Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Anchorage’s Pepper Kit. Together we discussed their songwriting process, opening for Frank Turner, their EP “Stranger”, and so much more!
1. Mustard is thankful to have you join them at Music Shelf. How are you doing today?
Very good! Thank you so much for having me. Currently, I’m winding down for the night and getting ready to start season 2 of The Boys.
2. What was your relationship with music growing up? What artist or band do you remember first connecting with? Do you still listen to them now?
I’ve always loved singing and will sing wherever I am, in the car, shower, etc. When the Little Mermaid came out when I was little it blew my mind and I sang Ariel’s song nonstop. I spent most of my time with music as a kid playing piano, but I never ended up really loving it. I mostly learned classical music so there was a disconnect between playing an instrument and singing.
3. You are from Alaska. What is something about Alaska humans (and condiments) may not know about? Where would you recommend a human visit?
Well technically I’m not from here but I have lived here for 13 years! I mean it’s probably worth saying that we don’t live in igloos. Anchorage, where I live, is pretty much a normal city except for the moose roaming the streets. That’s one of my favorite things about living here. Anchorage feels like a city but we are very close to nature, sandwiched between the mountains and the water.
Coming from the suburbs of California, I had no real knowledge of native communities and culture. Up here, Alaska Native culture is vibrant and celebrated in a way that I hadn’t experienced in the “lower 48,” as we call the rest of the US.
I would recommend any human (or condiment) visit Anchorage but also Juneau, Talkeetna, Homer, or Kodiak. And get ice cream at Wild Scoops.
4. During the pandemic you dusted off your ukulele and began songwriting. What inspired you to begin playing again?
My reentry into playing the uke and taking it seriously is directly tied to my favorite band, Frightened Rabbit. When the lead singer Scott Hutchison took his own life in May 2018, it floored me in a way I’ve never experienced. We’re close in age and I think the idea that his life was over put things in perspective for me. I had this very tangible feeling that life is so short, and I wanted to take that feeling and use it to push me to do something difficult (which for me was getting good at one instrument). So then that was pretty much the first step of many that got me to where I am now.
5. What is your songwriting process?
Every time I think I have one process, the next song I’ll switch things up! I used to write the melody first, and lately I’ve been writing lyrics first. My most recent holiday song “Not so Very Merry” came to me sort of all at once. Sometimes I’ll get stuck and use an online rhyming dictionary and thesaurus to help me out. Other times I’ll get a good chunk written and then I get stuck on the bridge! Bridges are my kryptonite. My best writing happens in the car. Something about driving makes my brain able to engage in writing lyrics.
Every song and all the lyrics I’ve written go on my notepad app on my phone. I’ve also learned I have to use voice memo or I’ll forget the melody the next day.
6. Who (or) what influences you?
Well I’m an empath so pretty much everyone I’m around! But I’ve found that it’s the terrible stuff of life that gives me the best songwriting fodder … like the time someone gossiped about me to someone else and then I found out about it. I wrote one of my favorite songs called “Middle School” right after. I hate that I’ve had these awful things happen but songwriting is my therapy!
My favorite bands change a lot, but I’ve got a mix of folk, indie, pop, and punk as my musical influences.
7. You pull out some Legos and build something crazy. What do you build?
8. Growing up is a difficult thing for humans to do. It makes human confront their mortality. Was this the inspiration behind your song “Grow Up?”
I definitely agree that growing up is difficult! This song is deeply personal for me. I was always told to “grow up” and act my age, and a lot of my adulthood has been rediscovering those things I loved as a kid that I thought I had to get rid of (yes, including legos). But I think that’s a lot of millennials’ experience as well. We’ve realized it’s okay if adulthood doesn’t look like what our parents told us it should be. We’re allowed to define it ourselves.
9. Can you recall when you first learned about opening for Frank Turner? What was that experience like?
I’ll never forget that moment. I had reached out to Frank to ask him to open for him months back, and then he responded and said to get back to him later. So when “later” rolled around I sent him and his agent another email, and woke up the next morning to a message from him saying, “Morning … got an Alaska show for you.” The whole experience is still so surreal. Frank’s music helped me so much after Scott’s death (from Frightened Rabbit) and both of them are a huge influence on my writing and my music. Even now, if I think about how I was able to sing my songs to a bunch of fellow Frank fans, that Frank listened to most of my set, and that he even knows I exist, my heart drops. I don’t think there’s any greater honor as a musician than to be able to play for one of your musical heroes.
10. Mustard has observed that humans are hesitant to talk to strangers. What potential threats do strangers posses? What are some signs a human could look out for?
It’s funny, the older I’ve gotten the shyer I’ve become. Maybe it’s because I know that strangers can be threatening, but I think sometimes that threat is in our heads too, the threat of opening ourselves up to someone and the energy it can take to build a relationship.
I think we’ve got to find the kind humans and stick close to them, but sometimes that’s easier said than done.
11. You weave your heart into your music and it shows on your EP “Stranger.” Could you share with us what it was like putting this EP together? What inspired the EP name?
Stranger was a fun EP to put together! All the thanks to my producers Brock Dittus and James Glaves who helped me take these songs from an acoustic vibe to a much fuller studio-quality sound. It took about 9 months to put all the songs together, not including writing them. I recorded a lot of it in my basement bedroom and then Brock and I sent files back and forth as we built up the song. I think “Stranger” was just the coolest name for a first EP as an emerging artist since I was sort of unknown before.
Fun fact, I got a “stranger” tattoo the day my EP came out. It was something I never dreamed I would do so I wanted to commemorate it.
12. Mustard loved how well-crafted and haunting the music video for your song “Not so Very Merry.” When did you come up with this concept? Did any films or shows inspire it?
Thank you so much! I met some awesome friends at the Frank Turner gig and we all put it together (they did all the filming and editing, etc). I wrote the script one night after watching the horror movie “Nope.” My family and I have been on a scary movie kick this last year so that’s definitely an inspiration. The plot definitely reminds me of the first scene of Scream with Drew Barrymore. I also have always wanted to create a music video where you find out something at the end that casts everything you just saw in a different light, like the music video for “Woodpile” by Frightened Rabbit.
13. What is next for Pepper Kit?
It’s really hard to top what I did this year so I’m not going to try to, but I am hoping to put out a lot more music, and more collaborations (my next song is a duet). I’m applying for a local grant and hoping to be able to use that to create more songs and music videos. That’s the whole part about being a musician for me, is just creating some really cool stuff that never existed before. Hopefully it makes people happy and helps brighten their own existence just a bit.
14. Where can readers listen to your music?
Everywhere! I’m on all the music platforms and my most recent music video is on YouTube.