By Matthew Bretz
I’ve heard it said that Pepper picked up the torch when we lost Bradley Nowell. As far as compliments go, it’s not too shabby. It’s also not true. Although It’s undeniable Sublime and Pepper share a lot of the same influences- Pepper has created a world of sound all their own. They spread their message of brotherhood, family strength and love with a triple-shot of pop, rock and reggae- lighting a fire of unity everywhere they play.
Bret Bollinger and Kaleo Wasman formed the band in the early 90’s in their home base of Kona, Hawaii. They suffered through a series of drummers until finally finding Yesod Williams. Before the decade was out they moved the project to California where Volcom Entertainment was collecting positive, original artists. After a few albums with Volcom- they decided to step it up. In 2003 they released “Give ‘n It’, the first drop from Law Records- Pepper’s own label.
Tonight, Pepper hits the House of Blues in Orlando introducing their newest album- “Pink Krustaceans and Good Vibrations” to a very willing audience. Pals and Label mates- Orlando’s own Supervillains and Savannah’s Passafire come along for the ride…and what a ride!
When Hurricane Francis hit Florida some years back a lot of us took to the highway to escape a raging cat 4. Me and my family were among the refugees, filing into Georgia, for an indeterminate stay. One night, out of boredom, we decided to check out the local bar scene and stumbled onto a very young reggae band called Passafire. After all these years, I was pretty stoked to see them on the bill. What’s more, they remembered me!…or at least did a good job of pretending to. The band I saw in GA years ago was decent. The one I saw tonight was outstanding. Classic roots-rock at it’s best.
Another pleasant surprise is Orlando natives- Supervillains in the second slot. These guys have been playing around these parts for years, but to see them onstage at the HOB is like witnessing a rebirth. It’s a homecoming of grand proportions for SV and the crowd is giving back in ten fold for the fellas.
Heavily scheduled- the very first Law produced tour (Here Comes the Law) has these cats playing every single day- sometimes twice. And they are already getting ready for the next one, with Less than Jake, kicking off in the U.K.- a whole two days after this one ends. Their label is picking up fierce steam and plans have already begun for yet another tour around the islands of Hawaii. Busy? Just a bit. And that’s why I am so grateful when they afford me some time, backstage at the HOB, to talk about their momentum. That’s right kids! MB is rolling V.I.P. with Pepper and you‘re coming with…try not to sneeze.
MB- You guys have the most insane touring schedule! You are playing every single day. How do you keep your energy? How are you not dead?
Pepper- Man, we’ve been doing it like this for years. In the early days it tougher, but we have a bus now so it’s not so bad. You just get used to it. As far as keeping up the energy…this is what we do.
MB- The bands been away from the islands for a long time. Are you guys getting homesick?
Pepper- Yeah man, definitely. We are planning a tour of the islands as soon as we can.
MB- That’s what I here. The Pacific Rim Job tour right?
Pepper- Ha-ha! Yeah that’s right. Good name huh? We’ve never been to Japan and we really want to go, but we also want to show some love back home. We got this great idea to try and do both on the same tour since Japan is a quick jump from Hawaii. The name is tentative, but I think it will stick.
MB- Congrats on the success of your new label (Law Records). How excited are you getting about hitting the U.K. with Less than Jake?
Pepper- Huge! It’s gonna be killer. We have two days in between tours to pack and fly across the Atlantic.
And don’t forget we still have the second leg of this tour starting in January.
MB- Wow! You do have homes right?
Pepper- Of course but this what we were born to do and we love it. There’s nothing like the road. The music, the audiences…the girls.
MB- East coast or west coast girls?
Pepper- Gonna have to go with west coast on that one.
MB- What about island girls?
Pepper- That’s who were talking about! There is no comparison to the girls of Hawaii.
MB- .I almost forgot. My friend Ricky Carroll is a surfboard shaper in Satellite Beach. He just won “Best Shaper Worldwide” for the second year in a row and he sent some t-shirts for you guys.
I turn over the bag of shirts I’m carrying to Yesod who’s sporting a bigger smile than I would have expected. As it turns out, Ricky is more famous than I thought and they know exactly who he is. I swell with pride for my hometown and the celebrity of certain residents.
We move out onto the back loading dock so the boys can grab a smoke. Just about the time I’ve given the shirts over- the lead singer of Passafire comes out to join us.
Passafire- Have you guys heard the new AC/DC album (random)
We all shake our heads.
Passafire- They released it exclusively at Wal-Mart.
Pepper- That sucks! You know it’s gonna be edited for content at Wal-Mart. This industry is all messed up right now.
MB- That seems to be a recurring theme with everyone I talk to lately.
Pepper- That’s because it’s true. That’s why we started our own label. We record what we want. We release what we want. We have complete control both creatively and business-wise.
Coach, Pepper’s tour manager steps out to tell us all it’s almost show time. That’s my que to finish up and head out to watch the show.
I thank the boys and walk out into the crowd of unknowing fans. As people push past me, in their worn through tour shirts, trying to find the best possible spot down front, I watch with a smile. Yesod, Kaleo and Brett have a true fan base and they deserve it. These people know every word of every song and they will dance and sing-along until Pepper calls it a night.
Over the course of the show they pull out surprise covers, play duets with members from the other bands and work the crowd into a sweaty, swirling storm of mayhem. It’s a non-stop rollercoaster and I’m exhausted just watching it.
For a moment I consider taking a break and seeking shelter somewhere less “active”, feeling a little too old for slam-dancing pits. Then I come to my senses and jump back in the mix.