We recently caught up with Reign Supreme vocalist and founder Jay Pepito for an in depth, exclusive interview, as Philly’s metallic hardcore mainstays prepare to release new E.P. Sky Burial, on Mediaskare Records March 19th. Sky Burial marks Reign Supreme’s first release since having parted ways with longtime record label Deathwish Inc., who released 2009’s Testing The Limits of Infinite and previous RS works.
In this exclusive interview, Pepito brings Blow The Scene readers up to speed on the forthcoming release and the new sonic direction of the band, the decision to leave Deathwish Inc., personal life, band picks, plans for the future, and much more.
Without further ado, let’s hear from Jay!
Joshua BTS: Greetings! Thank you for taking a few minutes with Blow The Scene readers from around the world. Let’s kick off this interview by having you introduce yourself and your musical weapon of choice with Philadelphia’s hardcore mainstays, Reign Supreme.
Jay Pepito: My name is Jay Pepito, and I sing for Reign Supreme. I also write a large percentage of our music, and sometimes play stringed instruments on our records.
Joshua BTS: You have a new E.P., Sky Burial, about to drop on Mediaskare Records on March 19th. Get us up to speed on the recording. When did the writing process start? What does the writing process look like for Reign Supreme? Get us up to speed on the current line-up as well.
Jay Pepito: We started writing this one about two years ago, spring of 2011. It was a difficult process finishing the record, but it honestly took only a few weeks to get the bulk of the writing done. It just kind of came together. We started writing with our old drummer Joe, and then finished the writing with our new drummer Randall, so a few things shifted. The lineup is the same as always, Me, Dave, Klint, and Mikey, and our new drummer Randall, who moved here from Boston to play in our band. He is a sensual R&B singer, and enormous fan of desserts.
Joshua BTS: I know you’ve mentioned you’ve been wanting to branch out sonically from some of your earlier work- Are you happy with the final result of Sky Burial? And is the sonic direction RS is headed in?
Jay Pepito: Absolutely. When people hear it, they’ll see the differences. Our old stuff was very one-dimensional, accessible hardcore. Then Testing…. came out, and there was a bit of originality to it and some musical honesty. With Sky Burial, we’ve completely abandoned our conventional way of doing things, and started just playing what makes us happy. With that said, it’s not 100% different, because it’s the first attempt at doing something like this, but we are happy with it. I think the first track, “It Feels Like a Thousand Years” is my favorite song I’ve ever written. It’s really refreshing to be able to put something out that you feel like is different from what others are doing. I’d say it’s kind of in the vein of a Converge or Trap Them type of band, with definite Mastodon/Neurosis influence, some Deftones/Explosions in the Sky type stuff, and a lot of heavy riffing.
Joshua BTS: What are some of the lyrical motifs you touch on in the record and how does the album title correlate with these motifs?
Jay Pepito: Same stuff as always, being disillusioned and fed up with the world we live in. Not understanding your place, and wondering if there is something better out there. There is a song on there about marriage equality, which is a new thing for us, to have a political stance on something. That’s kind of cool I guess, and we got Colohan to sing on that one, so that’s pretty rad.
Joshua BTS: This is your first release post-Deathwish Inc. How did you come link up with Mediaskare and how has the experience been thus far?
Jay Pepito: It was a really seamless transition; we were thinking it was time to make a move, and we had just wrapped up some touring with the Ghost Inside (who were on Mediaskare at the time) and Betrayal. They really loved being on the label, so we hit them up and asked if they were into us, and they of course did the whole, “yeah absolutely we love you guys, but we don’t want to step on Deathwish’s toes” thing. So we sort of amicably agreed to separate and moved to Mediaskare. Things are still cool with those guys, Tre and I regularly tweet dumb stuff at each other and Jake sings for one of my favorite bands ever. So far, it has been an incredible experience for us, they’ve had our backs with a lot of things that we’ve needed, and always prioritized promoting us and getting us out there. I think we’ll probably be working with them for a while to come.
Jay Pepito: Scott Wade, the first singer of Comeback Kid, who also sang on the new song “Heartsick” did the artwork. I had the basic ideas, and he put it together, and did an outstanding job. My favorite part is the CD artwork itself, it’s this awesome mandala type thing. Really cool imagery that goes with the ideas in Sky Burial about the afterlife and what we’re doing in this realm.
Joshua BTS: Reign Supreme is often thought of as a staple modern hardcore band, but I know your tastes are somewhat varied. Who is exciting you these days? And we’ll touch on the local scene in a few..
Jay Pepito: Yeah, people always say that, but we are really nothing like Suburban Scum, Backtrack, Rude Awakening, Terror, Trapped Under Ice, or any of the other stuff that kids these days are really into. The closest thing to us might be something like Incendiary, who are awesome by the way, because they’ve got a bit more of a 90’s metalcore vibe, and that’s something we definitely have a little bit of. I dig a lot of stuff out right now, but my favorites are Hollow Earth, Run with the Hunted, Shai Hulud, Hoax, No Tolerance, and I really like OFF!
Jay Pepito: I am definitely getting outside of my comfort zone. I’m getting married in June, so I want to look good. Usually, I’m more interested in building horsepower or strength, but now I need to look like I work out. So I’ll be doing frequent but very low intensity system runs, doing easy lifts 3x-5x a week and heavy lifts 2x a week. As always, keeping up with basic combat martial arts and mobility stuff. Nothing too crazy, but I’ll have no totally off days which is a change.
Joshua BTS: No doubt you have a lot of hardcore heads looking to trade workout tips. Some opinionated folk. What are some of the most common mistakes you see people make in the gym?
Jay Pepito: The biggest mistake I see is this idea that something has to be the ‘ideal’ or ‘best’. When it comes to training, more is not better, bigger is not better, only better is better. The idea is this: do what is appropriate for the goal, client, and that point in training. No more, no less. The best advice I can give you is to take your health and fitness seriously, because you only have one life/body, and you can’t go through life like it doesn’t matter. That’s no way to live.
Joshua BTS: I know Reign Supreme has an eclectic cast of individuals, some vegans and straightedgers in the mix. Many of you also work full-time gigs which is more and more common amongst artists these days. Do you feel like you challenge one another with different views and approaches to life? Having been a band for over 7 years, it would seem you’ve found some common ground.
We all love/hate each other. haha. I hate Klint’s veganism, he hates that I love meat. I hate Esun’s tendency to mope, Klint hates his love of nu-metal. We all hate Dave’s wardrobe, he hates all of us for being non-diabetic. We hate Randall’s ipod, he hates when he’s not eating chocolate cake. But we make it work. We love each other. We have a great time when we hang out, and we love the music we’re making now. That’s all that matters.
Jay Pepito: I don’t know if it’s actually going to happen, but our label just gave us the go ahead to do a double-LP. My idea is to do one that’s very fast and aggressive, and one that’s prettier and more experimental with more guest musicians. Who knows?
Joshua BTS: Philly has quite the blossoming scene right now. Any up-and-comers have your ear?
Jay Pepito: Swarm of Arrows is my jam. Love those guys.
Joshua BTS: And I had to throw on in- Getting married this year. Congrats! How does that feel? If we broke out the Donnie Darko scale of love or fear. Which side is winning right now?
Definitely love, my soon-to-be wife is amazing. She is great, super supportive, and not too hard on the eyes. She’s also great at baking, which is important, because with all the training I do, I might end up ripped if it wasn’t for her. She’s the best thing that ever happened to me, and I’m grateful every day that I met her.
Joshua BTS: What does Reign Supreme have coming down the pipeline in 2013?
Jay Pepito: Right now, we are planning a japan/australia tour for this summer, and we are playing a festival on the west coast as well. Other than that, writing a follow-up LP/2XLP to Sky Burial.
Joshua BTS: We really appreciate you taking a few minutes with Blow The Scene readers from around the world as we look forward to touching base soon! Any final thoughts?
Jay Pepito: Live with fire.
Interview by BTS Editor in Chief, Joshua T Cohen
Photos by BTS Photographer Anne Spina