Like letters etched on a license plate, Pepper’s new single “FKARND” off their upcoming album begs us to phonetically decipher it. Just like the song, it’s interactive and fun; the NSFW title also means exactly what you think it means.
Pepper bassist and lead singer Bret Bollinger called us while on the road doing pre-tour errands (like finding a fancy shave gel that he jokes is so rare is must be made out of “chimpanzee piss”) and told us about his sister questioning how the title would even be pronounced on air when it was debuted by DJ Stryker of L.A. radio station KROQ. “They are all taking bets,” he laughed.
The reggae-rock band aren’t afraid to make an impression with their titles and Bollinger says the way a title looks is very important to him. 2008’s Pink Crustaceans and Good Vibrations was especially evocative, so much so that choosing to self-title their upcoming sixth album seems a little out of character.
However, this might be indicative of a new stage in the band’s life. Bollinger says he’ll “never go back” to the old way of creating an album where management or a label pulled the hard-touring band off the road and essentially only gave them enough time for whatever jams they had in their back pocket.
“I’ll never go back to that,” confessed Bollinger. “Once you get enlightened…the details are really what make the magic happen–and it’s so fun to do.”
What did Pepper do differently? They gave themselves a break, a year or so to go on a surf trip or do whatever they wanted. When they were ready to get back in the studio and start writing music, they took the approach slowly, with just Bollinger and his bandmates Kaleo Wassman and Yesod Williams “turning knobs and trying to figure it all out.”
Next they hooked up with noted producer Matt Wallace. The veteran record producer, who has worked with bands like Faith No More and Maroon 5, helped bring out the best from the band instead of acting like a “bully gym teacher,” says Bollinger.
Wallace re-introduced them to a talented songwriter named Tim Pagnotta from a band called Sugarcult. Not only is Pagnotta “really creative and really talented” songwriter who has worked with bands like the Neon Trees, but an old friend they got to reconnect with.
“The writing process behind ‘FKARND’ was another first for us,” recounts Bollinger. Instead of whipping out some individual demos and not getting the chance to collaborate with each other, “FKARND” is the sonic antithesis of that. The whole song was based around Pepper “reminiscing on old band stories and laughing.” It was so easy for the group to do that they recorded it that afternoon.
“[The new Pepper] is really aware and has a real definitive picture of where we’re at with music,” says Bollinger. “Everything that’s never happened before; we have it now.”
–Nadia Noir, KROQ