Jay Pepito with Reign Supreme, Photo: Zac Wolf
In our continuing effort to bring more of what's current and happening in today's hardcore scene to DCXX, we bring you Reign Supreme's front man, Jay Pepito. Jay's a guy that I've known for a number of years now and he's been nothing but handshakes and smiles backed by a serious passion for skull crushing hardcore. If you've caught a Reign Supreme set over the past couple of years, you already know just how hard they deliver, now read what Jay and the band are all about. -Tim DCXX
Tell us about where you grew up and how you discovered hardcore?
I grew up in a few towns around the Jersey Shore in the 90s. Skateboarding, surfing, BMX, and teenage mischief were pretty big in my youth, and that kind of stuff got me into underground music. I was really into Nirvana, and from interviews with them, I heard about the Bad Brains, Minor Threat, SSD, and others. So I saved up, and every time I got my mom to drive me to the record store in Howell, NJ, I would have some new stuff.
I didn't really love hardcore at that point; I was more into the melody and urgency of the screamo/emo bands of the 90s like Julia, Cap N Jazz, Hoover, Frail, etc. But when my older brother gave me a copy of Turning Point's "Before the Dawn," I fell in love. I finally got it. Then I began to track down everything I could find on thank you lists, and everything he said was worth investigating. So I sold all my old records, completed my Revelation discography, the Schism stuff, and that was that. I was vegetarian and straight edge instantly, and my distaste for all things mainstream had come full circle.
What was it about hardcore that attracted you to it in the early days?
It was the urgency and anger of it. I liked punk music and stuff like that, but it always felt alien. Like these homeless dudes with gross hair who hadn't bathed in months just seemed like they were different than me. But the guys in Turning Point and Youth Of Today were young, clean cut, came from the suburbs, and appeared athletic and interested in bettering themselves and changing the world. That spoke to me. That's still how I am today. I've always believed in something that I read in an early Floorpunch interview, that "positive things can come from negative emotions", and hardcore seemed like positive, angry, defiant guys just like me, who refused to play the hand they were dealt. They were pissed, and they were going to scream about it, and so was I.
Who were some of your early favorite bands and why?
I have loved Black Flag (early stuff only, sorry Schweigert!) since I was 11. AMAZING band. In my teen years, I really fell in love with the Rev stuff, Youth Of Today, Chain, GB, Judge, Burn, etc. After that, it was all NYHC, AF, Madball, Outburst, Raw Deal, Warzone, The Cro-Mags, Straight Ahead, Leeway, and all their ilk. I grew up in a great era for hardcore too, and those bands were probably the biggest influence on me, because I got to see them all the time. Madball is hands down my favorite hardcore band ever. I saw them all the time in the late 90s, and they were like a demonic force, a wall of sound that made me want to mosh like the skinheads I'd seen at their shows.
I loved Floorpunch too, great live band, with a great aesthetic. I saw Ensign and Kill Your Idols probably twenty something times each, they played together all the time. KYI were ok, not really my thing, but I loved that first Ensign LP, so good. In My Eyes was great, their second LP is one of my favorite hardcore records ever. So all that late 90s tough guy stuff and straight edge stuff was really my favorite stuff. I loved the late 80's NYHC and all that, but those bands weren't playing shows, so you had to just love the records.
Mike Doto with Reign Supreme, Photo courtesy of: Deathwish
Give us some of your favorite early show memories and how did they impact you in terms of you wanting to start your own band?
My first hardcore show was in 1998. My parents wouldn't let me go to Asbury Park, but I snuck out and went with my friend who drove us. It was Breakdown, Floorpunch, Ensign, Fastbreak, and Full Speed Ahead. GREAT show, and the reason I got into hardcore. During FP, I got thrown through a pepsi machine, and I fell in love with the pure, honest aggression of hardcore. I love all those bands to this day, except Fastbreak, they weren't really my thing. Started playing in hardcore bands right after that, I wanted then what I still want out of playing shows now: a mass of youth, losing their minds in rebellious expression. Stage dives, hard pitting, gang shouts, all that stuff.
Tell us about your early bands, how they came together and some of your stand out memories from them.
Jesus Christ, some of those were REALLY embarrassing. But I think it's like that for everybody, you know, you don't know what's cool or what's not when you first get into hardcore, you just go for it. I played in this band called Inside Fight, that was my first hardcore band. I wanted us to sound like Sick Of It All, or Warzone....I think we sounded like Comin' Correct mixed with some kind of grade school nu-metal band. Anyways, we were really bad, and actually in an issue of Parade Brigade fanzine, the dude Bill talks to Porter from FP about these "little kid bands from the shore that cover Clear"...well, that was us. Haha, we were bad, but it was fun.
After that, we started this band called A Thin Line Fading. ATLF was like a straight edge hardcore band, definite melodic youth crew vibes, but we had some heavier parts too, maybe some mid-90s metalcore influence, without it being too prominent. We played a few shows and tried to play out of state whenever possible, and that band kind of dissolved right after we graduated high school. We did cover "Don't Tread On Me" before the whole Rev board began jocking the Cro-Mags and before being 'hard' was cool in hardcore again.
Anyways, after that came Anything Goes and Full Contact. Anything Goes was more of a NYHC styled band, didn't last long, but it was fun, definite youth crew influence but with hard mosh parts and stuff like that. Full Contact was the first band I was in that I was really proud of. Really solid youth crew kind of hardcore, great song structure, varsity jackets and pos tops, totally awesome. That band became Knockdown, after our singer heard Straight Ahead and discovered the skinhead thing, and I left when I chose to serve my country in the USMC.
You joined the Marines, where were you at that time in your life when you joined and in what way did you feel changed once your were out?
I was a mess when I joined. I didn't know who I was anymore, I didn't understand my future, I was just angry at that point, and just a dumb, confused kid. I didn't know what I was getting myself into, just needed an outlet for my aggression, and a strong label to call myself to prove I was a man. I got kicked out after I did some dumb stuff, and I learned my lesson. I was really hot-headed and confrontational when I joined, and after I got out, I realized that 'there's always gonna be somebody tougher no matter where you go', and that life wasn't so rough and miserable. I figured out that life was something to be lived, and loved. I moved to Philadelphia, and started playing in some bands with some dudes from that city.
Klint Kanopka and Jay with Reign Supreme, Photo: Zac Wolf
How did Reign Supreme come together and what were your early aspirations and directions for the sound?
We started as sort of a jam project among a couple friends, we just were looking to play some music in the vein of that heavier late 90s and early 2000s metalcore. Stuff like Integrity, Biohazard, Madball, Hatebreed. We just wanted to play metal basically, haha. It's funny, because most bands start off fast and melodic, and get 'tougher' as they get older. We started off sounding like Obituary, and got faster and more melodic as we progressed. So I guess it's unusual; I started embracing my earlier influences as Reign Supreme evolved.
Tell us about some of the early Reign Supreme - shows how did you see yourselves being perceived?
Some of the early shows were great, some were hilarious. All were weird, because I knew we were tighter and heavier than a lot of other bands out there. But we NEVER KISSED ANYONE'S ASS, and we NEVER PLAYED BY THE SCENE POLITIC RULES. We never really became down with the 'cool kids' in modern day hardcore, but I found that the more we played, the larger our fan base got. In every sense of the word, Reign Supreme was perceived as a rock band, not a hardcore band. Our fans weren't just hardcore kids, they were metal kids, kids into pop punk, kids into weird-hair alt rock, and other stuff.
I realized early on that some people were going to see us, and based off appearance, judge us as a tough guy hardcore band, and that some were going to listen to us, and hear the same tightly driven rhythmic force that they loved in other forms of music, instead of the wishy-washy garbage that so many supposedly 'visionary' hardcore bands puke out nowadays. It was cool to know that we weren't like our so-called peers, because I always knew I had nothing in common with them.
How did things come together with Deathwish Records and what can you say about what they have done to support you so far?
Deathwish happened by accident actually. We were on Malfunction, which is a small label, run by two friends of mine. Malfunction was about to go under, due to stress and financial burdens, and Deathwish kind of came in and bought the label, saving all the bands on it, and allowing us to go forward with their support. They're a great label, run by great people, and they help us out as much as they can. I have no complaints. It's cool, because Jake is the singer of one of our biggest influences, so there's always that connection, which I like. I like being surrounded by people who inspire me, if we were on almost any other hardcore label, I'd probably lose it. If we weren't on Deathwish, I'd like us to be on some kind of weird metal/indie rock label.
Joe Vergara with Reign Supreme, Photo courtesy of: Deathwish
Is there any basic underlying themes behind Reign Supreme's lyrics? Obviously most of the songs are dealing with different issues, but if you could sum up what the band is about, what would it be?
The basic theme of our music can be summed up in two parts. One, that the human race is a disease, and society is an enemy of everyone in it, whether they know it or not. Two, that a sovereign heart and a will of iron is the most important thing in the world. My mindset and worldview is influenced by Buddhism, Ayn Rand, Thomas Hobbes, Mark Twight, Jason Ferruggia, and many other confusing and seemingly counter-intuitive ideologies. I guess, without getting too meta-level with it, I believe in loving yourself, and those around you with everything you have, and living your life to the absolute fullest, whatever that means for you. And if anyone gets in the way of that, crush them, and everything they stand for.
What is the dynamic of the members within Reign Supreme, and what would you say each person brings to the band?
It's like the primate part of the zoo. Klint is the smart one, he is a great realist and is always helpful with making the right decision. Mikey is the Dad of the group, always plays it safe and smart. Joe is the baby of the band, always doing dumb stuff and making us late and quitting for no reason. And I think I'm the dreamer, the artist, and the asshole. It's a delicate balance between harmonious engineering and utter chaos.
What have been some of the best and biggest shows you have played so far and how much does the crowds response play into what you deem as a great show?
Our sold out show in Tokyo with Converge was one of our best ever, the last show we played in Europe with Dirty Money and 50 Lions was unreal, that was sold out too. The Sound and Fury and This Is Hardcore festivals are always awesome, those are totally memorable and they were a lot of fun. I loved our set at Bamboozle, which is this big like pop-punk festival, it was just cool because there were literally thousands of kids pitting for us, it was like we were Metallica for a half hour.
The crowd response is important to me, we are a live band, we are a band that thrives off of the intensity of the people in the audience. The best shows we play are always ones in rooms that sound great, aren't huge, and have a ton of kids there to see us. That's our element, that's where we thrive. It becomes more than a hardcore show, it becomes a unifying release of anger and frustration. It's great.
Jay with an in your face Reign Supreme sing along, Photo: Zac Wolf
Tell us about your tours, US, Europe, Japan, and what are some of your best memories from these tours?
So so so many tours and so many memories. I'd say, the things I'll remember most are the dumb things along the way. The hanging out with my best friends late night, and the stuff that goes with that, bad food, pool parties, trouble making, getting caught stealing, all that funny stuff you do on tour.
The most special things for me, are getting to play with and befriend so many of our inspirations. We've played with 7 Seconds, Danzig, GB, The Cro-Mags, Madball, Earth Crisis, Strife, Killing Time, Shai Hulud, Hatebreed, Converge, and just so many bands that I look up to... I mean, that's really cool. We've done more than most hardcore bands ever have a chance to. John Joseph once said that we were one of the best hardcore bands he's seen in years. Things like that are really dear to me.
Where do you see yourself and Reign Supreme headed in the future?
I see myself finishing school, opening my own training center, and sort of blowing up the athletic training thing, maybe moving to the west coast. I see Reign Supreme writing another record, and then seeing what happens. The new stuff is so different from how we started, and we're all getting older and busier with our real lives....I'm not sure how much more mileage we can get out of the same mosh parts over and over again haha. We will see where the road takes us.
I know that we're done with the touring thing, we might hit the road briefly from time to time, but at a certain point, we'll probably only play shows that we really feel like we need to. I am pretty confident we will write at least one more record though.
When it's all said and done, how do you want Reign Supreme to be remembered?
I know that a lot of people just think of us as some run of the mill metalcore band, and I'm not saying that we're not. But we play in Reign Supreme because we like loud, heavy, abrasive music. We have nothing to prove to anyone. All that we do is play the kind of music that we like, you can call it hardcore, metal, whatever. And for absolute sure, I can pretty much guarantee you that every hardcore kid who likes our band will hate us, as soon as they hear the new record we're writing, because it's musically more similar to a mix of Motorhead, the Deftones, and Explosions In The Sky than it is to Hatebreed.
I figured out a long time ago that the semantics don't matter; the ethics and intensity of the delivery do. I know a lot of bands and kids in hardcore these days DON'T GIVE A SHIT. They don't care about anything except flannel, vans, and stupid materialistic things. Reign Supreme has played benefit shows, we raised money for local animal shelters, we've done our best to condemn the establishment, but humbly tried to give a little bit of ourselves. That's what matters about bands, it's not the t-shirts or how 'crazy' their live set was. It's what they did with it all.
We lived it up, we had a blast, and we gave back more than we ever took out of hardcore. We dropped out of our real lives for a few years and gave. I'd like people to remember us as a bunch of fucked up kids, who were mad as hell about the way the world is, and who tried their best to make the most of their youth by cramming into a van and giving it an honest go. Beyond that, what else is there? Legacies are fleeting, and usually they die before they're born. I'd just like to be able to smile when it's all said and done.
Reign Supreme Philadelphia style, Photo courtesy of: Deathwish
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Posted by DOUBLE CROSS at 9:03 PM