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Hippopotamus is a five piece rock band from Grand Rapids, Michigan
whose strength in original compositions and ability in effortlessly flowing
from one genre to another has made them a captivating force in the midwest music
scene. The energy, crowd banter and light show make this band hard to
ignore. It started in the summer of '04 when a few friends from Big
got together for a few low-key jam sessions. Before they knew it, they
had established a couple of sets of music containing fun covers and even some
original musings. As they tried to settle on a name for their new group,
they stumbled across a story containing a fictional band with the name,
Ultraviolet Hippopotamus. They felt it worked as a perfect representation
of the ridiculousness nature of the band... and so it stuck. The original
collaboration of Brian Samuels, Travis Compton, Sam Guidry, Cameron Rye and Joe
Phillion become the collective, Ultraviolet Hippopotamus.
the band had been playing for a year and developed a strong, local fanbase, it
was time to give their friends and fans an album. Brian and Travis had
both begun to compose original songs and they were fastly becoming as popular
as the covers at the shows. So they went into the studio and layed down
the tracks for their first album, Background Music. The end result was a
strong collection of songs, which their fans were ecstatic to finally have in
their hands and cd players. As the release of the album neared, Cameron
decided to leave the band, so UV Hippo started looking for a replacement
keyboardist. They found Nate Karnes, a Grand Rapids native who had been playing the
keys for most his life and brought a welcomed change of harmonies and texture
to their music. The album was released in 2006 and for the next year that
followed, UV Hippo played extensively around Michigan
working hard at honing in their sound and building upon their already loyal
It was during this period that the band started contemplating some changes. After frequently sitting in on live performances, Casey Butts was brought on as a full time percussionist. His hand drums and collection of toys helped fill in the gaps to UV's growing library of songs. As each member grew as individual musicians, it was evident that if the band wanted to reach the next level musically they had to bring on a new guitarist. So the band decided to let go of Travis and bring in Sam's long time friend and guitar counterpart, Russell James. It was one of the hardest decisions the band has ever had to make, considering that Travis had been with the group since its inception, but also as a friend to everyone involved.
With the new line up in place, it was time to begin work on the second album, Songs for the Reaper. Brian's songwriting had really begun to blossom pulling ideas from his everyday life, moments with the band and life's ideals. As the album began to take shape, the band realized that they were on to something with their ability of jumping from one genre to the next, sometimes within songs and this was how they were developing their own sound. Nate, Casey and Russ brought the musicianship up to a higher intensity, as well as bringing forth a much fuller sound. It was released in February of 08' and the finished product was loved by fans, respected by critics and put out with pride by the band. Recoil Magazine said the album, "Will someday be a classic, if it isn't already."
Now that the band had a new album in hand, they decided that it was time to start hitting the midwest a lot harder. Songs like Cheshire Cat and EMD were becoming monsters during the live shows and North Coast had become an anthem for the Michigan music scene. UV started playing all over Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio throughout every weekend of the year and continued building upon their loyal regional fanbase. The band was getting tighter and developing a great relationship with their fans as well as many other bands throughout the midwest including The Ragbirds, Four Finger Five and T-Lo Effect. Members of UV were particularly attracted to T-Lo and began playing numerous shows with them. They formed a strong friendship with the keyboardist and primary songwriter of T-Lo Effect, Dave Sanders, who shared a very similar interest in musical style.
During the spring of 08', Nate Karnes decided the upcoming summer would be his last with UV Hippo. The choice was clear to ask Dave Sanders to join the band since T-Lo Effect had been on a indefinite hiatus. So Dave began traveling with the band, learning their songs and jamming style and UV Hippo played most of their summer shows with a dual keyboard line up. With Nate's departure at the Dunegrass Music Festival, Dave officially joined the band and had no problem stepping up into a leadership role right from the beginning. The rhythm section instantly started reworking their techniques to accompany Dave's intricate timing. His talent was unquestionable and his style and tone started shaping a new sound for the band. The other huge benefit with the addition of Dave, was the immense catalog of songs he brought to the table. Old T-Lo songs like "Square Pegs, Round Holes" and "Run Rabbit Run", were getting reworked and quickly becoming Hippo fan favorites.
The end of 2010 brought a huge change to the band. Hippo's long time guitarist Sam Guidry, decided it was time to call it quits. The toll of being on the road and away from his loved ones month after month led him to make the decision to leave UV Hippo. New Years Eve of 2010 was his last show with the band and he went out with a bang at Bells Brewery. It was one of the great nights of Hippo history. The remaining members decided it was best to continue as a five piece rather than force things by bringing in a new element. After a few weeks of shows, there was no doubt that things would be just fine and Hippo will keep on keeping on.