Singer-songwriter PEBS (a.k.a. Jon Pebsworth) will independently release his debut album Sweet Surrender September 20. The album is a breathtakingly honest ten-song collection that sees Pebsworth confronting his inner demons and transforming them into a series of California-inspired folk songs that are as cathartic as they are catchy. The songs on Sweet Surrender tell a familiar tale of loss and woe--but one that is supplemented with underlying hope and innovative instrumentation.
Pebsworth (who’s had the nickname PEBS since first grade) has been a fixture in the thriving California punk scene for two decades with his band Buck-O-Nine, but PEBS’ debut recording is a collection of songs that explore a totally different side of the music spectrum. Sweet Surrender features everything from “November,” which has an alt-country twang with a chorus that anyone who has suffered heartbreak can indentify with, to “We Drove All Night,” about the years that Pebsworth logged on the road.
Sweet Surrender was produced and engineered by close friends James Achor (former guitarist for Royal Crown Revue) and Chris Heckman at their Exile On Mountain Street studio in Glendale, CA. While Pebsworth wrote, sang and played guitar on all of the songs on Sweet Surrender, the album also features contributions from Achor (pedal steel, banjo & electric guitar), Veikko Lepisto (Mike Ness, Royal Crown Revue) on bass, Mike Bolger on Hammond B3 & accordion, Chris Vargas on drums, and Mike Duffy on percussion. Guest backing vocalists Steve Soto (Adolescents) and singer-songwriter Cece Sherman help fill out the melodies and add a different dynamic to this diverse collection of songs.
“I’ve been working on these songs for awhile, but honestly it was never anything I planned on releasing,” Pebsworth explains. “I’ve always fiddled around on acoustic guitar, but once I started playing the demos of these songs for my friends they were the ones who really encouraged me to get out there and pursue this project.”
Ultimately, while Pebsworth conceptualized PEBS--who recently made their full-band debut at the Hotel Café in Hollywood--more as an outlet for himself than as a commercial project, the reaction he’s gotten to these songs has encouraged him to take the next step down a path he’s been exploring ever since he first picked up a microphone twenty years ago. “These songs have been collected over the past few years and they include all of the great points in life and the points that most people would want to forget,” he summarizes. “Nothing in here is made up; everything is about me and now it’s all out there for the world to hear.”
Pebsworth admits that the title track is a very emotional song. “I recently turned 40 and started evaluating my life and questioning whether I’m where I want to be. Things haven’t always turned out exactly as I expected, but in the end, I decided to try to focus on the positive, accept things as they are and keep going. Sometimes you have to give up on something you’ve worked hard for and move on with your life.”
He reveals that the poignant “What I Need Is A Friend” is basically “about being lonely.” “I’m from LA and went to college in San Diego. When I came back, LA felt like a lonely town. There are lots of traps you can fall into…drinking, drugs. This song is really about being able to find balance in all the craziness and trying to find a friend that can help you through it.”
On “We Drove All Night,” Pebsworth reflects on years of life on road with Buck-O-Nine, times that were “awesome, terrible, amazing and shitty.” He continues, “Now I look back on that time fondly; those were some of the best days of my life. The song is about remembering the incredible feeling that I had back then and also acknowledging that I took it for granted. I still love getting together to play Buck-O-Nine shows. Some guys golf with their friends, some have poker night, some have ski trips. My friends and I play shows together.”
PEBS is currently playing shows in the Southern California area, with plans in the works for a national tour later this year.
Here’s the track listing for Sweet Surrender:
What I Need Is A Friend
We Drove All Night
What About You
Next To Nothing
I Am The Disease
Lay Down Your Life