THE BLOG
10/02/2013 02:17 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

A-Sides with Jon Chattman: Pepper Return with New Flavor; Toy Soldiers March On

Whether it's to drive their name home even further or simply the effects of coming up empty after agonizing over a catchy or meaningful title, many recording artists name first release after themselves.
In the case of Pepper, however, they've decided to self-title their sixth studio album. The logic is simple. The Hawaiian reggae, rock band is rebooting after being on hiatus - for the most part - over the last five years. As Bret Bollinger, Kaleo Wassman and Yesod Williams said in an A-Sides interview last week, this album marks a new everything - a new start, a new sound, a new outlook, and even a new logo!

From their tour bus parked outside of the Music Conservatory of Westchester in White Plains, the trio chatted about the evolution of the band, the much needed time off they had, and the secret to keeping their friendship intact for decades. Watch the video below, and marvel at the work ethic and deep appreciation the band have for themselves, making music, and their fanbase. Mahalo.

Like Pepper, Philadelphia-based band Toy Soldiers clearly love what they're doing and the crowds who come to their energy-set-to-ten shows love that thing they do and do so well. Ron Gallo (lead vocals/guitar/harmonica), Bill McCloskey (bass/vocals), Luke Leidy (keys/vocals), Matt Kelly (guitar), and Dominic Billett (drums/vocals) just dropped their second album The Maybe Boys last month, and it's a wonderfully bluesy, rockable, and - in a word - "contemporetro" record. The band, who I'm guessing didn't name themselves after the 1991 Sean Astin terrorists-in-a-private-school film or Martika's hit single, performed a pair of tracks for A-Sides at a shoot at the Music Conservatory last week, and it was all kinds of ear candy goodness. Watch the interview below to get a sense of their respective senses of humor, but first listen to "Heart in a Mousetrap" embedded below and "Tomorrow to Today" which is currently on the A-Sides' YouTube page, and marvel at the talent they have. Old is the "new" new. Watch. Listen. Love.

"Heart in a Mousetrap"

Interview

A-Sides Aside
I want to just mention how amazing Garbage's Version 2.0 album holds up. Released in 1998, I recently returned to their sophomore album, which I overplayed back in the day. When it came out, the cd was well-received, and garnered a few Grammy nods, but I feel it deserves much more praise than it got. So, here I am, for no reason telling you to listen to it again or hear it for the first time. There's not a bad track on it - from "Temptation Waits" to "When I Grow Up" to "You Look So Fine." Any song on the album could be put in heavy rotation on alt-rock stations today. The album is timeless. Shirley Manson was and will always be bad ass.

About A-Sides Music
Jon Chattman's "A-Sides Music" series was established in August 2011 and usually features artists (established or not) from all genres performing a track, and discussing what it means to them. This informal series focuses on the artist making art in a low-threatening, extremely informal (sometimes humorous) way. No bells, no whistles -- just the music performed in a random, low-key setting followed by an unrehearsed chat. In an industry where everything often gets overblown and over manufactured, I'm hoping this is refreshing.

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