Proof that you can take the band out of Hawaii, but you can’t take Hawaii out of the band
By Justin Hood
No stressing here. Even after relocating to California, recording six albums and touring extensively, the three busy men of reggae-infused rock act Pepper manage to keep their watches on laid-back Hawaiian time—their native Kona, to be exact. The Alibi relaxed with Pepper drummer Yesod Williams and got a bead on Pepper’s record label, a dream tour with NOFX and what the Aloha State and The Land of Enchantment have in common.
What have you guys been up to since you played Albuquerque a few months back?
We just finished up with Slightly Stoopid on the Sly and Robbie tour and we’ve just been hanging out enjoying the time off, playing a couple shows here and there. We’re doing the first LAW Records tour kicking off Oct. 2.
You guys run that label, right?
Yes. So far we’ve put out three Pepper albums on LAW and have put out an album for The Supervillians and Passafire.
Why LAW Records?
My dad had a hair-metal band back in the early ’80s, and before they broke up, they released an album on LAW Records. The record company diminished over the years but we revamped the label back in 2003 and released No Shame in 2006. There’s so much music out here that deserves recognition and never has the chance to be heard. We try to take it upon ourselves through LAW to get it out to anyone that wants to listen.
The last time Pepper performed here, your guitarist, Kaleo, told the crowd that Hawaii has a lot in common with Albuquerque.
Yeah, most definitely. For me, my mom’s whole side of the family is originally from Albuquerque, so it’s like going back to one of my homelands every time we come through. It’s like one of those things where it’s a culture within itself. Especially in Hawaii, there are so many different cultures thrown into the islands that form one big distinct culture. I think Albuquerque carries some of those same traits.
How does the crowd compare?
We’ve played a few shows in Albuquerque and it honestly gets better and better every time. The energy is so high and authentic. The last show we played at the Sunshine Theater sold out, which was the first for us there, so we’re just hoping for that same turnout.
What does "pidgin" mean to you?
Pidgin is a native dialect in Hawaiian culture. It’s basically English simplified by leaving words out and getting straight to the point. For most people, it’s hard to understand because it just sounds like broken English. For example, if you were asking a friend what they wanted to eat, you’d say, "What like eat?" To use the restroom is to "go shi shi," and if you wanted to bum something like a beer, you’d say "Yo, can I chop a brew?"
Compared to past Pepper albums, what’s special about Pink Crustaceans and Good Vibrations?
Last time I checked, it was 82 on the Billboard 200, which is super exciting. It’s one of those albums that definitely grows on you. You pick things out that sound different than the first time you heard it. The time that it’s been out has been great, because we’ve been able to play them live for people to recognize.
How does your music change when you make it live?
The songs always evolve live, where they almost turn into different tunes and have other parts that differentiate them from the album versions. It’s like, Shit, I wish I would’ve thought of that when we were recording. But at the end of the day, I think it’s always an important thing that the live versions of songs are different from the studio recordings. It’s crucial that nothing is a carbon copy.
If you could tour with any band, who would it be?
Right off the top of my head, I would say NOFX. Not only would it be fun for us, but I think it would be a good time for everyone coming to the shows. It would be a great combination because we’re similar but completely different at the same time. I definitely think it’s going to happen sometime in the future.
Any last words for the fans?
Make sure everyone coming to the show thinks of what songs they want to hear, because we only make a set list for the first four and then we let the crowd choose the rest. Make a list. Make signs. Write it on your bra or whatever. Anything to get the message across.
Pepper will headline the Sunshine Theater on Saturday, Oct. 11, with fellow LAW recording artists Passafire, The Supervillians and Pekker. Doors open at 7 p.m. All-Ages. Tickets are $17 through TicketMaster.
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