Pepper Said is a Nashville-based DIY indie rock group fronted by none other than, you guessed it- Pepper.
The band specializes in storytelling through their sharp, often embittered lyrics, and get people moving with their dance-inducing hooks.
These hooks and energetic live shows full of passion are some of several reasons why Pepper Said has become a house show and DIY favorite among certain circles within Nashville’s underground indie rock scene. Whether it’s basement shows, The East Room, Cobra, or wherever, Pepper Said is bound to put on a show that will stick with you. (RIP live shows 2020)
The band’s debut EP, “The Chronicles of a Dumpsterfire” document the trials and tribulations of Pepper’s love life as she contemplates themes such as toxic relationships and letting loved ones go.
We got the chance to talk with Pepper about the band’s origin story, recording process, and upcoming single, “Sleepovers” set for release tomorrow, May 1st.
So how did the current lineup of Pepper Said come together, and who all is in the band?
It was a pretty long, slow burning process getting this crew together. Pepper Said was born after my first band, Smells Like Bear, broke up. It was the deepest heartbreak I’ve experienced (if you’ve listened to any PS you know I’m already melodramatic). Pepper Said was going to be a band, but ultimately my project so that I couldn’t get creatively dumped again. So I started writing the music & then would basically work with any musician that I admired or enjoyed hanging out with to see what happened! I have worked with amazing humans that have been helpful to Pepper Said creatively, emotionally, mentally etc. in one way or another. So although I have had about 5 drummers and 6 guitarists (including myself at a time) circulate through the crew, every single musician has contributed to what Pepper Said is now & I am grateful to all of them for the opportunity to work together.
The crew is now Brian Zellmer on guitar, Connor Gehlert when he has the time (who was a part of the FIRST Pepper Said show when I barely knew what PS was going to be) on guitar, Angela Lese on drums & Ross Koby on Bass. Brian and I have been friends for about 6 years & I always knew he was incredibly talented but after Smells Like Bear, I was hesitant to work with friends again. About 2 years ago we ended up jamming in his basement a lot and it really just took me getting up the nerves to ask if he’d play with me. Things have really fallen together since he joined the crew. Ross was a mutual friend that mentioned he played bass and that was the end of that haha. Angela, I reached out to earlier this year and I still feel out of body that she plays with us, she is insanely talented and was, like, the missing piece. Connor Gehlert I think I found on YEP? He is so talented and if anyone is reading this that wants a lead guitarist who knows what you’re saying musically when you don’t even know what you’re saying – hit him up. He helped me in the first, like, month of Pepper Said when I was kind of flailing, which was great. He started playing with us again last year once I actually had the music, mission & project figured out. I also like to include Connor Gilmore and Kipper Gray as band members, they have helped us record, produce, mix and master all of our songs. They have also been some of my best friends for half a decade (along with Brian).
What was the recording process like for The Chronicles of a Dumpsterfire? Where did you record it, and did it come to fruition like you had envisioned?
Put simply – brutal & rewarding. I recorded it originally with some really lovely producers/engineers in Berry Hill. They are incredibly talented and helpful and working with them showed me that I wanted more control and involvement in the production of the project.
I then moved the process into my bedroom, Kipper’s bedroom, and Connor’s bedroom (the aforementioned producers). I’m not sure if it’s being a chick or just being chronically insecure, but I did not believe I was good enough to produce my own music and I’m so grateful for this EP because I just hit this point of “fuck you, yes you are, stop waiting for someone to do it for you.”
Once I accepted that, I played lead guitar on A Historical Account of Events, solely produced it’s quiet, and decided that Joyride In A Hearse was going to be a live & unplugged track (it is a full band song). Connor Gilmore did an amazing job producing and performing guitar on Mysa and What Was I To Do. Its creation was nothing like I envisioned, I learned so much more than I expected, I’m so happy with it, and I’m even more excited about the new stuff. Growing up is amazing because it’s still surprising to me when I’m learning some huge stuff – like how to create & produce an EP. It’s shocking COADF was only last year. Since then I have gotten so comfortable with production & arrangement. I think it’s important, for me at least, to enjoy that being an artist is being a little more excited for the next project because you get to implement all of the great things you learned from the last one.
What were the primary themes and inspirations behind that collection of songs?
These songs were written while I was facing a bunch of really glorious personal growth via horrible things happening (that I was ultimately responsible for due to unhealthy coping mechanisms & ego-centric, self-destructive behaviors!)!
One might assume that a Dumpsterfire is a real asshole. Someone being selfish and destructive and reckless in their behaviors who doesn’t care that they’re screwing shit up and hurting people cause that’s just what they do.
I believe otherwise!
A Dumpsterfire is someone who woke up finally and is like “Life sucks. Life is my responsibility. I can make it better. I can make me better.”
They looked at what was making them unhappy – toxic relationships/friendships, anxiety induced talking, reactive anger from shame etc. etc.
Along with that is your coping mechanisms and anxiety and inner-voices that helped you once but kind of suck now.
You look at this massive dumpster – anxiety from proving perfection, anxiety from fitting into a box, being so distracted trying to be an idea of perfect you don’t even know yourself, attraction to anger because you’re angry, toxic relationships, attraction to judgemental people because you’re judgemental cause you’re terrified of judgement, anxiety-induced working so you can prove productivity instead of questioning what you’re even being productive towards ETC. ETC. ETC.
And then you set it on fire. THAT is the Dumpsterfire.
This EP is basically someone (moi) realizing bad habits, behaviors, coping mechanisms in real time and that they want out.
I say that we play “Sarcastic Rock” – but it isn’t because the songs aren’t serious or authentic. It’s because I’m on the other side. So, now, when I’m singing “These words don’t taste right, my chest is so tight, it’s so loud at night, that’s what love is like” it’s sarcastic cause I get to know love is not like that.
But there was a time where it was.
Sorry, that was super long.
Inspirations: My life lol. Bands- Nirvana, Cage The Elephant, Blondie & Paramore. The movie Stuck In Love and the book The Sun And Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur.
What inspired your upcoming single, “Sleepovers”?
Brian wrote this very fun, almost Vampire Weekend-esque, guitar line early this year & I asked him if I could write over it & if we could use it for Pepper Said. Huge deal to me that he said yes. I would say a cumulative 3 hours later, the song was written. Everyone I’ve played/written with has begged me to write a song that sounded happy AND was about something happy – this is the first time I have accomplished this. It’s about the beginning of my current relationship! We are the most boring story in the book – friends for 3 years and then we started dating. Between that change we had platonic sleepovers like twice a month and we’d just eat food, watch Rick & Morty and hang out. They were super innocent and fun but also had a sprinkle of “is something going on here?” and I think the song really expresses that.
Is that going to be part of another EP/LP or a standalone single?
I actually don’t think this song is going to be on our next record! We are working on the next record & will be releasing 3-5 singles in the next year, but I don’t think this track will be on it!
How does the songwriting process work within the band, and where do you draw most of your inspiration from when writing?
Basically, I’m in charge of lyrics/melody when we’re co-writing, for Sleepovers and another single coming out in the fall, Brian created some fantastic bottom lines & arrangements! Our producer, Kipper Gray, has also created the bottom line for two singles coming out this year. And then I am today finishing a song I 100% created & produced & performed. Specific songwriting process – I always start with the bottom line – having Brian & Kipper is such a gift. They’ll shoot me whatever they have that they’re willing to share with Pepper Said. The bottom line puts me into the space and mood and helps me find the story. I am not someone that has a subject beforehand. I’m never like “I wanna write about X let’s go”. I feel the song, the melody will come along with the basic rhythm of the words so I’ll just put some like vowel sounds over initially.
I also always start with a verse. I have written with people that start with a hook, and it’s really cool! But I have to start the story to see where it’s going to go. So with Sleepovers, the beginning felt blissful and kind of sleepy (potential TMI but kind of like right after you have an orgasm) so “it’s getting late oh damn we made a mistake, guess you’ll have to stay” felt great- it’s simple but sweet and has some attitude. Immediately, I went somewhere where I have felt this – the Sleepovers with my partner when we were just friends. Great. I know what the song is about. So then I just looked for “micro-moments” that are specific to me but relatable “it’s after 3, but we don’t wanna go to sleep, watching Rcik & Morty, it’s so fucking we’re so fucking funny” Luckily for me, Sleepovers is an awesome word, awesome song title, so there’s the chorus. The chorus is one of my favorites – it’s fun, it’s catchy, it’s in a fun vocal range for me, and it’s sarcastic in the way that teenagers are sarcastic which fits the nostalgia of the song.
Inspiration is so tricky when you’re writing because I don’t want to take too much from someone I admire – it is ultimately about creating something new & specifically Pepper Said. So when I’m in the writing process I won’t listen to anything else so that the mood & melodies are new (That has obviously already been influenced) but I do look to other bands when I get stuck on how to tell the story lyrically. Tokyo Police Club, Alvvays and Paramore are my mains. They are great at saying something specific, universal and impactful in very few words. So whenever I’m getting hung up on what makes sense and over-explaining myself I check in on one of their songs.
Have plans for your upcoming release changed in any way since the pandemic hit?
SO MUCH! We were putting together a beautiful house show at my house with 2 other indie bands in Nashville to release the single and announce our little Northeastern Tour in late May – yeah! We had a tour planned for late May! The dream this year was to have a tiny tour for each single we release. And then we were supposed to open for a few local rock bands (an album release) at the High Watt right after the tour in early June – our FIRST show at the High Watt ! So I am really heartbroken over this BUT I have worked to accept that our plans are not canceled, they are moved.
What are your thoughts and feelings on how the pandemic will affect the Nashville DIY indie music scene?
Many indie artists like myself are usually also working our asses off at service industry jobs, nannying jobs, office jobs etc. because we are not making all of our income from music yet. So this pandemic is potentially the first time in my life I’ve had full days/full weeks to just work on music. I’m lucky & have a studio in my house – but most Indies do! So that’s a really cool bright-side. We will have completely finished 4-5 songs by next week which will help so much once I get to work again because I don’t have to run from a double shift to an 8 hour studio session where I deal with what I get there cause that’s all the time I have before I have to send the track to distribution. That’s the positive! Financially, this is pretty scary, obviously because of basic survival needs but also because indies need to invest a fair amount in the beginning of our careers and it’s hard enough to do that when we are working full time. If Indies have a little bit of income and want to invest some of this time in harnessing digital marketing – the only thing we can do right now – I HIGHLY recommend checking out Indepreneur. They’re amazing at teaching how to find real fans & how to monetize your career. Something we always need, but reeaaally need after this pandemic.
Beyond the single, do you have any plans for the band once the pandemic blows over? Tours or more releases you’re hoping to arrange?
Everything will be rescheduled! I can’t wait to promote our tour whenever it is, we’re going to play the High Watt on a different date, and I will DEFINITELY still be having an Indie Rock house show – now to celebrate being around people and humans and live music. Unfortunately, I can’t really make plans right now as we don’t know when we’re allowed to do that – but if people follow us on Spotify, Facebook, Instagram, & sign up for our e-mail list on our website – we will update them on all of that!
Who are your favorite artists to play with in Nashville?
Blam Blams, Abbey Moss, Basic Printer. I’ve gotten to play a few shows with each of them. They all inspire me and I love their shows and would go every time anyways.We’re all emo & theatrical in completely different ways so it’s an awesome night.
Now this may be the most pressing question: what is a Nashville grub spot and/or cafe Pepper can’t live without?
This is so silly cause I work here but, honestly, Frothy Monkey. I am allergic to Gluten and 95% of their menu is/can be gluten free & insanely tasty & the humans there are so cool.
If you could have a beer or coffee with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be?
Caroline Rose. She just makes phenomenal music. She’s evolved through different genres beautifully & she has the level of success I am striving for – touring consistently, making whatever music you want and a lot of it and hitting a lot of festivals. I’d love to talk to her about trusting her gut, her creative process, and how she got there.