Aloha Sounds for the Summer

As summer quickly approaches, we are all looking for some new music to take along with us on that road trip to the beach. The new album, “Kona Town,” from the Hawaii-based band Pepper, is the perfect CD to choose.

Pepper will immediately remind you of Sublime in their “40oz. to Freedom” days. A mixture of ska, punk, hip-hop and island blues, the band successfully captures the aura of the island from which they hail.

In the mid-90s, singer and bass player Bret Bollinger and Kaleo Wassman, singer and guitarist, figured that going into music would ensure them success with girls. After playing together for a short while they knew they were missing an important part of the equation. They probed the local scene for a drummer, but only found themselves frustrated by the fruitless search.

Then they heard about Yesod Williams, who was known for his “Metallica-esque” style, but had recently given up playing. They met with him one night at a party and lured him back into the music scene by informing him of the greatness that comes along with being in a band – the girls. Williams was bought and Pepper was born.

Quickly getting gigs around the island and a reputation for their indecent live performances, Pepper caught the attention of Volcom Entertainment, a new company led by two young dissidents. Volcom’s philosophy, “youth against establishment,” fit hand-in-hand with Pepper’s style.

Soon, Pepper found themselves playing dates with such artists as Shaggy and Eek-a-Mouse and their songs were featured on Xbox games as well.

Their first major tour was the 2001 Van’s Warped Tour that traveled all over North America. Later in 2001, Pepper hit the recording studios with producer Steve Kravac (Blink-182). With Willie Waldman (Sublime) on horns and Ronnie King (Death Row Records) on keys, Peppers’ sound was complete.

The bad thing about this album is the first track, ironically entitled “The Good Thing,” which is a 25-second tribute to the island of Hawaii. After skipping it, the rest of the album is pretty solid.

“Dry Spell,” which sings – repeatedly – about “the first will be the last and the last will be the first,” incorporates ska beats, which are obviously influenced by the more popular ska artists such as No Doubt. Nonetheless, the band carries them off flawlessly.

If “ladies” are the band’s main objective of being in the music business, they should definitely stop singing songs like “Give It Up.” Besides its catchy beat, there are no redeeming qualities about this song. Especially when they quizzically ask, “Why you gotta sleep with my dad?”

The more mellow selection, “Tradewinds,” is probably the song that will get the band the girls that they are all hoping for. Play this song really low and roll down the windows in your car and you’ll feel like you’re really in Hawaii.

If you want to catch Pepper in action, they will be touring this summer on the Van’s Warped Tour. The tour comes to our area August 10 at Randall’s Island and on the 11 in New Jersey at Asbury Park. Tickets are available at www.warpedtour.com.

“Kona Town” is in select stores now. You can also purchase it from the band’s website at www.pepperlive.com.