Scoot! Quarterly

 Though its actual origins can be traced to the urban jungles of Southern California, Hepcat ultimately resides in its own Utopian universe. Indeed, anyone who watched the nine-piece band perform on the 1997 Warped Tour will attest to the group's cross-cultural appeal. Skatepunks, swingers, gangstas, rude boys, and mods are among the folks who unite to savor the band's sunny Caribbean melodies, soulful harmonies, and swing-infected rhythms.

Hepcat was formed in 1989 by Greg Lee and Deston Berry, two unassuming reggae aficionados with modest aspirations. "We had no goal of being a pro, gigging band," Lee explains. "As far as I was concerned, I just wanted to play one show. But eventually it just snowballed and kept going." Before long, Hepcat had become an entity unto itself; a living, breathing musical lifeform that just wouldn't quit. Various musicians were welcomed into the lineup, each contributing something distinctive to the band's sound. Lee and Berry brought their reggae influences as did Dave Fuentes and Scott Abels. Alex Desert brought a soulful touch to the band's vocals, which contrasted beautifully with Lee's more Caribbean feel. Aaron Owens was well-versed in R&B, blues, and jazz, while Kincaid Smith and Raul Talavera contributed a swing/bebop perspective, and finally Efren Santana was raised on funk, punk, and jazz.

As the Hepcat sound evolved, word-of-mouth spread with viral efficiency and the band's performances began attracting a more diverse audience. "There are a lot of different people who show up at our gigs," says Santana, "You'll see a bunch of rude boys, a bunch of skater kids...and more mature people. It's cool how everyone can enjoy it at the same time."

Their independently-produced debut album, Out of Nowhere, was released in 1993, while the 1996 album, Scientific (BYO), drew even more critical praise and fan worship. Tours of the US, Canada, and Europe solidified Hepcat's favorable reputation on the international reggae scene. Their third album, Right on Time, was released January 20, 1998 (Hellcat) and is bursting with 13 tracks of traditional Hepcat music. In this age of cookie-cutter alternative pop, the album is a most timely and welcome arrival.

Hepcat has been a part of the scooter scene from their beginning. San Diego scooterists would routinely make the trip to LA to see their shows. Hepcat played at an SF Bay Area scooter rally years ago with the Loved Ones (now the Kinetics, see Page 47) and vocalist Lee has been riding scooters "forever." He remembers fondly the days when the Southern California scooterists would ride to Northern California rallies in a big pack. We hope to see them play at a scooter event in the near future!