While cruising the internet for information about the Gold Coast Festival in Croyde, Devon, I stumbled upon what I thought was a familiar name opening up the music on Saturday 20th June in the form of Zervas and Pepper. I thought that Zervas, not being the most common surname, might in fact be stand up paddle surfings Adam Zervas, however after my quick visit to myspace it became clear the it was singer songwriter Paul Zervas, who had teamed up with another singer songwriter Kath Pepper. Before I could move on to another website a sound reminisent of the 1970’s West Coast of California filled my room thanks the myspace player, and, in about 30 seconds I had ordered what turned out to be the very last copy of Zervas and Pepper’s first EP.
It arrived afew days later and my ears were treated to four beautifully crafted tracks that trickled honey coated lyrics and evening beach fires into the office. For me it is the perfect music to listen to after a surf on a summers day as the sun goes down and the stars come out, I thought that the sounds would appeal to other surfers so I decided to talk to Paul and Kath about how two songwriters from Cardiff, Wales, had managed to create and capture the sounds from almost four decades ago, from over 5,000 miles away, but give it an up to date feel.
Matt: So how did you guys sort of meet and start making music?
Pepper: Well it was probably quite a while ago now actually. Four or five years ago and we were playing in clubs separately. We were both solo artists and we would kind of mainly do covers, Neil Young and that kind of stuff. Both a similar repertoire and occasionally we’d throw in one of our own songs. We’d encourage each other to play our own songs as we both liked each other’s songs, we encouraged each other to stop going down the road of playing covers and start to put your own stuff out there. And then we started playing just little gigs here and there on the small circuit and then decided to properly go into a band.
Matt: You have a very unusual sound for a band from Cardiff, kind of from the west coast of America in the 1970s, where did those influences come from?
Pepper: Well, like I said when we met we could hear each other’s interests and music in each other. We both have the same loves for west coast music. Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Judee Sill. Those good singer song writers who are really evocative. Great melodies and harmonies. And we just clicked like that. We love all west coast music basically.
Zervas: Speaking for myself I was about 14 when I picked up on that kind of music. I heard it somewhere, can’t remember exactly where. And then I went out and got a guitar, learnt to play and started writing in that style I guess. And of course, being as we’ve gone over there. We’ve played a few gigs in California as well last year and it just goes down really well there. We love it over there; it was everything we thought of and more.
Matt: Where did you end up in California?
Zervas: Well mainly on the coastal area, we tried to work the gigs round there, we actually did a gig in Joshua Tree which went down really well and they were really nice people. Alot of the gigs we played were in Santa Cruz. It’s awesome there.
Matt: Definitely, you nailed the sound spot on. I got your first EP and I was listening to that, we were in California last year and it just reminded me of driving up and down the freeway to and from San Diego……
Pepper: All of our songs are about really getting away and mainly to California because we love it. We went out there and played some gigs out there last year and the year before. It was great we just set up a few gigs on MySpace and then we went out and just played to loads…just the surfers and stuff out there. They helped us get the gear together for gigs and stuff as we didn’t really have alot of stuff with us but they were really really kind and it was FAB we love California.
Matt: That sounds fantastic. So you’ve got the second EP just come out and you’ve been picking up alot of interest from that from radio and industry type folks?
Zervas: yeah we did a radio show for BBC Wales and it looks like they are going to start playing us on various different shows.
Matt: That’s great.
Zervas: And we’ve had sales picking up already. I mean its been…2/3 weeks ago and we are getting rid of a few that way. And certainly the MySpace is…our play count is not too bad every day. It’d pretty high you know? It all looks good you know.
Matt: So after you’ve played the Gold Coast Festival…Do you have any plans to go out and do more gigs or more recording…what’s next for you guys?
Zervas: The next step is to get out as much as we can in terms of gigging and stuff like that. We might even be looking at trying to get some gigs together in the States, that’s one thing. Though I think one of the main things we are going to do is try and get ourselves a manager or some sort of booking agent behind us. For the past year we’ve been looking at trying to get ourselves on support slots for bands doing UK tours who are in the same bag you know, the kind of 70’s California type thing. So I think that’s the next step. And of course then you are always writing songs and putting them to the band so we have got quite a large backlog of material. We are completely independent at the moment so we are putting everything out on our own, funding everything ourselves…..
Matt: Do you see yourselves going with the internet revolution and MySpace…do you see yourselves continuing to do it yourselves off your own backs, or do you see yourselves trying to get a deal and going down the record company route ?
Zervas: Umm it’s difficult, I think more so in the sense that it’s hard to get out of your locality. Round Cardiff we are really well known, we have a great turn out to our shows and of course in this area we play some of the really nice, better venues without any problem at all. It’s that branching out…We’ve done a couple of shows in London, they were good you know, we had a pretty good turnout and stuff like that but it’s trying to get to other parts of the country. That’s one of the reasons we are quite impressed that we are going down to the west you know and playing the Devon thing. It will just expose us to a different area and people. So I think it’s a good thing and I would quite happily go on doing it ourselves if the gigs came in and we thought we could reach a wider audience. At the moment it’s quite difficult to branch out if you’ve not been in the business of booking.
Matt: And how did the Gold Coast Festival come about?
Pepper: It was just by change, we slipped a demo through somebody who knew them, the guys that were putting it on and the guy said look you know don’t expect anything really as there are alot of entries. But they liked it obviously and said would we like to do it so we were really lucky. But I think they hear what you’re hearing, you know the West Coast feel. It is that sunny beachy kind of music that I think would work on the whole surf scene really.
Matt: And I guess you are pretty pleased being on the same bill as Jason Mraz and Newton Faulkner.
Pepper: Yes they are quite well known artists.
Matt: Well listen, thanks a lot for spending some time talking to me, that’s really good.
Zervas: No worries Matt, that’s fine.