Pepper and Less Than Jake: How Cannabis Inspires Their Art
Cannabis is about more than just cultivation and medication: it has a culture all its own. Mary Otte decided to go backstage with stoner bands Pepper and Less Than Jake to look at how cannabis informs their art.
Maximum Yield sat down with Yesod Williams of Pepper before their show to talk about process, Pepper’s very own custom strain, Hawaiian Pepper, and superbly stoned musical philosophy.
“Growing up in Hawaii,” says Williams, “[cannabis] is just part of the culture and part of the whole makeup of the fabric.” It was for this reason that Williams actually ended up living in Hawaii. His parents realized it was a great place to grow weed and with plenty of friends on the mainland to ship it back to, the location made financial sense. The culture of cannabis had a profound affect on Ohana, their latest album, he adds.
“It’s always been a complete integral part of our band, and for me personally, it’s one of those things where I wake up in the morning and my mind is racing a million miles an hour. Once I smoke it kind of locks everything into place, like, okay, let’s do this now. It’s similar to surfing,” he says with a smile. “In the morning, I surf and go on with my day. It’s just part of who I am. Cannabis influences the record because it influences everything we do. It kind of slows things down so you can better look at it.”
The name Ohana is for the fans, which he describes as their lifeline. A band for nearly 20 years, Williams feels like they’ve now finally come full circle. “I’m saying ‘full circle’ because when we first started Pepper we just jammed and had fun,” says Williams. “We came to the other side and we approached the record [with] an aspect of, let’s get in the studio, with the only end goal of ‘Let’s just play, let’s just go in and jam.’”
No one’s going to say otherwise. For one thing, they’re doing it right, and for another, they’re happy to be their own managers with their own label. This approach makes them self-labeled “super fans,” as they also have the opportunity to sign their favorite bands. All of this also comes back to cannabis.
“I make amazing friendships through weed,” said Williams, “Being onstage, I’m blessed to be there, in the whole ecosystem. If you have your own world, it’s good. It’s all about who you surround yourself with. You usually become an average of the people you surround yourself with; or a common denominator or whatnot.”
As Pepper took the stage at New York City’s PlayStation Theater in late February 2017, it marked the beginning of a banging good night of dancing and singing along with the ultimate trifecta of stoner bands. All three bands were high-energy, crowd-engaging bundles of energetic sounds, each of their own styling, yet completely in synch.
The Bunny Gang started the night off with hyperbolic trombone player, Keith Larson, tearing up the stage. Frontman Nathan Maxwell, who also plays bass for Flogging Molly, drew the crowd in with the ease of a veteran performer. Despite somewhat heavy security, the joints were already floating across the crowd during their opening numbers.
Less Than Jake was up next, and by the time they got on stage, there was no more room on the dance floor, which made for fabulously polite mosh pits and safe, supportive crowd surfing. They even brought a few lucky fans onstage to dance.
Balloons were bounced over the crowd’s heads. Less Than Jake had such a connection with their fans that it was clear they like to have fun and have been playing together for a long time. They left the stage in two grand bursts of confetti, before coming back onstage for three more encore songs.
Three piece, high-energy, indie surf rock, ska-pop band Pepper (which transcends all those pigeonholes) closed out the night in style. Their opening song crescendoed in under red lights and a haze of stage fog blended beautifully with clouds of herb.
Halfway through their set, they brought out Less Than Jake for a few songs and it was absolutely symbiotic. These elevated bands were in the groove, as was the super-pumped crowd.
Want some more marijuana kumbaya? Pepper has a strain made especially for the band called Hawaiian Pepper. Created by Jahnetics, it is a pure sativa with hints of pepper and a smooth, fruity finish. Pepper searched a long time with their friends from Weedmaps before finally choosing Jahnetics.