An Interview with Jay Pepito of Reign Supreme

After last Sunday’s show at the Kathedral, I interviewed Jay, the vocalist from Reign Supreme. He was an incredibly nice guy and had a lot to say about almost everything I asked him. Reign Supreme will be back later this summer. Be sure to check out their latest effort, “American Violence”, on Deathwish. All photos to the credit of Pat Moore.

SITC: Who are you? What do you do? Why do you do it?

Jay: My name’s Jay Pepito. I sing for the hardcore band Reign Supreme based out of the Philadelphia metro region and I do it because it’s the only thing that’s every made me really happy in life and I guess that’s as good a reason as any.

SITC: So how did Reign Supreme start up and what were you doing musically between Blacklisted and Reign Supreme?

Jay: Reign Supreme started off basically… I guess I had a really good job, I was going to school full time and I was making a lot of money, I had an awesome apartment and a girlfriend I lived with and all this stuff and I just wasn’t that happy with it. I don’t know what is wrong with me to the point where only doing shit like this makes me happy, but for some reason I just felt empty. So I ended meeting up with a couple friends. We started jamming out on these songs I had and had originally intend for them to be Blacklisted songs but obviously I wasn’t in the band anymore so they didn’t get used for that. We ended up jamming, recorded a demo and the response was overwhelming. We decided shortly thereafter that we were just gonna start touring and try to make as hard a go at it as we can. At that point a couple members decided they didn’t want to tour so we filled in the spots. Lo and behold, about a year and a half later, you have Reign Supreme now.

SITC: That’s funny, because listening to the earlier Reign Supreme stuff it felt… after “Our Youth is Wasted,” that could’ve been the direction that Blacklisted went in.

Jay: Definitely. That was the intention. Off of the American Violence EP alone, “I Stand Defiant,” “Still Unbroken” and “Faithless” were all intended to be Blacklisted songs. Obviously, four and a half years later, whatever it is, I’ve pretty much re-wrote them so they sound nothing like how they did at the time. But a lot of the riffs are the same so, it definitely could’ve been a continuation of the “Our Youth is Wasted” EP and the split with First Blood, that kind of style that I was trying to write. But I think it’s a lot heavier, it’s a lot more mature. I’ve listened to some of that stuff that we wrote before. I’m not as happy with it, I feel we should’ve arranged it a little bit differently and stuff like that. But I’m pretty happy with the stuff we’re doing now. Obviously in five years I’m going to listen to “American Violence” and thing it sucks, but what’re you gonna do.

SITC: Now, I’ve never heard the full story so… Why did you leave Blacklisted and what’s the story behind that?

Jay: Basically… I’ll probably blur the details because it’s been so long and honestly I haven’t really… I don’t really care about it that much so I haven’t tried to keep it that fresh in my mind. Basically what happened was we were playing a lot of shows and I know that we started off wanting to be a full-time band and circumstances being what they are… Tim, who was our bass player at the time was married… we were just having a hard time goin’ at it and then there was this constant pull between me and George, butting heads, you know, about different ideas and after a while it just got… I got into college and I wanted to go to school and I didn’t want to tour that much and they wanted to tour all the time and between that and tension between us as friends… It just led to me not being in the band anymore. It was like they were better off to go do their thing without me and that’s all well and good. I ended up moving in with my girlfriend, getting an education, making some money, getting tattooed and seeing the world a little bit. So it ended up being mutually beneficial because now they because now they’ve blossomed into their own sound and they’re doing their own thing which is completely different from what I would’ve done had I been in the band and I’m doing my own thing now too. It’s cool. We’ve played a couple shows together, there’s definitely not… we’re not like best friends but I don’t think there’s any hostility between us, we’re pretty amicable and I think that they’re doin’ a lot and we’re doin’ a lot. It’s pretty cool that we can go at it now.

SITC: So then, how does being from Philadelphia, not just the scene but the city itself, influence Reign Supreme… influences your lyrics, influences the type of music you’re playing even?

Jay: To clarify that, I’m not from Philadelphia. In fact, no one from Reign Supreme is actually from a Philadelphia zip code. I grew up at the Jersey Shore about a half hour south of New York City. Everyone else kind of grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Joe lives five minutes over the bridge in Jersey and everyone else lives within a 15-20 minute drive of the city. But I think that in a lot of ways we are kind of from Philadelphia in that… I’ve lived there since I was 19 and I’m 25 now. We’ve grown up around there. That’s where our hardcore experience would be based off of. I would say that growing up and going to shows a lot, you got to see a really violent hardcore scene. Which is good in a lot of ways and bad in a lot of ways because it kind of taught me that you earn respect and I think a lot of kids tend to come into the hardcore scene, especially now with the internet and all that, at age 15 and they’re gone by 17 or 18. They’re fuckin over it and they’re into Say Anything and girl pants. That’s all well and good. That’s cool if that’s your thing. It just sucks that there’s such a short turn around. When I got into hardcore in Philadelphia, there was no short turn around because you kind of had to earn your spot in the first place. I think that was cool. I’d say I love Philadelphia. I could definitely see myself living there, raising my family there and all that kind of shit but at the same time, just like the same reason I started Reign Supreme, I’m kind of a wanderer. My new thing since we’ve been touring Canada is that I want to live in Montreal for a couple years. I love it there. I don’t know. We’ll see what happens. I would say Philadelphia influences us more as people than as a band really, but mostly in good ways. I guess we don’t take our status or our friendships for granted. We definitely cherish that shit and I guess a lot of people from Philadelphia feel that way.

SITC: So you were saying Philadelphia is violent or… it is, it was… it’s kind of notorious to a degree. On stage it seemed like there were a couple times where you were pushing for people to get crazy… I think you even said, “get violent.” Where does that come from?

Jay: I’ve always felt like… I’m gonna say this in two parts. 1) Philadelphia used to be a very violent city. There used to be crazy shit at every show. It was just insane. Bands would get beat up, vans would get trashed, their equipment broken. People getting beat up for almost nothing. It was really crazy until hardcore kids started to realize that we were, not me specifically cause I didn’t really have anything to do with a lot of that, but… Kids were destroying the scene just by… bands wouldn’t want to come through, you couldn’t get venues just cause there would be fights and destruction all the time. So it’s cleaned up a lot. In the last couple years it’s been pretty safe and pretty awesome. It’s definitely rebuilding and it’s in a really good phase. That’s mostly because a couple people took a leadership stance and that’s really awesome. Definitely kudos to those people for sure. I will say that I encourage violence in a sort of release, kind of, almost like a spiritual way… it’s hard to explain. When you’re at a hardcore show, I think that’s a safe and acceptable outlet to fucking lose your mind. If you’ve ever seen me mosh at a show, you know that I mosh like I’m fighting Satan. I try to mosh as hard as I can, cause it’s sort of lik exercising all the demons and just getting it out there and I encourage that. That’s a big thing that I’m always on stage saying, “american violence,” or “lose your fuckin’ minds” or “destroy everyone around you,” whatever the fuck stupid mosh calls I’m making. I’m saying it because I feel we’re in a family community sort of area where it’s safe to express yourself in a violent way and lose your mind out there, go absolutely crazy in the pit. If you’re fuckin’ moshing and someone bumps into you, don’t be a dick and try and knock them out. I’m saying you should go nuts and have fun. That’s really the whole point of it. I think hardcore has always been, and always will be and always should be a violent form of self-expression. We definitely encourage that. I do have to say though, I don’t encourage fighting at shows. I think it fucking sucks. It ruins shows and it’s fuckin’ lame. And most people who fight at shows have no idea how to fight in the first place so it’s usually pretty pathetic and corny to watch. And your average tough guy “wigger” whatever lame fuckin nerd from small-town America is jsut a pussy in disguise anyways so they shouldn’t be fighting at shows. Like Death Threat said… what is it… something about, “standing in the front, cry if you do, you’re nothing but a cunt… whatever,” yeah. Have fun, go fuckin’ nuts, lose your mind but do it with a positive outlook and a positive attitude towards everyone in the space with you. That’s kind of what we’re getting at.

SITC: It’s all channeling Raybeez.

Jay: Yeah, exactly. It’s all about losing your mind but doing it in a positive way around the people around you.

SITC: Now the title of the 7″, “American Violence.” That can mean so many things. You could look at it on a political level, you could like at it on a municipal level, some American cities, like you said about Philadelphia, are notorious for being fucked up towns and to some degrees those elements are still there… Where does that title come from and why apply it to this record? What makes that record “American Violence”?

Jay: To be honest with you, even though it’s sort of a self-aggrandizing way of saying it: My favourite hardcore record of all time… bottom line my favourite record of all-time is “Age of Quarrel” by the Cro-Mags. It’s influenced me more than any other record… any other band other except for Madball… I fuckin love that band so much. Um… the Cro-Mags wrote “Age of Quarrel” and I think it was sort of a commentary on what was going on in the world around them. Growing up in New York, in the late 70s, playing shows, having to do all sorts of crazy shit all the fuckin’ time. They were living in an Age of Quarrel. That’s what it was like for them. I feel like growing up in America in the time I did, growing up goin to shows and all that kind of stuff… we’re living in an age of American Violence. That characterizes every notion. You look around at the newspapers… all it is is like “Iran’s getting troops deployed,” “Iraq’s getting troops deployed,” “2000 more American’s dead in Iraq because one of those sneak-attack grenades went off.” It’s sort of a commentary of what’s going on in the world around us. Just kind of how fucked up and violent the world is and how shitty it is that we don’t treasure human life and human existence. It’s sort of a commentary on that. And then it’s sort of a double entendre in that, American Violence was written to be a very simple, very hard hitting hardcore record. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s sort of commentary on the idea of hardcore being a very violent form of expression and violent form of music. Obviously, anyone who’s seen us live knows that we try to bring that intensity every single time. I think a lot of people think of us as being a pretty intense, pretty violent and passionate band live. Those things have a lot to do with each other, I think, violence and passion… Like I said, it’s really about looking at things with a positive attitude. If you go in the pit and you’re trying to mosh and be a dick because you wanna prove yourself, you’ve got a big ego, that’s a fuckin problem. But if you go in there to lose your mind and forget about the real word and just have fun with it, that’s a great thing. That’s kind of what “American Violence” is talking about. Also because hardcore is basically born in America. That’s another thing… It’s all sort of this way of characterizing what we’re doing with hardcore and the age we’re doing it in, I want to try to capture it. I try to write every record that we do as sort of a classic in its own right and I know that’s kind of pretentious or whatever. But I hope that in 10-15 years, kids will look back at Reign Supreme and not think that we were just another bunch of dickheads just trying to hang out adn do dumb shit. I’d like to think that they would look at our records and think, “wow this is a band that wasn’t afraid to do something a little bit different and actually gave a shit about writing good music and really losing their minds every time they played.”

SITC: Awesome. So, when can we expect an LP?

Jay: I’d say, probably spring of this year. I don’t know for sure. Some of you may have looked on the internet and saw a “leaked” demo version of “American Violence.” That’s not a demo version of the record. What it is was a demo that we recorded before we did the EP so some songs from American Violence are on there as well as a couple other songs that we just recorded to see how they would sound. Right now we’re actually in the studio again doing another demo which will probably find its way on to the internet although I hope it won’t. I’ll be a little more careful about it this time. The LP, in so far as what we’re writing right now, is gonna be 14 songs plus a cover. It’s gonna be out on Malfunction Records, hopefully next spring. We’re gonna try to hunker down and get it done this winter, maybe December or January, depending on touring and what’s going on in our lives at that point.

SITC: So, anyone/anything you wanna shout out?

Jay: I could go on for days with this question for days with this question because I know so many people in hardcore now, and I seriously love and care about so many people who are probably gonna read this. You know who you are. And if I don’t know you, I’d like to get to know you. Reign Supreme would like to get to know you. That’s one thing I’d like more people to know about us is that, as far as guys go, we’re a pretty friendly and pretty open and loving bunch of guys. We try to always get the show to come hang out with us and eat and all that bullshit. Get to know us after the show. That’s why we do this, because we actually care about the people who are coming out, because we actually just love to do it and its fun for us. If you’re reading this and you like our band a lot, don’t be afraid to come up and say “I really like your band.” None of us are gonna laugh at you or be dicks or anything like that. We think it’s awesome and we want to get to know you and we want to hang out and rage and experience American Violence together. So come out, support, hang out and have fun.


1 Response to “An Interview with Jay Pepito of Reign Supreme”

  1. 1 WORLD MOVES FAST » Blog Archive » REIGN SUPREME INTERVIEW. Trackback on May 30, 2008 at 12:54 pm

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