Zervas & Pepper
Plus Special Guest Adam Holmes
WEDNESDAY 29TH JANUARY 2014
Zervas & Pepper are fast becoming a recognised sound on radio with their sweeping harmony arrangements. Charming audiences with wild tales collected from their travels, returning home to their native Wales to record.
Fronted by singer/songwriters Paul Zervas and Kathryn Pepper, the duo are preparing to release their second album “Lifebringer” in July 2013, following the success of their debut set “Somewhere In The City,” which received warm accolades from some of national radio’s principle tastemakers.
Z&P first crossed paths at a popular Cardiff live music venue called the Toucan Club. This was a mecca for musicians in the capital and the pair quickly found an affinity between each other’s songwriting. After a period of swapping vinyl LPs and jamming their way through the likes of Paul Simon, Neil Young and The Beach Boys back catalogues they discovered a shared passion for that sunny US West Coast harmony sound.
A bond quickly formed between the pair, as they encouraged one another to write and perform their own original material and guested on each other’s live solo shows. The musical chemistry was instantaneous, their combined sound fresh and dynamic and audiences quickly began to request that they perform together more often. A romance then also blossomed between them. ''It was an exciting time for us,” says Paul. “We were really finding our feet as songwriters, pushing one another to dig deep musically and not to be constrained by current trends and fads when it came to musical style. We’d found our ultimate soul mates in one another. The harmony blend felt almost other-worldly to us at times, it was something special and the audiences picked up on that immediately and wanted more.”
In 2007 the duo pooled what little money they had, now officially a combined force, and with the help of well-regarded Welsh producer Kriss Jenkins, they gathered together an impressive array of musicians to record their debut self-titled EP in 2008. They included Arran Ahmun on drums (John Martyn), Pete Hurley on bass (Van Morrison), Jon ‘Catfish’ Thomas on pedal steel (Super Furry Animals) and Simon Kingman on lead guitar (Kosheen) .
The first pressing of 500 copies of the EP quickly sold out at their local shows and through their social networking sites. Kathryn recalls the day drummer Arran introduced their music to the late folk hero John Martyn. “I got a phone call from Arran saying “You’re going to flip… John’s just been jamming along to your record and loves it!” It was a massive thumbs-up from a songwriter that the duo held in the highest regard and drove the duo harder to pursue their musical dream.
In the ensuing months, Zervas & Pepper went from strength to strength, selling out local live shows in Cardiff and gaining interest from Universal Records A&R man Joe O’Neil. In 2009, under Joe’s guidance, they headed to Sonic One Studios with producer Tim Hamill to record a follow-up EP with the same line-up — and, happily, an improved budget. Again the initial run of hard copies sold out rapidly and BBC Radio Wales started picking up on the band. Joe was all set to officially manage the duo when sadly he passed away, tragically young.
O’Neil’s passing led to a period of soul searching for the band, seeking advice from musician friend and venerable guitarist Elliott Randall (Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers), who encouraged them to keep going independently and to self-manage.
In 2011 the duo finally decided it was time to record their debut album “Somewhere in The City,” pulling in friend and recording engineer, Lee Goodall (Van Morrison), and Llion Robertson (The Gentle Good) to mix it. The album immediately started picking up radio playlist inclusions from BBC Radio Wales, and by the following year their final single release from the album “Cigar Store Indian” (the duo’s ode to the old wooden carvings seen scattered across America), was finding fans on BBC 6 Music and Radio 2, resulting in a flurry of sessions and plays across both networks.
Support has followed from 6 Music’s Radcliffe and Maconie, Lauren Laverne, Steve Lamacq, and their single “Buffalo Crow” featured in Don Letts’ “Favourite Songs Of 2012” show. Laverne featured the band in a live session on her show last year, causing the flood gates to open with calls from labels, booking agents and publishers. Their performance on Lauren’s show was later named as one of “6 Music’s Best Bits Of 2012.”
Aside from their success at radio, Zervas & Pepper have performed live with the likes of Judy Collins, The High Llamas, The Webb Sisters, Lindi Ortega and shared festival stages with Fleet Foxes, Iron & Wine, Michael Kiwanuka and Ben Howard. Z&P can also be found as guest vocalists for recent album releases for Martin Carr (Boo Radleys) and Christian Webb (The Webb Brothers-Jimmy Webb)
Summer 2013 will see the band perform at Green Man Festival (Main Stage), Deer Shed Festival (Main Stage), Glastonbury Festival (Croissant Neuf Stage), Gold Coast Oceanfest (Main Stage) Cornucopia Festival (Acoustic Stage) and Crossiant Neuf's Summer Party Festival (Main stage) .
With the imminent release of their next full-length album “Lifebringer”,” 2013 is already proving to be a ground-breaking year for Zervas & Pepper.