Even though they are officially California residents, the three members of the young, pot-smoking, power-rock outfit Pepper maintain otherwise. “We’re still from Kona,” Yesod, the funky drummer explains. “We’re basically based out of San Diego. We like to say it’s where we keep our shit.”
Comin’ straight outta Kona, Hawaii, Pepper are riding the crest of hometown fame, and have now shared stages with the likes of Born Jamericans, Pato Banton, Shaggy, Eek-A-Mouse, and Burning Spear. They are also featured on Xbox and Transworld surf-and-snow games; and folks are still talking about their run on the 2001 Vans Warped Tour. Not bad for a couple of pothead surfer punks who got their chops together in the eighth grade imitating their favorite rappers while waiting for the school bus.
The group has just released the follow-up to the enormously successful Kona Town, and the album is true to its title, In With the Old. The material is timeless, much of it evoking the forms and feelings of the music genres that are the foundation of the band ? the three r’s: roots, rock, and reggae.
The thick, stoney, signature groove laid down by drummer Yesod Williams and bassist/vocalist Bret Bollinger is constantly lifted to higher heights by Kaleo Wassman’s Studio One-inspired punky reggae licks. Pepper calls what they do “Kona-dub-rock.” Their music is certainly reminiscent of Kona’s contradictory land/seascape: solid, unforgiving riffs riding shotgun with the easy, melodic stylings island music is famous for.
At this year’s Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, Pepper were met backstage by yet another giggling choir of adoring female fans. One girl brought her mother who was no less impressed with the three handsome surfer-rock star hunks. “Think of our show as a clothed strip club,” muses Kaleo. “Doesn’t sound amazing, but honestly, it really is. All the hot girls come.” Everyone nods in agreement.
While the ladies do their thang to win the attention of their favorite Peppers, the fellas have their own ways of showing the love. One passes a sack of kine bud to the road manager; another laces Kaleo with a huge bag of gooey Space Cakes. Kaleo shepherds all of us into the tour van where we sample the day’s take. (Except Bret. “I have to drive,” he groans.) While the girls wait patiently outside, the rest of us scarf Space Cakes and begin to talk story.
In Hawaii, the Feds brag about eradicating all the Hawaiian strains of cannabis, but Bret says, “Don’t make me laugh! The terrorists that fly down in helicopters and hit marijuana patches will never find all our weed. Seriously, in Hawaii, there are two kinds of weed: crip, or not.
“When we moved to California, it was like, ‘dood, I got the fuckin’ Betsy-Pee-16-24-90-fuckin’ BoarsHog.’ [laughter]My friend comes over all the time with all these different names. I can’t wait for him to come over just so I can see what he has. The last one he had was Purple Monkey Balls. [more laughter]But anyway, the best kind of weed to me is from South Kona or up in Ho’oloiloi. It’s the crip!
? Check out Pepper at: www.pepperlive.com