By the time Harlan Pepper had released their debut album, Dan Edmonds (guitar, vocals), Jimmy Hayes III (guitar), Thompson Wilson (bass, vocals) and Marlon Nicolle (drums, vocals) had formed a personal bond and musical chemistry that few other acts could rival.
They grew up together as best friends in kindergarten, hockey teammates and freshman roomies at university but thanks to their parents’ encouragement (including Hamilton area veteran musicians Ralph Nicolle and Tom Wilson), they’d form Harlan Pepper and make songs in the vein of their parents’ music collection. They developed a strong appreciation for the classics — Bob Dylan, Neil Young, the Band and the Byrds and with most of their young lives dedicated to the craft; Harlan Pepper became stand out musicians and songwriters before graduating high school.
2010’s Young and Old was released when the band members were just 17–years–old and remains a solid debut but now four years later and Harlan Pepper has only gotten better and forged a stronger identity for themselves. With four years of touring and life learning, post secondary schooling is now on hold for Harlan Pepper to focus on the band full time and their dedication is clear with every gig they play. Harlan Pepper is still playing rock and roll with a conviction and an appreciation well beyond their years.
This week, the now 21–year–old men of Harlan Pepper come into their own with an album called Take Out A $20 And Live Life To The Fullest. While an unusual mouthful for an album title, it embodies a band philosophy — looking for fun, living life and not worrying about the unimportant. Simple pleasures is what it’s about and perhaps those are the ones that mean the most now, and the one’s that will be remembered many years from now — not unlike these songs.
“The title of the record is a statement about cheap thrills, and how we go about living at this stage in our lives,” offers Edmonds. “We were sitting in a bar in Toronto, after just playing a gig. None of us had enough in our wallets for a beer, and we were all pretty bummed out. Eventually Marlon got up, and said, ‘Well boys, I think I’m going to take out a twenty and live life to the fullest.’ We all laughed and soon enough it became a band philosophy.”
“The songs on Young and Old were basically the first nine songs we’d ever written,” reasons Hayes. “For Take Out A Twenty we had a better idea of what we were getting in to, so we took more time deciding if certain songs would be right for the record, what kind of sound we wanted, and what would work for the live show.”
“The new album is an extension of our first record, in that we still draw from the same styles, but I think we decided to make a record with more rock and roll songs, and less folk/banjoish style songs,” offers Edmonds. “We have been playing live for some time now so you have to take in to account the hours of playing together and practicing alone that culminate into performing a rock and roll show, the kind of show we put on now. We have become tighter as a band, not only by playing together, but also by listening to those who came before us. Listening to music on the road has helped shape our sound and how we wish to perform. We want to perform rock and roll like the greats who came before us, so learning those licks and listening to those grooves can go to forming your own songs and structures.”
Produced by Blackie and the Rodeo Kings’ Colin Linden at RCA’s Studio B in Nashville, Tennessee, Take Out A Twenty… is stained with decades of psychedelic and folk tinged rock and roll that seems to be channeled from another time. Not simply aping a style, Harlan Pepper delivers the goods as if they’d been there — and the here and now is well worth hearing now. With Young and Old, the title alluded to the incredible ability of these young musicians to make great music as if they were old souls, and this album continues to underscore that fact.
“Working with Colin was amazing,” smiles Hayes. “We got to know him pretty well when we toured with Blackie and spoke a bunch about what kind of bands we we’re listening to, and the kind of live–off the floor sound we wanted for the record. When we got down to Nashville, Colin was right on the same page. We’re all big fans, so having him in the studio tapping his foot kept us on point and excited.”
Everyone is excited about the long awaited sophomore CD from Harlan Pepper and for their hometown CD release party; they’re working the same model as the first time around. Harlan Pepper plan to rock with a bunch of talented friends and simply enjoy what the music has to offer. While most attendees will come prepared, there is an ATM nearby so everyone can definitely imbibe in the band philosophy and just Take Out A Twenty...
“The show is going to be similar to our first release party,” says Edmonds. “Our good friend Sam Cash will be opening the show with his band the Romantic Dogs. We’ll be playing the new record in its entirety after that. And for the third and final set, we’ll be playing some more songs as well as backing up some special guests. The guests haven’t been all been finalized, but so far we can announce Aaron Goldstein, Chris Houston and Ralph Nicolle will all be coming up to sing a song or two. It will be most definitely a rock and roll extravaganza. Openers are very rock and roll, as are we. It’s going to be lots of fun.”
“We spent some time living in Guelph, and have been playing Toronto a bunch lately, but Hamilton has always been home to Harlan Pepper,” adds Hayes. “It’s been a while but we’re all excited to be back playing at This Ain’t on Thursday night.” V
Harlan Pepper plays Thursday March 20 at This Ain’t Hollywood with Sam Cash and the Romantic Dogs. Doors are 9pm and $12 gets you in if it doesn’t sell out. Click on Harlanpepper.com