BAMP Project at The Republik
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Kaleo Wassman – Vocals/Guitar
Bret Bollinger – Vocals/Bass
Yesod Williams – Drums
Ohana:The Hawaiian word for family, which is used to convey the sense of togethernessthat transcends blood ties.
For Pepper paying homage to theirroots is essential over a decade in to their celebrated career. The SouthernCalifornia trio, who formed in 1997 and moved to the mainland from the threemusicians’ hometown of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii in 1999, know that where they comefrom should always be infused in the music they create. On Ohana, the group’s seventh full-length album (4/29/16, LAW Records),Pepper embraces the feelings and sounds that encouraged them to become a bandin the first place.
“Over our past few albums, we had beendeparting from our original sound and exploring new directions,” Bret notes.“On this album, we wanted to come back to our classic style and revisit ourroots. The writing and recording process was a conscious effort to do that.”
“We wanted to strip the band down toits natural state,” Kaleo adds. “We’ve always been athree-piece band with good songs and energy and our goal was to showcase that.We’re all were really pleased with how the music came out and how it conveysthe strengths of our band.”
It was important to the musicians toself-produce Ohana, which marks thefirst time Pepper has helmed the production of one of their albums. From their2000 debut Give’n It to their 2006standout album No Shame, which wasrecorded with 311’s Nick Hexum, No Doubt’s Tony Kanal and Butthole Surfers’Paul Leary, Pepper has explored various methods of recording, always hoping toembody not only their signature style of music but their lifestyle in thesongs. Ohana was recorded last fallin the band’s own Kona Inn Recording Studio in Redondo Beach. The buildingis the former home of Pennywise’s Stall #2 studio and embodies a positive vibefor Pepper, who have recently begun recording other artists in the space.
“It was time for us to take the reins,”Bret says. “We’ve been through the process with several really cool producersin the past and we’ve learned a lot from them. We have the knowledge now andit’s about not being complacent anymore. We wanted to do it ourselves, so it’sfrom our family to yours.”
“I really wanted to simplifyeverything and not overthink things,” Yesod adds. “We wanted to go jam in aroom and hit record. I think we found a great balance in the studio and the endresult was pure Pepper, condensed down to its purest form. It was reallygratifying to be in control of the process from start to finish and know thatwe created every aspect of the album.”
The resulting album features Pepper’ssurf rock songs, showcasing the upbeat, positive vibe elements that make theband so beloved by their fans. There is, as usual, an ever-present sense ofsunshine throughout the tracks, bolstering the music’s sense of optimism. Theparty anthems, the beach hang melodies, the boisterous rhythms are all there,each song carefully crafted to best express sunny moments by the ocean. “Vacation,”a fun, upbeat reggae-tinged number, was co-written by Bret and production duoDiji Parq and seems, to the band, like “the Beach Boys at their goofiest.” Thesoulful “Never Ending Summer” is about taking full advantage of somethingbefore it ends while “Wait” evolved throughout the writing process andeventually became a propulsive crooner that feels like signature Pepper.
“Every song on this album is a greatexample of what we wanted to do,” Kaleo says. “That’s why there are only ten ofthem. We wanted to give the music our concentrated, focusedattention. It’s not about the singles, but about being a whole piece. That’s why we gave it the most powerful name weknow.”
“Growing up in Hawaii your Ohanadefines you,” Yesod says. “It is you. And it's not just family through blood –it's family through spirithood, brotherhood and sisterhood. Ohana is truly thestrongest bond that can ever be made. It’s how we feel about each other asfriends and as a band, and we wanted that spirit to come through in the musicitself. These songs come together to create their own version of Ohana.”
Over the years, Pepper have touredextensively with groups like 311, Slightly Stoopid, Flogging Molly and SublimeWith Rome, and spent several summers on Warped Tour – and this live sensibilityshows on the album, released on the group’s own LAW Records. The band’s music –both live and on their releases – is really about enjoying life and beinggrateful for each experience. They want to give their all to every performanceand share their passion with their fans and with younger artists.
“We’re still growing a lot,” Bretsays. “Our live show continues to improve and evolve and we always give it ourall onstage. We have so much fun playing, even all these years later. And we’vegotten to work and tour with so many different artists. We’ve learned a lotfrom them. Everything we do is done from love. We feel good to all be sittingat a table, laughing, twenty years later. It’s the three of us, just like whenwe were kids. Because we were together long before we were a band and we’restill such good friends. We can’t stop doing this and we don’t want to everstop enjoying it.”