Acoustic guitars are gently picked and strummed while slowly waltzing around, intermittent percussive taps with all the wounded beauty of a deeply introspective narrative. In fact, the song ‘Lessons In Life’ by Pepe and The Bandits, is irresistible. Made entirely from soulful whispers, a fragile melody, fragments of an aching heart, and a purely optimistic soul. The song is a quiet triumph; a masterstroke of lilting, literate, impassioned and understated alternative-folk that sets the artist out as a mighty fine singer-songwriter.
“When the darkness falls. Sunshine ain’t far behind. Enjoy those happy moments. But be prepared for the grind. Times you’re in control. You got it all in hand. Then you’re on your own. But it never goes as planned. Nothing lasts forever not the good or bad. This won’t make you happy. But it shouldn’t make you sad,” recites Pepe and The Bandits, with reams of existential philosophy and world-weary imagery.
“Lessons in Life was written through a turbulent time, with my father very poorly in hospital, my son splitting up with his long term partner, and the sudden death of my wife’s uncle and all that wrapped up in the obvious COVID-19 pandemic restraints,” explains Pepe on describing the birth of the song.
A singer-songwriter from the UK, Pepe got his start when he discovered an old beat up guitar, while helping a friend to move. He restored and restrung it, before getting some lessons on how to play. Pepe eventually also purchased a piano, which he has proudly added to his playing skillset.
Of course, the real story here is the music. A track of intimate, acoustic folk, which is a far cry from some of the other releases by Pepe and The Bandits, such as “Pains in my Heart” and “Do Do Do” – offering more fleshed out and electric arrangements. But there’s no need for anything extra on ‘Lessons In Life’, the song is so simple and beautifully sung that it would be a crime to change a thing.
At a time where everyone is trying to push the envelope in sound technology, ‘Lessons In Life’ is ready to steal the show by bringing it all back home. The song relies heavily on it’s atmosphere of isolated and hopeful vulnerability. Hence the sonic success of the stripped down instrumentation and the solo voice.
The music is sparse, just a man and his guitar, plaintively picking and strumming, a few interludes here and there, but nothing that might distract from Pepe’s warm, gravelly voice and the impact of his lyrics. The singer-songwriter manages a hybrid that sounds classic while defying formulaic nostalgia.
There are gorgeous traces of Elliot Smith and Nick Drake-styled, bittersweet melancholy in the music, but ultimately Pepe and The Bandits generates it’s own personal template. ‘Lessons In Life’ makes for perfect music to sit down, close your eyes, and let your mind deeply ponder the existence and meaning of life. This song is for anyone with a heartbeat and a soul.