by Ricky Haldis
“Ohana is the Hawaiian word for ‘family,'” explains Bret Bollinger, bassist and vocalist of the native Hawaiian band, Pepper” Bollinger is walking the streets of Baltimore, having just finished an appearance on Sirius Radio. “We call our fans our family. We love to spend time with our family of fans, and share experiences with those who believe in you.” His genuine demeanor is easily perceivable, even as the distant noise of traffic clutters the phone line as he strolls through a local park.
After a recent hiatus, Bollinger is obviously ecstatic to be back on tour to support Pepper’s latest self-titled album. He elaborates, “we enjoyed our careers but had to go on hiatus to keep from getting lost. We took a break, made some changes, and basically stripped it down to the three of us. We had to ask ourselves, ‘Are we still hungry?’ We realized that we still had this love between us, and learned to be alive together as a band.”
The result of their recent realizations, an album simply entitled Pepper, is a melting pot of their influences and experiences. “We made a sonic jump that took us all across the board. We understood, in writing the album, that committing to each other as a band is crucial, and we poured that invaluable trait into the album. I’m so blessed to be working with my life-long friends and brothers. The music never flowed so easily, and this is truly the most honest music we’ve ever made.”
“Philly fans are the biggest sweethearts I’ve ever seen,” jokes Bollinger as he speaks excitedly about his show this Friday, September 20th at the Theater of the Living Arts on South Street. “Honestly, Philadelphia maximizes what the performers can bring. Philly’s fans take our energy to the next level, and every time we’re in town, we always end up smiling at each other while we’re on stage. The break before the encore always comes, and we look at each other and say, ‘it’s over already?’,” he chuckles. “We never have such a great time in front of an audience. They put on a show for us!”
Bollinger strives to give the audience an experience that will last much longer than the time they spend at the concert. “There’s nothing like it,” he says, his voice suddenly filled with sincerity. “The screaming, cheering, and dancing that happens after we share that beautiful moment of music – there’s nothing like it. When all that energy happens – when we’re totally spent, and can barely move, and the audience is screaming for us – we are all totally equal at that point. It’s such an absolutely beautiful moment, and we want the audience to leave with a mental snapshot of the experience.”
It seems that 2014 will be just as productive for Pepper, who plan to organize some ‘very special things.’ “We might head back into the studio to work on new material to keep the fire alive.”
With a trace of mischievousness in his voice, Bollinger hints, “We may even look to do something a little more international, if you know what I mean.”
However, until then, this Friday brings Philadelphians a perfect opportunity to head down to South Street, grab a slice at Lorenzo’s and head up the block to the TLA to share a musical experience with one of the most genuine and sincere bands that has ever visited the city.