Some musicians just sound like they have old souls. At a collective age of 21, you could say that about Harlan Pepper.
For one, singer and guitarist Dan Edmonds looks eerily like a young Bob Dylan. But more importantly, their music is crafted with a thoughtfulness and synchronicity that rings with a dedication to songwriting beyond their years.
The band is gearing up to release its new album in February — it’s called Take Out a $20 and Live Life to the Fullest. The title is a nod to the band’s current station in life — while the music is a tribute to classic rock, and a progression from their folk/rock roots.
'Regardless of your background, you can still have a rocking good time.' - Dan Edmonds, singer/guitarist
“We played a show in Toronto one night and after the show we were all sitting there — I think we had just turned 19,” Edmonds told CBC Hamilton. “We were all broke. And Marlon had $20 to his name in his bank account and he said, ‘Boys, I think I’m going to take out a $20 and live life to the fullest.’ And that’s sort of our philosophy.”
“It’s about being at this age — having no money, but still wanting to have a great time, and I think that’s what we try to pay in our music. Regardless of your background, you can still have a rocking good time.”
The band’s first record Young and Old was more of a low-key effort, full of low-fi folk and banjo. But since that album, the band discovered a love for classic rock like Steve Miller, The Rolling Stones and Leon Russell. That kind of influence changed their sound, says guitarist Jimmy Hayes.
Record produced by Juno winner Colin Linden
“It’s more raw and rocking,” Hayes told CBC Hamilton. “And we’ve got bigger amps now, so we can play louder,” he laughed.
The arrangements are simpler and more stripped down this time around. Whereas Edmonds often played keys in the past, this time the band focused on a two guitar sound — stemming from songwriting sessions undertaken by Hayes and Edmonds on nights after planting trees, the summer before recording the album.
It was produced by Juno award winning songwriter Colin Linden, whose credits include Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Bob Dylan, The Band and more. The band recorded the 11-song album in Nashville back in September of 2003 in Studio B on music row, which is now owned by Ben Folds.
“Going in there we had good vibes and good luck from all the amazing music that had been made there,” Edmonds said. “I don’t know what it brought out, but it brought out something. We felt more comfortable in this old studio with all those sounds that had come before us.”
Take Out a $20 and Live Life to the Fullest doesn’t have a firm release date just yet — but the band says fans can expect it by the end of February.
But anyone that wants to catch Harlan Pepper in the meantime can see them live at their residency at Toronto’s Cameron House at 408 Queen Street West, every Thursday in January in February. In the spring, the band plans to hit the road in Southern Ontario before heading out west for a string of shows.