An Interview: Ultraviolet Hippopotamus
On March 26th, 2010, Ultraviolet Hippopotamus members Brian Samuels, Dave Sanders, and Joe Phillion were gracious enough to allow me a few minutes for an interview during set break. Enjoy!
Greg: Thanks again for the opportunity to do this guys. I know you don’t have time so I’ll get things rolling. What are some bands you draw your creative influences from?
Dave: First off the bat, Herbie Hancock.
Joe: Umphrey’s McGee, for sure.
Brian: Pink Floyd…?
Joe: (Laughs) Pink Floyd question mark?
Brian: And Frank Zappa.
Greg: You can definitely hear all those influences in your music.
Joe: We’re really picky like everybody, so most of us stick to the genres we like and some of us crossover.
Greg: With six guys in the band, there has to be some crossing over for sure.
Joe: For example, half of the band is into Phish, but another group of us might be into The New Deal. Some of us are into Umphrey’s and some of us are into Cheese, you know?
Joe: There’s Frank Zappa and Peter Gabriel. I’m going to stop there (Laughs).
Dave: That’s 1% percent maybe.
Joe: That’s what I’m saying. That’s how far it really goes. And then we could go into rare jazz.
Greg: Awesome. What is your process of writing new tunes? How does an idea become a song?
Dave: Usually how it’s worked so far is someone will come to the table with the idea of a song, and depending on who composes (the new tune), the song will get hacked up possibly…or sometimes the song just hits off and that’s the way the song goes.
Dave: I think The Beguzzler is the only one that we came to practice and sort-of wrote it there.
Brian: Well, Bob the Wonder Cat was like that too.
Dave: Well, I wasn’t in the band (Laughs).
Joe: Someone will bring a different style or different idea, and all of us will jam on it for a while basically. From there, you add some lyrics. It takes a little while, but it’s good to get into the routine, for sure.
Greg: Right on. Ultraviolet Hippopotamus is slated to play Springfest in Muncie in a couple weeks.
Greg: What does the festival scene mean to you guys, not only as musicians but as music fans?
Brian: That’s the best part is that we are music fans too. We get the chance not only to play but to go see other acts, you know, so it’s a lot of fun. A lot of times the other acts are our friends because we work with them at other shows. We get to hang for a minute while we’re not playing and be apart of the scene from the other aspect, you know?
Joe: Festivals are a big part of the summer…a big percentage for sure. That’s what we want to play. That’s the key part of the summer. There are a lot of people coming from a lot of different parts of the country who like a lot of different kinds of music. To throw the hook out there and see what happens is very exciting.
Greg: You’ve been playing a lot of smaller festivals. I’m sure you’d like to get into some of the bigger ones, right?
Joe: Definitely. There’s a lot of bands trying to do that though.
Brian: That’s the problem. There’s lots of bands out there and everybody’s trying to get in.
Greg: Yeah. You guy’s should get in. You guys are awesome. I don’t know why you UV isn’t playing Summercamp, honestly.
Brian: Neither do we (Laughs).
Greg: (Laughs) Sorry. It’s true though. You guys should be there….So UV has played a handful of shows with Garaj Mahal over the past six month. How has that been?
Joe: No, it was very productive for me just to watch those guys play. They’re definitely our heroes.
Brian: It was cool to, I don’t want this to sound the wrong way but, be on the level with them, you know?
Brian: You get a chance to hang out and talk to them and they’re just regular guys like anyone else. They get onstage and they’re insane.
Greg: Yeah. Virtuosos. All of them.
Joe: It’s such an honor and a privilege.
Joe: Those guys have been around for, I don’t know, ten years and they’re just monsters.
Greg: Yeah they beast it for sure. So you guys just played a recent run of shows in Colorado. Being from the Midwest how is playing a show in Colorado different than playing a show at Bell’s, for example?
Dave: First off, you’re a mile high in the air, at least.
Joe: And sometimes double that (Laughs).
Dave: It’s actually awesome. I love playing out in Colorado. Even after the bad shows, you could stop at a gas station and you look out and its like an Ansel Adams poster or something like that. You know, you got this beautiful mountain and you’re at this crappy gas station!
Dave: There’s this view that you get, and when you get back to Michigan and get out its like, oh (Laughs).
Greg: Here we are.
Dave: It’s just a crappy gas station.
Greg: (Laughs) Right.
Joe: Our last tour we drove around the most in Colorado and on the way back, probably. We came back through Carbondale and then up through Indiana and back. Then once we came back, we played Bell’s and it was awesome. It was such a good time to just be home.
Brian: But I mean a show is a good show no matter where you’re at, you know? It’s the same feeling, for me anyways. If people are having fun, then we’re having fun.
Brian: It’s cool to see a bunch a familiar faces you know, for example the Bell’s show, but its also cool to see a bunch of strangers doing the same thing your friends do.
Greg: For sure. It’s been a couple years since you guys put out your last studio album, Songs for the Reaper. Are there plans for a new studio release?
Brian: Yes! This year!
Dave: It’s coming out very soon!
Joe: I’m gonna blame Gene Simmons on this one.
Joe: But anywho, we’re definitely collaborating on a bunch of songs old and new ands it’s going to be fantastic!
Dave: We gotta get going?
Brian: Yeah we gotta write a set list, Greg. How many questions you got left?
Greg: I got one.
Brian: Ok, go for it.
Greg: Alright. I know you all probably have personal goals when it comes to music, but what are some things you’d like to see UV Hippo do in the upcoming future?
Dave: Wrestle a bear.
Brian: Wrestle a bear in China.
Dave: In China on pay per view.
Greg: (Laughing) Sounds good to me. I’ll be there. Thanks a lot guys, I really appreciate it.