Pepper's Kaleo Wassman Talks Tantra, Drunk Girls, and "Living to Live"

There may be no band which carries the torch -- er, huge burning doobie -- passed on by the late Bradley Nowell of Sublime moreso than Pepper. And that includes Sublime themselves, who now tour with a replacement front man named Rome. That's not to say though, that Pepper is a Sublime rerun. They are reminiscent of Sublime at times, for certain. Also though, they lack the emotional, poetic depth of Nowell's songwriting -- as does Slightly Stoopid and the rest of the post-Sublime reggae-rock bands that this writer has heard. If ones gives Pepper a fair and open minded listen though, it becomes clear that they are doing their own thing, connected to their own inspiration. They have their own peppery flavor, so to speak.

Their place as lineage holders is achieved by virtue of their explosiveness and commitment to having a really good time and helping others do the same. Pepper is a party on wheels and fans across the globe await their arrival year after year with joints rolled and beers on ice. This Sunday, Pepper brings the party to Hollywood Arts Park where they are sure to meet plenty of sandy, tanned, South Floridians who are ready to party their asses off.

County Grind chatted about the good life -- and its minor hazards -- with singer-guitarist Kaleo Wassman as he strolled around Norfolk, Virginia ahead of the band's Southward descent to our town. With a voice bursting with sunshine he chatted about drunk girls -- which is the subject of a song called "Drunk Girls" from their latest release, 2010's Stitches EP, what he would do if a man-o-war paralyzed his penis, and the healing property of helping people have as much fun as they possibly can every night.

County Grind: Hey man, talking with you here from Fort Lauderdale.

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Kaleo Wassman: Excellent. I love Fort Lauderdale. That's one of the first places we played when we moved over from Hawaii. We played a weeks worth of shows in Florida with a traveling surf movie.

You're from Hawaii but you're now stationed in Orange County California at a spot called the Hatch. What's the Hatch?

The Hatch is the studio we built in Dana Point. The majority of Stitches was recorded at the Hatch. It was our first self-produced, self released adventure. And there's a lot that we're working on at the Hatch now. When we're not on the road, we're living at the Hatch.

And when you're not at the Hatch, you're having crazy fun on the road.

It really is, man. We're really, really getting into this 'living to live' thing. It's amazing how much adventure there is out there if you just open yourself to it.

Are there any hazards that go along with 'living to live'?

I don't know...having too much fun, not remembering everything from the night before, diet can slip real easy -- clogging you up or the opposite. They're not really hazards, I'm not fuckin' Man vs. Wild. There are not rattlesnakes or anything. It's pretty fuckin' mellow.

No rattlesnakes, but drunk girls.

Oh God. Of course. But, I mean, a drunk girl could come out of anywhere. No matter what your profession.

You've gotta stay on your toes and listen for the warning signal they make when they're about to strike.

(laughs) Now you've got it, brotha. This sounds very familiar. You're in Fort Lauderdale. You above all people should know that Florida is an incredible mecca of women.

Let me ask you a question that has to do with surfing. Would you rather have your hand bitten off by a shark, or get stung by a freak man-o-war that renders you impotent for ten years?

Hand bitten off by a shark, or what for ten years? Slim pickens?

Impotent. Your dick will not work for ten years.

Oh, I got you. Wow, impotent for ten years. Well fuck, don't they have drugs for that now?

The drugs wouldn't reverse the curse of this man-o-war. They are for people who are too old, nervous, or unhealthy.

I'm gonna have to say this. if it really came down to it... By the way, this is a real fucked up question. If it really came down to it, I would keep my hand, practice tantra for the next ten years, and then when I was able to fuckin' jump back in the game... blow everybody's fuckin' mind.

Do you practice tantra now?

Yes. It's definitely the most important thing in the world to be sexually open with yourself. If you can't get that down, you probably won't have a good experience anywhere. No matter who it's with.

That's a good message to have out there, man. Thank you.

No problem.

How does the partying and performing mix with your band. Have you ever been too drunk on stage?

God, of course! There is a fine balance. It could go either way at any time. But once you get that perfect balance, and the kids are there and they understand, they are just like "Oh my God, this if fucking great." But no matter what, the show is most important. In order: Show. Party. But I'm not going to say that machines don't get broken and get out of order sometimes.

Have any bands that you've toured with not been able to hang party-wise, or have there ever been any who have put you guys under the table?

The bands that we know, the bands that we love, the bands that we have a camaraderie with pretty much are all on the same level. We're here to have a good time, we're here to play good music, music that makes you feel good. That's what we surround ourselves with. Luckily, we are guilty by association of just having a good time. At this point in my life I really don't have any time to be bummed out. It's going by so fast.

Do bummers never occur for you?

Oh God, that is a stupid question. Life is inescapable of bum outs. But if you have a good attitude going into it, then maybe it will not be as bad as it would otherwise. Of course, that's just my opinion.

Are there any rituals or techniques that you have for working through bummers?

Man, it's really amazing when you get to get on stage every night and then there's all these people from town to town waiting to have the best time of their life that night. Even though you've been doing it for weeks, when you see them look at you, it really brings you to this place of gratitude. And all of a sudden, you can be healed. For at least an hour and fifteen minutes I'm not thinking of anything else except for how much fun everyone in that room is having. And I want them to have as much fun as they possibly can. That's therapeutic in itself.

Well, thank you for bringing that into the world. And we look forward to you bringing it down here to South Florida.

Thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it. Aloha.

Pepper. With the Expendables and Ballyhoo. 6:30 p.m. Sunday, September 25 at Hollywood Arts Park, 1 Young Circle, Hollywood. Tickets cost $36.55. Click here.


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