Despite having trekked from Hawaii to Southern California some 10 years ago, Pepper haven’t distanced themselves too far from the ideals of their homeland. In coming from a land where family ties are binding, the three-piece ensemble not only thrives on the bonds within the band, but also the ones that form around it. For Pepper, those who gather at the foot of the stage are as much a part of the music as the three guys wielding the instruments. With the release of their fifth studio album, Pink Crustaceans and Good Vibrations, being released on their own label, the only people guiding Pepper’s destiny this time around is them. And after speaking with drummer Yesod Williams, it seems that Pepper’s destiny couldn’t be in safer hands.
How difficult was it to make the move from Hawaii to California? There’s a real small-town vibe to the place we grew up in and, you know, family is held in such high regard in Hawaii. They call it ‘ohano over there. It was hard getting away from that, but it was something we needed to do. When you grow up playing music in a band in Hawaii, you hit the roof real quick. There’s not a ton of places to play or a ton of opportunities to spread your wings.
How has Hawaii left its mark on Pepper? Our music is really all over the place, but not in a bad way. We delve into so many genres of music and that really comes from being in Hawaii. Hawaii is a melting pot of culture, food, people-there are so many different races of people-and I think that really shows in our music : At the end of the day I suppose you can call us a rock band, but if you really wanted me to answer in detail I could sit down and go forever about the different kinds of music we play.
And at what point do you think Pepper musically left Hawaii? One of the goals for us-and I think we have pretty much achieved it on this album-is carving out our own identity and being able to play a song and have someone listen to it and say, “That sounds like Pepper.” Having our own identity and carving out our own sound has definitely been a priority for us.
What helps you guys achieve that? Things like what we’re listening to at the time. We’re always venturing out and seeing different types of music, and I think all that will shine through in the music you’re making at the time.
So there’s no real master plan for Pepper? As far as a vision or plan, we’re not really the type of band that will go into the studio and make an album that says this or sounds like that. Of course we have all the songs ready and everything is prepared, but we’re not real big on planning. We don’t have a set list when we play live, we just let the crowd dictate it. With Pepper everything is real spontaneous. It’s all about the moment.
And that spontaneity is reflected on your new album, Pink Crustaceans and Good Vibrations : We’re now releasing all of our albums on our own label, Law Records. So music’s made on our own dime and we’re not interested in spending a ton of money just sitting in a studio noodling things. We just get in there and not over-think anything and do it. With this album we went in and recorded 30 songs. Our producer had us run straight through them and we recorded them live, demo style, and then sat down and pulled out what we thought were the strongest 14 tracks.
What was the motivation behind setting up Law Records? Controlling our own destiny, basically. We’ve been through both independent and major labels and, as far as major labels go, you have someone there who doesn’t know anything about writing songs or playing music telling you they don’t hear a single or that you need to rerecord something and that just gets to you. Where’s the integrity in a guy wearing a suit, who has never played a lick on any musical instrument, telling you your music’s no good?
So what inspires you to want to be part of the business yourself? There is so much music out there that deserves to be heard. When I was younger and Epitaph was putting out Pennywise and NoFX and all that kind of stuff, I would pretty much buy any record, even if I had never heard of the band, that had an Epitaph label on it, just because I knew they were releasing quality music. So we’re trying to follow in those footsteps and build up that same trust that we are not going to release something just to make money, but release it because it deserves to be heard.
And how does that then work for Pepper? First and foremost we’re just music fans. We’re no different to anyone else going to our concerts. We’re just lucky enough to have written some songs that people have gravitated to, and I thank God every day for that. We don’t separate ourselves from the people coming to a show, we’re just part of the party that night.
Pepper will play the Santa Barbara Bowl on Sunday, August 3 with Slightly Stoopid and Sly & Robbie at 5 p.m. Call 962-7411 or visit sbbowl.com for tickets and info.