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Yesod Williams Talks

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Yesod Williams, lead drummer of Pepper. Image by Michi Moore and used under the terms of a Creative Commons License.
Lead Drummer For Reggae Punk Band, Pepper, Shines A Light On The Group’s Path To Headlining And How They Plan On Celebrating St. Paddy’s Day At Tempe Beach Park With Flogging Molly

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By Jeff Moses
Modern Times Magazine

Feb. 13, 2013 — For more than a decade Yesod Williams has maintained the heartbeat, and drumline of the Hawaiian reggae-punk band Pepper. From setting up stages at the Vans Warped Tour, to eventually headlining that very festival, it has been a rags to riches musical trip for the Pacific Island punk rockers. On March 17, Williams and his cohorts Kaleo Wassman and Brett Bollinger will hit the stage at Tempe Beach Park to play Arizona’s wildest St. Patrick’s Day party with Flogging Molly and Anti-Flag.


MTM: How you feeling about playing Tempe beach park on March 17th with Flogging Molly?
Williams: I know, right. It’s pretty much going to be, it’s an essential place to be — in our opinion — as it is every year for St. Patty’s Day.

MTM: Why do you think reggae lends itself so well to Celtic rock?
Williams: I like to think and I hope to think we have created our own sound and when you hear it you can recognize that it’s different but we also dip into a ton of different kind of music — ya know coming from Hawaii the whole melting pot — it’s really true with the music in Hawaii

MTM: How does it feel going from small Warp Tour stages to headliner?
Williams: Starting from the bottom, because our first year we were not only on one of the side stages but we had to set up the stage. So it was kind of like we were working and playing on Warped Tour our first year, and then to come out in 2007 was the first time we were on the main stage the whole tour. So coming from the full spectrum I’d say it’s really gratifying and it’s a proud moment to step on that stage for the first time as the ‘headliner’ of the Warped Tour. We are actually just finishing up our new album which should be out right before the summer time or right around the beginning of the summer time....We had an EP in 2010, but we haven’t released a full length album in five and a half years so we really feel how hard we worked on this one and we spent the whole last year working, we haven’t played that many shows, we’ve been more interested in the studio and we think with our new sound, well not new sound but new CD and it being so long that I think it’s come full circle and gone that whole spectrum musically, it’s kind of like a metaphor for our whole career, in a sense, which I wouldn’t have any other way.

MTM: Do you feel a more personal amount of success and satisfaction knowing Pepper didn’t take off until you started drumming for them?
Williams: I think it’s a little misleading when people read about that because it technically was never really Pepper until the three of us got together. Because Brett and Kaleo they always played together but it was different band names and whatnot, so I really don’t like to think about it like that, or I just never thought about it like that to tell you the truth, you’re the first person to bring it up in that light. The birth of Pepper was when the three of us got together, I always look at it as the three of us formed this band in 1997 and we’ve been doing it ever since.

MTM: What are your personal feelings about The Valley of the Sun?
Williams: I actually have family there, my mom’s brother and my cousins live in that area, like in Chandler and the surrounding area. So it’s been kind of close to my heart and embedded in me for my whole life so it’s awesome to play such a big show like this one coming up. We actually played at this same venue like four years ago for a festival with Blink-182 and Fall Out Boy and our friends Slightly Stoopid, so it’s good to get back and do a show of this magnitude there, and we have a lot of fun with the shows at the Marquee we always do, so we are well versed in the Tempe, Phoenix Area.

MTM: Do you have any favorite local bands?
Williams: Authority Zero for sure, we’ve toured with them a bunch, we’ve hung with them a bunch. Their just friends of ours. I’m going to say they’re the favorite.

MTM: What do you guys do when you’re not playing music or on tour?
Williams: We try to hang out with our friends and our families, and make sure to get in the water as much as possible and surf. I mean it gets cold in the winter time but that’s just one of the sacrifices we’ve made for the band and not living in Hawaii and surfing cold water and being away from our family and friends so we like to take advantage of all that as much as possible when we are not touring.

MTM: Are you a sports fan?
Williams: I’m a football fan, a big NFL fan.

MTM: Your team?
Williams: I’m a really big Bears fan; my dad grew up in Chicago

MTM: What’s next for Pepper after the tour?
Williams: That will be the critical time when we are gearing up the new album to be released, probably in May-ish, and then we will just be hitting the road. So we will be seeing you guys sooner than you think after St. Paddy’s Day.

MTM: What’s an after set, back stage party like with Pepper?
Williams: For a little while it’s a good cool down period, because there is something about coming off stage you just kind of need a little time to decompress. But then we’ve accumulated so many good friends from touring for so many years, and we have just been so lucky to meet so many people that have helped us along the way. They let us stay at their houses, you know what I mean whatever it is we need, and we’ve become very food friends because of it. So it’s a really like family oriented thing, almost like a family barbecue at the beach but you may happen to be in Omaha, Nebraska at whatever the local venue is, but the vibe is real warm.

MTM: What has been your favorite show to date?
Williams: We got to play this radio festival right before the Super Bowl. It was at the Baltimore Ravens stadium in about 2006, and I got to meet Dave Grohl so that was awesome. I still get like super giddy and star struck when I run into people that I kind of attribute part of my career too, my inspirations.

MTM: Which group that you played with really made you realize Pepper was starting to make it.
Williams: Maybe when we first toured with 311, that was in 2006. We did a whole summer tour with them and before that we had done a couple shows with them like here and there. Don’t get me wrong that was amazing but to have an actual, whatever it was 25 to 30 shows and be on the full summer tour was definitely one of those milestone moments I guess you would say.

MTM: Why do you think reggae does so well in the desert?
Williams: I don’t think it has anything to with beaches or sun, or with the ghetto like Kingston, Jamaica. But that’s the beauty of it, it doesn’t pigeonhole itself to any one vibe like that. I think it’s more of just a feeling that people get which inspires them to play that kind of music. I think it’s more just like that warm, feel good vibe that people like.

MTM: What band do you still hope to play with one day?
Williams: The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

MTM: Any special plans for the St. Paddy’s Day set?
Williams: It’s definitely going to be pure spontaneity, because you never know what’s going to happen when you get a band like us together with a band like Flogging Molly.

Jeff Moses is a freelance writer and photographer from Teaneck, N.J. currently living in Mesa, Ariz. He has been published in The Mesa Legend and The Highway Herald. Contact him by calling 727-385-0624.
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