By Jen Cheshire
Roots rock reggae band Pepper is currently touring with Iration, Fortunate Youth and Katastro, and promoting their new album “Local Motion”, to be released on June 28th. The video of the first single released from the album, “Warning” ft Stick Figure, which was produced by Stick Figure, engineered by Johnny Cosmic, and recorded at both Kona Town Recording & Great Stone Studios, was released on Billboard on May 9th.
I caught up with Yesod Williams (drums & vocals) as they were getting ready for a sold-out show in a snowy Colorado Springs.
Jen: Thank you, Yesod, for giving up your time for this interview. I have to admit I knew nothing about your music or Pepper before being asked to do this interview, so I immersed myself in your music for the last 3 days to prepare.
Yesod: That’s good.
Jen: For the benefit of others like me, could you briefly go into the background of the band?
Yesod: The band was started when the 3 of us got together. Kaleo and Bret had been playing music together, just together as a band. It wasn’t like Pepper was together and I joined later. We all grew up together in Kona and me and Bret graduated in ‘97. The three of us started the band in the small little town of Kona, on the west side of the Big Island, in June of 1997. We moved to California in 1999. We put out our first record in about 2000 and we’ve been through every scenario with major record labels and now we control our own destiny with our own record label for our last few records.
Jen: Did you name your record label after your dad’s band [‘70s rock band LAW]?
Yesod: Yes, that’s true, and even the logo was his band’s logo.
Jen: I read that you toured from 2006 constantly until 2009 including the Vans Warped Tour and the Jagermeister Music Tour. That must have been exhausting.
Yesod: Yeah, we had a time when we did about 150 shows a year at that time or something. There have been so many peaks and valleys in our career so at one of the peaks that were it. We are a lot more strategic about it these days so we don’t necessarily have to run ourselves ragged out there.
Jen: Well you’ve probably all got families that wouldn’t appreciate it.
Yesod: Right, right, but at the same time they do, because the support is endless you know, which it’s been from the beginning. Our parents were amazing. They were never ones to not support the band. Like you get those stereotypical stories at times, or whatever you want to call them.
Jen: I’ve been listening to your music from the early stuff, over the last few days, right up to the new album. I really like the new album. I’ve listened to it carefully and even though you’ve been rock reggae all the way through, there’s something about this album that’s different. I couldn’t really pinpoint it. I think it’s the production. You’ve got a smoother sound.
Yesod: Yeah, totally. That’s a great way to put it. Super smooth all the way through, kinda like a, like head bobbing from start to finish.
Jen: Yeah. Before, you were kind of rough and more punk rock reggae.
Yesod: Yeah, yeah. Totally. The first national tour we ever did was the Warp Tour in 2001 and, I mean, that’s a huge part of the roots of the band. So we definitely have that punk rock background that’s always followed through us. But you’re right there have definitely been times when it’s been more apparent.
Jen: I was thinking that the production is so different this time on this album.
Yesod: Yes, we went all over the place to meet with a bunch of different camps that are all friends of ours in other bands, to do all the production. It was split between a few different camps.
Jen: But it doesn’t sound like it’s different productions. It sounds like the same producer all the way through.
Yesod: That was a huge priority so we’re happy to hear that.
Jen: Who did the artwork for the album? The artwork is amazing.
Yesod: Thank you. That is kind of another full circle situation. That same artist, who is another childhood friend we grew up with, is Ben Brough. He did our first, second, third and fourth albums, and a live album so we brought him back for the first time in about 10 years. The idea came up and it made perfect sense the way the album was being produced, the name of the record and everything.
Jen: And you’ve carried it through to your website as well. I like that. So the album is coming out on the 28th of June.
Yesod: Yeah and we’ve got another single coming out this Friday called “Brand New Day”
Jen: You’re on tour at the moment and are in Colorado Springs. Is it cold?
Yesod: Yes, there’s snow everywhere. We couldn’t believe it when we drove up.
Jen: On the tour, are you playing the songs from the album?
Yesod: Not all of them. We’ve been playing “Warning”, the first single that’s been out, every night. We’ve been doing it sometimes with Iration boys, it’s a band that we are on tour with, sometimes other bands like Katastro, who have been opening up the tour and jumping on with us, so it’s been rad, you know, true to the album, it’s been a rad family affair, even on the live front.
Jen: Nice! I have to ask who the child is on the track “Goddaughter”?
Yesod: That’s Bret’s goddaughter, his best friend’s daughter.
Jen: It’s cute with her in there. I was singing along to another one, “Neighborhood”, by the end of the track
Yesod: That was local…super rad. A local producer from Ohahu named Noah Cronin from Sea Major 7 Studios does a lot of stuff that’s kinda blowing up in Hawaii right now like an artist called Landon Mcnamara, just a lot of the real up and coming locals there, so we were real happy to bring him on board and get some real fresh blood in there from Hawaii.
Jen: That’s the song I can see the crowd singing along to at festivals. It’s so catchy and you can pick up on the lyrics really quickly. The track that really surprised me was “We The People” because that goes back to conscious roots reggae.
Yesod: Yeah, totally. There is a little bit of what you were talking about earlier, that angst like a punk rock kind of vibe, those roots, you know.
Jen: I’m a big fan of Nattali Rize and her songs stir me up and make me want to go out and protest.
Yesod: We played with her in Florida in March.
Jen: “We The People” had the same effect on me. That was such a change from the rest of the album.
Yesod: Yes, but still fitting in there right?
Jen: Yes, it’s definitely still fitting in.
Yesod: Within the vibe. It’s that fine line between not going too far out there and not staying super laid.
Jen: Yes, having a theme but not having every track sound the same, but that’s what I liked about your album, there were different vibes going on.
Jen: So how is the tour going so far?
Yesod: It’s great. All the four bands out here are real good friends so we’ve been having a blast. We’ve just been jumping up on stage through everyone’s sets. Iration is from Hawaii as well. We took them on our first tour back in 2007 or 8 or something. So you know, it’s another full circle thing. It’s so rad to see.
Jen: Who else is on the tour?
Yesod: It’s Iration, Fortunate Youth and Katastro. Katastro is actually one of the artists on LAW Records. We’ve put out a couple of their records.
Jen: Are you playing Denver?
Yesod: No, we are on our way back to the last show of this leg of the tour with Cali Roots (Festival) this weekend, so we are doing tonight in Colorado Springs and Durango tomorrow, passing through.
Jen: Well, you’ve answered the questions I had, is there anything you would like the readers to know that we haven’t covered?
Yesod: No. I think it was obviously the album, then we’ve got the single and the video coming out this Friday and another single coming out in June and then the album on 28th (June). I think we’re good.
Jen: Do you have anyone that you want to mention who was working with you on the album?
Yesod: There was Stick Figure, then we had Dave Foral from the Dirty Heads, our DJ friend Henry Fong, he produced a song on there, then you’ve got Noah Cronin from Sea Major 7, in Hawaii, and E.N.Young.
Jen: Thank you so much for giving up your time for this interview.
Yesod: Thank you and have a great day and we hope to see you in Vegas.
Pepper continues with the second leg of their tour In July in Oklahoma City and will be stopping for shows in the East and South of the US and then back to the West in August, so look out for them in a city near you. Meanwhile, check out their album “Local Motion” to be released on June 28th.
JUL 11 THU – Diamond ballroom, Oklahoma City, OK
JUL 12 FRI – Slowdown, Omaha, NE
JUL 13 SAT – First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN
JUL 14 SUN – House of Blues Chicago, Chicago, IL
JUL 17 WED – Saranac Matt Brewing Co, Utica, NY
JUL 18 THU – The Fillmore Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
JUL 19 FRI – Pier 17 at South Street Seaport, New York, NY
JUL 20 SAT – Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion, Boston, MA
JUL 21 SUN – MECU Pavilion, Baltimore, MD
JUL 23 TUE – Big Chill Beach Club, Bethany Beach, DE
JUL 25 THU – House of Blues Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, SC
JUL 26 FRI – Red Hat Amphitheater, Raleigh, NC
JUL 27 SAT – The St. Augustine Amphitheatre, St. Augustine, FL
JUL 30 TUE – House of Blues Houston, Houston, TX
AUG 2 FRI – FivePoint Amphitheatre, Irvine, CA
AUG 16 FRI – Big Sky Brewing Co, Missoula, MT
AUG 17 SAT – Idaho Botanical Garden, Boise, ID
AUG 18 SUN – Britt Festival Pavilion, Jacksonville, OR
AUG 21 WED – Marymoor Park, Redmond, WA
AUG 23 FRI – Montbleu Resort, Stateline, NV
AUG 24 SAT – Mandalay Bay Beach, Las Vegas, NV