Great South Bay Music Festival
Phil Lesh Photo
Performing: Friday July 19
Stage: Main
Set Time: TBD


Official Website Click Here


“Kona Dub-Rock.” That’s how Pepper describes their blend of reggae, alternative rock, dub, island rhythms, and punk rock energy. It’s a sound that’s taken the trio from the Big Island of Hawaii — where vocalist/guitarist Kaleo Wassman, vocalist/bassist Bret Bollinger, and drummer Yesod Williams held their first band practice as teenagers in the late 1990s — to the upper reaches of Billboard’s Reggae Albums chart, where 2019’s Local Motion peaked at Number 1. 

 Nearly 25 years into the band’s career, Pepper’s three members are no longer merely artists. They’re ambassadors to a thriving scene. As co-founders of their own record label, LAW Records, they’ve enriched the reggae community worldwide by reissuing albums by Steel Pulse and Jimmy Cliff and releasing more than 20 other artists. As road warriors, they’ve traveled North America with The Wailers, 311, Pennywise, and Snoop Dogg, building a diverse community of collaborators and fans by blurring the boundaries that normally exist between genres. For Pepper, each new album is an opportunity not only to pay homage to their own reggae-rock roots, but also to expand the circle of connection, camaraderie, and synergy that surrounds the band. 

Makai, the group’s newest EP, finds Pepper leaning even further into those roots. The record’s title is a Hawaiian term that roughly translates to “by the ocean,” and these six songs evoke the sounds and sights of the band’s island home. “Get Me Ready” (co-written by Tim Armstrong of Rancid and Kevin Bivona of The Interrupters) opens the album with a burst of sonic sunshine, while “Sweet Leef” sings the praises of herbal relief. Even the album’s artwork, which was created by longtime collaborator Ben Brough, pays tribute to Hawaii’s ocean culture. 

Brough isn’t the only collaborator to appear on the record. Makai continues the band’s longtime practice of community building, with more than a half-dozen guest musicians contributing to various songs. Stick Figure’s Johnny Cosmic produces the track “Stay High.” Edley Shine of Born Jamericans appears on “Dancing on the Moon,” a song produced by David Foral of the Dirty Heads, while Iration — one of the first bands to ever release music through LAW Records — contribute to “Tides.” Together, those collaborators help shine a light on the extended family that Pepper has spent decades creating. 

With new music and other creative ventures on the horizon, Pepper’s three members continue to fly the flag for a rich musical community built upon camaraderie and collaboration. There will always be more shows to play. More albums to release. More friends to work with. As Pepper moves forward, though, the band continues to look back, too, honoring the Hawaiian homeland that has always been the inspiration for the band’s art.

Join Our Email List
Privacy Policy