REIGN SUPREME’S JAY PEPITO: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
If you’re a fan of metallic hardcore and you’ve yet to catch a Reign Supreme show, you’ve been missing the fuck out, buddy. Frontman Jay Pepito, tattooed and brawny, stalks the stage with a startling amount of energy rivaled only by that of the band’s passionate fans. And boy, are those dudes into it. It’s actually pretty impressive given that Reign Supreme only just released its full-length debut Testing The Limits Of Infinite last year. Signed to Converge vocalist Jacob Bannon’s Deathwish Inc. label, the group have previously built a reputation based on a limited number of short form releases and, as I said before, one hell of a live show.
As I recounted in a review of a recent Killing Time show, Pepito knocked out an unruly attendee during Reign Supreme’s opening set. So naturally, given the opportunity to chat with him mere hours before they were to play this year’s New England Metal/Hardcore Festival, my quasi-journo music blogger integrity compelled me to ask about that incident at the outset. Check out his response below.
Last time I saw you was when you guys played that Killing Time show at Knitting Factory. Kind of an eventful gig, right?
I’d been hurt for awhile. I’m an athlete, that’s what I do. I make my living training other athletes. All kinds of stuff that involves human movement, so it’s important to me to stay healthy. I had [torn] my rotator cuff and agreed to play the show anyway. I’d been through rehab, but agreed to play anyway because it’s fucking Killing Time. Who’s gonna say no to that? Now, I don’t mind hardcore kids jumping on me. I’m used to it at this point. I’m 5’6″, 155 pounds, I’m used to it. So, I see this kid. As soon as he gets up front, he starts mushmouthing the words to the songs. So he fucking doesn’t know who we are. I just can smell pure booze on this kid, and he’s jumping around a lot. Obnoxiously too, not in like a friendly “I really like your band and I’m psyched” kind of way. but in a stupid “I’m a hardass” kind of way. And he ends up hitting me in the face. And it was just a reaction, man. I hit him as hard as I could and that was it. A minute later, after I cooled off, I was really embarrassed that I lost my temper like that… I wasn’t trying to ruin the show or start a fight or anything. Sometimes, you put in a variable and a reaction happens. It sucks, you know, because we’re not a violent bunch of guys or even a tough bunch of guys at all. He was wasted, hit me in the face, and I cracked him because I was pissed. I’ve been getting made fun for it a lot.
Well, it was a really good set. I remember you warning the guy too. Then after it happened, you apologized at every opportunity you could get. At least for me, I was like “Don’t apologize! You don’t need to apologize!” It didn’t ruin the night. It wasn’t like the rest of the bands were all, “Oh, Reign Supreme didn’t do a good job.”
That’s totally true, but at the same time, anybody in hardcore who’s in some sort of position of–I don’t want to say authority or power, because that’s definitely not the term. There are 16 year old kids who look up to me, you know? I don’t mean that in a self-righteous way. When I was 16, I looked up to a lot of bands. I know that there are kids that are listening to our lyrics and think that we’re important. For some of these kids, I’m like a role model, and I don’t want them thinking that I’m some dude that thinks it’s okay to just punch people in the face. Because it’s not the way to handle problems in life. It’s embarrassing that I brought that element to a hardcore show. I should’ve tried to be the bigger man… At this point in time, what am I supposed to do? I’m not going to apologize to the kid. He hit me and he was drunk.
As the vocalist in the band, you’re the focal point. Do you enjoy being that center of attention or is it kind of a Henry Rollins bumout?
[laughs] You know, it depends. It’s both. In all honesty, it usually depends on how tired I am. If I’m really awake and alive, I feel like I have all this positive energy and I can really contribute to the show and make these kids in, like, Oklahoma have some life-changing experience on a Thursday night–because they experienced the positivity and the feelgood aspects of going to a hardcore show and unleashing hell. But sometimes when I feel like shit or I’m sick or something, it sucks because I feel like I have to put on a front and I don’t like being fake either. At the end of the day, obviously it’s an honor and a privilege. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s really special, and I appreciate that every day, provided I can bitch and whine about it when I have a stomach ache.
So how has the reaction been to Testing The Limits Of Infinite? I will say as someone who’s pretty familiar with the record, it doesn’t sound like the debut full-length from a band.
At the end of the day, what is comes down to is I’m pushing 28. The other guys in the band are about my age. We’re not “spring chickens”. We’re not 19 year old hardcore kids whose band got a little bit of hype on the Bridge Nine board and we started touring and got to be a Sound And Fury headliner. It’s not like that for us. We’ve been playing music for years, and if it wasn’t hardcore, it was other bands. We all do side projects that are not hardcore related. I have an acoustic guitar and I write these super bad folk songs that my girlfriend has the displeasure of hearing in our living room. So for us, the record is what it is. I’m not gonna lie. I think it’s a great record. I love it. I’m really really happy with the way it came out. Looking back, there are a couple things I’d change. I probably put “Iscariot” [off the American Violence EP] on there. I’d take off maybe one or two songs that don’t really fit the band at this point. But it was our first record, even if it sounds like it was reaching a little bit. That’s fine with me.
When we started this band, we wanted to be accessible and that’s why American Violence and the demo are straight-up brutal hardcore. Testing… got a little more metal, a little more melodic too. The new stuff we’re writing just has a completely different vibe to it. If people aren’t as into it because they think it’s weird compared to the EP–yeah, we kinda expected that. It’s okay. If you don’t like our band, we’re not going to get all butthurt about it. We like it a lot and we like playing those songs a lot. And we’ll write new stuff and we’ll like it and if you don’t like it, that’s cool too.
So when do you think we’re going to get a new Reign Supreme record?
We’ve been talking about it a lot recently. I won’t go into any details, but we have a couple of things on the horizon. We’ve written a couple of songs. One of them is going to be on a split with a couple other bands who I can’t name yet. Another couple of those songs is going to be [on] a 7″ that we’re going to put out. We don’t know if it’s going to come out any time soon. We haven’t even told Deathwish about it. So if you’re reading this, [Deathwish co-founder] Tre [McCarthy], surprise! We are auditioning a second guitar player soon. I can’t tell you who he is, but he started one of the biggest bands in punk rock, and his old hardcore band is one of my favorite bands. It’s an absolute honor. He likes Reign Supreme a lot and I like his band a lot, so it could turn into a really cool thing. If he joins the band, I’m certain we’ll have a new LP out and start recording it a year from now or so. He’s gotta move here to be a part of it. We’ll start writing with him right away and I assure you it will be the heaviest stuff we’ve done.
What’s it been like for you on Deathwish? How has that experience been?
It’s been good overall. I mean, there’s a couple things I could complain about just like with any label, but overall they do a good job… They’re fun guys. Jake [Bannon] is in one of my favorite bands. Tre is a really cool dude. I love that I can call him up out of nowhere and shoot the shit for two hours on the phone. It’s a good thing for us.
Reign Supreme’s Testing The Limits Of Infinite is out now on Deathwish Inc.