Sunday Music: Hepcat

The first time I noticed Hepcat was on a random record label sampler (it was an indie/punk 90s thing). The song was “Dance Wid Me.” It was musical, it was professional (re: polished with edge, punk without being PUNK!), and it felt of another time while it was happening in the moment. 

I was hooked. I started collecting their albums and they started popping up in more and more places. Thanks to Moon Records and the local touring presence of The Toasters, this wasn’t impossible to do. 

Side note: indie bands, on indie record labels, touring with catalogs of CDs, tapes, and miscellaneous merch, that they’d sell on tables in the back of all-ages shows. I think of this a lot. The in-person communal aspects of punk rock economics, exemplified by how much more scene you can fit/sell on a folding table where like-minded people are gathered. 

In 1998, Epitaph put Right on Time out. We played it to death in my house. To this day, when I say, “No worries” in casual conversation, their song “No Worries” plays in my head. Nobody knows that but me. And now you. 

Right on Time was so musical. There was jazz. There was doo-wop. There was ska, reggae, rocksteady, et al. It’s a wonderful feeling album. Something you can capture but can’t quite emulate (try as we would). 

But the big one, my favorite moment in their catalog, would come in 2000. Push ‘n Shove is a next level vibe, start to finish. And the pinnacle of cool, or at least what it meant to be a hep cat. This one outgrew my home stereo and turned into the exact quality of thing I would play my music-school friends and then melt over like a stereotypical pre-teen girl.

“You have to hear this” stuff. And again, the feeling of this record, it was somehow even better.

In “Daydreamin’” we start with a rocksteady bounce. We have all the backing vocals and tradeoffs we’ve come to expect. It’s peak Hepcat hipster. 

And then the track breaks. Musically – the drums and instruments drop out and all that’s left is voice. You can almost hear the ghost of Otis Redding walking by in the hall, poking his head into the room, and blessing them with a soulful simmer. 

How do you do that

How do you come up with that?

Music is magic sometimes. This is one of those moments. 

RIP Greg Lee, I wish I could have seen you live.