transmission, can you help me?'; that's his perfect day. He loves for you to bring your car over so he can 'help' fix it. Basically, he does it for you while you drink beer."

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