Gregory Pepper & His Problems
Gig Seeker Pro

Gregory Pepper & His Problems

Band Alternative Pop

Calendar

This band hasn't logged any future gigs

This band hasn't logged any past gigs

This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos

Music

Press


Gorgeous and glorious, Gregory Pepper is the surprise underground pop find of the year, and With Trumpets Flaring is an astounding display of crafty musicianship. A former member of Montreal's the Dymaxions, Pepper taps into the demented genius/ambition of Brian Wilson for his orchestral pop songs, which are head-scratchingly great. The lo-fi aesthetic of "I Was a John" belies a refined musical mind, one sharp enough to keep many layers of instrumentation straight. "Drop the Plot" traces the textural line between Devo and Sebadoh, while sonic cornerstone "It Must be True" is the purest representation of what the Beach Boys might sound like if their talents peaked in 2009. The endearingly dark "If You Try," a morbidly reassuring suicide shopping list, finds Pepper sounding like a doo-wop-loving sociopath. Yet there's so much light emanating throughout the caverns of With Trumpets Flaring that it's a remarkably bright, faux-naïve pop record that must be heard. (Fake Four Inc.) - Exclaim! Magazine (written by Vish Khanna)


http://radio3.cbc.ca/blogs/2009/07/Wrath-of-Khannas-Album-of-the-Week-With-Trumpets-Flaring-by-Gregory-Pepper-and-His-Problems - cbc3


Peering into Gregory Pepper’s creative process and his inner workings probably resembles the dream like visions Michel Gondry crafted in his movie, The Science of Sleep. The only difference would be that instead of odd creatures/sculptures and random flashes of colour dancing around the serene calm of his subconscious, we get to hear the mix of jagged synths, electronics and guitars that dances around the calming 60's pop Pepper prefers.

How else could you explain how he can follow his playful synth ode to Eddie Murphy and Rick James with the ear pleasing piano notes he bangs out to kickoff I Was a John? Or how he shifts from new wave-ish Drop the Plot to the tender ballad Built a Boat? Or his 50’s-inspired ode to suicide? Or how he can play with classic hip-hop samples and scratches? Or how he moves from electro pop into more chamber/baroque sounds – in the same song?

Without a doubt, this record is fragmented and scattered. Calling it a collection of short stories would even be giving the effort too much structure and I ok with that. Pepper and his band whip through snippets and ideas, exploring sounds and textures for only as long as they think is required (of the thirteen songs, five are less than two-minutes) and as you can imagine the results are all over the map. You jump from playful exuberance to frantic noise and energy and back almost constantly.

Sure - almost by nature - With Trumpets Flaring is full of peaks and valleys and without a doubt Pepper’s mind works in odd and mysterious ways, but he writes good songs. He’s morose and melancholic, but can change mood and pace without warning and more importantly he displays the kind of creativity that leads to the big rewards that more than outweigh the stumbles. - Herohill


No need for a hook to open this review—Gregory Pepper and His Problems’ latest album, With Trumpets Flaring, has plenty to spare. The addicting hooks (and riffs, and melodies, and refrains…) are delivered in a well-crafted and wide-ranging collection of songs, put forth by this 26-year-old musician from Guelph, Ontario. The lyrics are at times honest, sardonic, absurd, self-loathing, nonsensical, ironic, and are very often some combination of those. Pepper’s pallet for his verbal meanderings explores every niche of pop, from full-fledged electro-pop to the sounds of a 1950s doo-wop band, complete with alto saxophone.

The album begins with a vaudeville accordion that suddenly gives way into an electronic backbeat that sounds akin to Chromeo, which then gives way into a more traditional, guitar-driven, indie-pop sound, which comes back fairly quickly to electro-pop. And that’s just the first song, “7ths and 3rds.” Although many of the songs are short—ten of the thirteen are under three minutes; the album itself is a mere half-hour—Pepper still manages to explore classic pop sounds such as the Beach Boys, Paul McCartney, and Weezer, and some lesser-loved genres (he makes a mocking foray into rock opera), while still giving all his songs a personal touch, a touch that oscillates between, and sometimes combines, hopeless optimism and sardonic dismissal.

Much of this touch comes from his lyrical content and vocal style. On “Built A Boat” Pepper’s voice sounds unsure and mournful in a simple, sparsely instrumented song that richly describes building a fantastic boat, only to find out that it doesn’t float. He sounds charmingly off-key in the short romp that is “There Were Dinosaurs.” In the singable chorus of “Drop the Plot”—which repeats “Do, do what you want to / you already do”—he exudes a tone that also hints towards self-loathing, the latter of which becomes an explicit lyrical theme in the pop-rock opus “It Must Be True.” This song spans a range of dynamics and emotions, building to a nerdy-angsty climax like the kind Weezer excelled at on their debut album. “One Man Show” best displays his vocal timbre and lyrical tone, which when averaged out over the album become something that is at the same time melancholic, optimistic, trenchant, relatable, and absurd.

The vocal themes tend towards either the macabre or the absurd, with witticisms in both. “If You Try” is a full-fledged 50s doo-wop song over which Pepper croons about various methods of suicide: “Jumping from a building / what a scary way to die. / Starving in the desert / what a boring way to die. // But it’s all called suicide if you try.” Part of the chorus in “I Was A John” has the protagonist expecting pasta to come out of his addressee’s fax machine. This same protagonist earlier declares “I was psychotic and working in a woodshop / I built the stairway to heaven.”

To focus only on his lyrical wit and vocal delivery would be to ignore his deft ability to create catchy pop hooks over a wide range of styles. In fact, nearly every song on the album sounds different from the others. Some, like “Built a Boat” and “Outro” are intimate in their instrumental nakedness. Other pieces showcase Pepper’s ability to build pop-rock songs that span genres, have musical depth and still avoid feeling forced and overloaded. Pepper takes advantage of a diverse array of sounds, utilizing, among others, glockenspiel, electric drum sequencing, synthesizers, acoustic guitars, organ, handclaps, shakers, and multiple layers of vocal harmonies. His style spans pop-rock, electro-pop, nerd-rock, and indie-pop, and he fits it all together in the tremendous and delightful mess that is With Trumpets Flaring. As I find myself humming his songs more and more often, I realize that Gregory Pepper and His Problems might be the best pop surprise I have had in a long time. - Independent Clauses


Gregory Pepper is deceitful. The newest record from this Guelph, Ontario-born multi-instrumentalist is not an indie-rock record, as its press release made it out to be; With Trumpets Flaring is a bizarre trip through time, cobbling together doo-wop, jazz, vaudeville, and rock into a delightfully trippy — and magnificent — musical journey.

51unlmze9rl_ss500_Despite its misleading (read: deceitful) “band” title, this brilliant record was made by a single man — although the concept of Gregory Pepper’s problems as his band-mates conjures up an alarmingly appropriate image, considering the music. The record opens with a brief snippet of the catchiest accordion riff ever recorded, before launching into the neo-disco groove of “7ths and 3rds”, an anthem about Pepper’s evident distaste for pop music. This evasive opening track moves back and forth between the opening disco groove and a driving, rock-infused chorus — a transition which somehow happens seamlessly, as if the two sounds were meant to exist side-by-side.

Next, the album delivers “I Was a John”, a dramatic piano number reminiscent of Hawksley Workman’s earlier, more eccentric music. Pepper spends the rest of his opus swiftly moving through styles and influences, from the Brian Wilson-inspired group vocals of “It Must Be True”, through the accessible indie-rock flavor of “Drop the Plot” and the solemn piano ballad, “Built a Boat”. The record ends with the unambiguously titled “Outro”, a minute-long piano tune played on an old, slightly out-of-tune piano — a perfect, relaxing finale for the turbulent ride the listener has just been on.

With Trumpets Flaring is not an easy record to digest. Its songs are complex — no cheap hooks here — and diverse enough to avoid simple genre classifications. But once you open your mind to Pepper’s unique style, the depth of his eccentrically-arranged songs become not just accessible, but stunning. - MONDOmagazine




Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.


There's an intriguing quality to the reflective and often eccentric scope of experimental bedroom pop. It's a romance perhaps born from the mythology-making years that Brian Wilson spent sequestered in his literal bedroom, or the similar (rumoured) window-blocking, beard-growing isolation of this generation's very own once-genius strangeboy Rivers Cuomo. While not exactly taking a page out of the lush, inextricable layers of the classic Beach Boys songbook (aside from some impeccable harmonies), Guelph's weirdo troubadour Gregory Pepper assembled his band of Problems to help him bring his self-realized musical smorgasbord to light on With Trumpets Flaring, available now through Fake Four Records.

With Trumpets Flaring is clearly and unconventionally influenced by sounds from multiple sources that include—aside from the obvious sweet pop classics—electro ("Drop the Plot") and prog ("One Man Show"). Loosely conceptually minded and very, very clever, Pepper shares a vision and aesthetic with Seattle's lo-fi Say Hi (formerly Say Hi to Your Mom) mastermind Eric Elbogen or fellow Guelphian LUM (née Liam Sanagan), using his genre-melding instrumentation and arrangements to snarkily delve into the hilarity of everyday personal mundanities and tragedies. At times the musical ADD runs an inherent risk of being unfocused or, even worse, annoying, but the understated mini pop-opera's calculated cohesiveness and brevity (the songs rarely hit, let alone exceed, three minutes, which means Pepper is redeemably aware of the shelf life of his cutesy-ness) will hopefully help save this project from MySpace obscurity.

When Pepper more than likely takes a different approach with his next record, if it has more of the gorgeous, almost haunting sparsity of "Built A Boat" or the impressive focus and complexity—not to mention accessibility—of "It Must Be True" (embedded under the above cover image for your listening pleasure) fading into obscurity won't be of concern. If people still made mixed tapes, any song from With Trumpets Flaring would be the perfect mood-switching, attention-grabbing track; luckily, it's more than a disposable novelty one-off.
- Torontoist


Discography

Gregory Pepper & His Problems - With Trumpets Flaring (2009) - [Charted #57 on CMJ Top 200]

Gregory Pepper & His Problems - S/T (2007)

Big Huge Truck (to be released 2010)

The Great Depression (to be released 2010)

Photos

Bio

from Exclaim! Magazine, september 2009:

"Gorgeous and glorious, Gregory Pepper is the surprise underground pop find of the year, and With Trumpets Flaring is an astounding display of crafty musicianship. A former member of Montreal's the Dymaxions, Pepper taps into the demented genius/ambition of Brian Wilson for his orchestral pop songs, which are head-scratchingly great. The lo-fi aesthetic of 'I Was a John' belies a refined musical mind, one sharp enough to keep many layers of instrumentation straight. 'Drop the Plot' traces the textural line between Devo and Sebadoh, while sonic cornerstone 'It Must be True' is the purest representation of what the Beach Boys might sound like if their talents peaked in 2009. The endearingly dark 'If You Try', a morbidly reassuring suicide shopping list, finds Pepper sounding like a doo-wop-loving sociopath. Yet there's so much light emanating throughout the caverns of With Trumpets Flaring that it's a remarkably bright, faux-naïve pop record that must be heard. (Fake Four Inc.)'

by vish khanna