JOSEPH PEPPER (Cartel)

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Cartel, of Atlanta, Georgia, is a pop punk band with an illustrious ten-year career. The band has traveled the world performing for audiences and has recently released a new album, their fourth full-length (“Collider” on iTunes) to rave reviews. I had the privilege to speak with their lead guitarist Joseph Pepper who has been with them since the beginning, about life and times within the band; enjoy our interview below! >>>

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You all have accomplished some incredible achievements as a band; did you ever think growing up that this is what you would be doing on a daily basis?

“I always knew I would play guitar in a touring band someday, but Cartel has accomplished more than I ever imagined. I never thought I’d ever tour in a bus or play all of Warped Tour. I never thought kids would get tattoos of Cartel lyrics. I never thought my music would influence other bands. The past 10 years has exceeded any youthful expectation.”

Other than your hometown, what are a few of your favorite places to play?

“This is a hard one. My favorite shows are the ones where the crowd sings along or moves around, and that can happen anywhere. My favorite places to play are usually the ones where the venue is awesome and the surrounding area is interesting. Chicago is a city I enjoy a lot, and Japan is always wonderful.”

Touring and playing live can be draining in many ways, both mentally and physically; how are you (and other band members) able to sustain energy night-after-night to perform to your best ability?

“Red Bull (just kidding). No matter how we feel, everything changes as soon as we hit the first note in the set. A shot of whiskey usually helps (not kidding).”

What was the Band in a Bubble experience like back in 2007 in New York City?

“That sh*t was surreal; you can still watch some of the behind the scenes episodes on YouTube.”

You all have played in some incredible locations around the world. Could you describe a few of your favorite experiences?

“Last year, we did a short tour of US Navy bases around the world. We got to ride in a C130 and hang out in Greece, Spain, Guantanamo Bay, and Italy. I drank tropical drinks on the beach of Crete. We went to Pompeii and saw the ruins. These are things I could never do on a normal club tour.”

How have the band’s goals (and your personal goals) changed over the duration of your time with Cartel?

“Now that we’re older, we have more financial responsibilities to consider. Our goal these days is to make enough money to keep Cartel alive as well as ourselves, which is harder now since people don’t buy records.”

What have been the most important lessons that you’ve learned through your time with the band?

“There are two things I’ve learned in the past few years: I am always right. There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap.”

You all have said “Collider” was the most honest look into the life of the band since your first release “Chroma”; what has this most recent album meant to you personally, and to the band’s overall growth?

“After losing our third record label, we were lost. We were all used to the “suit and tie” guys making decisions for us and none of us knew what to do next. After a long time of sitting at home, Will and I started talking about releasing some songs that didn’t make it onto “Cycles”. We didn’t have any money to go into a studio, so we did it on our own with a few microphones and Will’s Pro Tools rig. If kids aren’t spending money to buy our records, then I’m not spending money to make it sound amazing. We did five songs and released them digitally, and the response was overwhelming. I didn’t think people would care as much as they did. We pressed physical copies and then did a few tours. With the money generated from that, we started to budget for a full length. The songs came fast; we just wrote whatever we wanted. It’s a lot easier to write a good album when you don’t have a 50 year old man telling you how to write a hit single. In that respect, the writing process was more like “Chroma” than our other albums.

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