Although Pepper’s members are originally from Kona, HI, the trio doesn’t play traditional Hawaiian music. Rather, Pepper’s music is a melodic and accessible blend of alternative pop/rock, punk, and reggae. Formed in 1996, Pepper is hardly the only alterna-rock combo that has been inspired by Jamaican sounds. But while other punk-minded alternative pop-rockers who emerged in the ’90s were greatly influenced by either classic ’60s ska or hardcore dancehall artists like Stitchie, Ninjaman, and Bounty Killer, Pepper usually gets more inspiration from ’70s and early ’80s reggae, Pepper’s sound could be described as the Police meets Steel Pulse meets punk-pop. It isn’t hard to see the parallels between a Pepper song like “The Good Thing” and Police hits such as “Roxanne” and “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” but while Sting and his colleagues sounded polished, Pepper tends to favor a rawer, more rugged approach. Two of Pepper’s three members started working together in 1996; that was when singer/guitarist Kaleo Wassman first joined forces with bassist/singer Bret Bollinger. After going through quite a few drummers in the ’90s, Pepper decided that Yesod Williams was the best man for the job. With the Wassman/Bollinger/Williams lineup in place, Pepper left Hawaii for Los Angeles and went on to be an opening act for shows by Burning Spear, Shaggy, Eek-A-Mouse, Pato Banton, and other major reggae artists. Pepper first entered the studio in 1997 to record a seven-song demo. But by 1999, the trio was signed to the independent, L.A.-based Volcom Entertainment. Pepper’s songs appeared on various Volcom compilations, including 1999 Summer Sampler and The Early Poems of Volcom Entertainment. The threesome’s’ first full-length album, Give N’ It, was released by Volcom in 2000. The following year, Pepper produced a sophomore album, Kona Town, with Steve Kravac (who has worked with blink-182, Youth Brigade, Guttermouth, Less Than Jake, and other alternative rockers). Volcom released Kona Town in 2002.
– Alex Henderson