AVON — Trying to pigeonhole Pepper as a reggae/ska band is like saying a Ferrari is transportation.
Yeah, but it’s so much more.
The trio formed in 1997 and moved to the mainland from their hometown of Kailua Kona, Hawaii in 1999. They cranked out five albums in 10 years and took a break from the road and each other before releasing the sixth this past year.
The rest did them good.
They went into the studio to work with producer Matt Wallace (Maroon 5, O.A.R. and Faith No More).
“We learned so much,” said drummer Yesod Williams. “Matt helped us really focus on the art of song writing. He sat in the room with the three of us with a fine-tooth comb and went over every word, every melody, every sound.”
They learned that what you play is important, but so is what you don’t play, Williams said. You don’t need to stuff a million notes into 12 bars. And music is supposed to be fun.
“We had such a good time recording this album, and I think that shows,” Williams said.
Excellence is fun, it turns out. The album is 12 snapshots of the band’s singular mindset.
“There are songs that will remind you of your favorite Pepper songs, but by the end you’ll hear some unexpected things. You’ll realize that the song writing is so much more refined. And there’s laughter in the background of the songs. That’s how good the vibe is on the record,” said Bret Bollinger, vocals and bass.
The band performs at Agave in Avon tonight. It’s Pepper’s first time taking the stage at Agave.
“They had some big nights at 8150, but haven’t been back to the Vail nightclubs since 8150 closed in 2007,” said Crawford Byers, the show promoter.
Labor of love
The new self-titled album is cohesive in ways the previous five releases were not.
“I think it’s an album that can appeal to everyone,” said guitarist and vocalist Kaleo Wassman. “We’ve been pigeonholed in the past so this is an opportunity to transcend all that and spread our wings even wider.”
The album is not complex, and that’s a good thing, but making it was work.
“The hardest thing we’ve ever done as a band is to make this record,” Wassman said.
But it was a labor of love.
“It speaks loudly and widely to a broader audience while maintaining everything good about the band, which, first of all, is our positive attitude,” Wassman said.
Pepper is now based in San Diego and has lived on the road, touring with groups like 311, Slightly Stoopid, Flogging Molly and Sublime with Rome. The work is beginning to pay off for the band.
If you watch TV or play video games you might have heard them, too. Their music has made the soundtrack of movies and TV shows, including “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Good Luck Chuck,” as well as several video game soundtracks.
“We’re so blessed to be in this position, and we want to do the best we can with it,” Wassman said. “We had humble beginnings in our small town in Hawaii, and we’re still that same humble band. We don’t take any of this lightly. Every day I wake up and think about how I have the best job in the world. The level of gratitude and happiness I have that we’re able to do this is incredible, and I hope people can hear that when they listen to our new songs.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.