The Hippos

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The Hippos
Origin Los Angeles, California
Genres Ska, ska punk, pop rock, synthpop
Years active 1995–2002
Labels Fueled by Ramen, Vagrant, Interscope, Olympic
Members Ariel Rechtshaid
James Bairian
Louis Castle
Rich Zahniser
Danny Rukasin
Kyle Briggs

The Hippos were an American rock band formed in 1995 in Los Angeles, California, and disbanded in 2002.[1] During the band's lifetime they released 3 full-length albums. Their early work is best classified as part of the third wave of ska music, or as ska-punk, though in the later years of their career the band transitioned to a more pop rock sound utilizing synthesizers.

Band history[edit]


The Hippos formed in Los Angeles, California in 1995 with a lineup of Ariel Rechtshaid on vocals and guitar, James Bairian on bass, Louis Castle on trumpet, Rich Zahniser and Danny Rukasin on trombones, and Kyle Briggs on drums. This lineup would remain virtually unchanged throughout the band's career. They self-released a cassette demo entitled Attack of the Killer Cheese and began playing shows around southern California, establishing themselves amongst a prolific ska scene including bands such as Reel Big Fish, No Doubt, Buck-O-Nine, Dance Hall Crashers, Link 80, Save Ferris, and The Aquabats.

Forget the World[edit]

By 1996 the band had attracted the attention of Fueled by Ramen Records and entered the studio to record their first album, Forget the World. Jointly released the following year through Fueled by Ramen and Vagrant Records, the album was essentially a traditional ska punk effort focusing on upbeat tempos and heavy brass instrumentation. It afforded the band their first national tours at a time when ska and punk rock were gaining national attention. The band toured on and off in support of Forget the World for over a year.

Heads Are Gonna Roll[edit]

By 1999 the band had signed to major label Interscope Records and released their second album, Heads Are Gonna Roll. Musically the album found the band transitioning to a more pop-rock sound, using fewer ska rhythms and instead incorporating synthesizers. It was their most successful album and their only major-label release. The song "Wasting My Life" received airplay on some independent radio stations. The band toured the United States in support of the album.

Final Days and Beyond[edit]

Following tours in support of Heads Are Gonna Roll, drummer Kyle Briggs left the group. Over the next few years the band rehearsed and recorded new songs with other drummers, expanding their use of keyboards, synthesizers, and programming. However, the members drifted into other projects and it became apparent that the band would not continue on together. They quietly broke up, but released a posthumous self-titled album in 2003 through Olympic Records. The product of several years of recording, the album completed their transition from traditional ska punk to synthpop, almost completely severing ties to the southern California ska scene from which the band had spawned.

Following the band's breakup the members moved on to other musical projects. Castle and Bairian formed the band Dirty Little Secret which is now defunct and now own and operate a commercial music house called Headquarters Music. Rechtshaid played in Dirty Little Secret for a brief period before forming his own group Foreign Born, but more recently became a producer, working with artists such as Taking Back Sunday, We Are Scientists, Plain White Tees, Cass McCombs, Snoop Dogg, and many more. Rukasin became a band manager for developing artists Hellogoodbye, Man Overboard, For The Foxes, and more for Working Group Artist Management. Zahniser formed the band Southbase and now produces as well. Briggs went on to form the band Tripod, in which he played from 2000 to 2003. In 2006 he relocated to Portland, Oregon where he released a solo album under the name Long Distance Runner and joined the band Junkface.

Band members[edit]

The Hippos lineups
(only official members listed)
Forget the World
Heads Are Gonna Roll
The Hippos
  • Ariel Rechtshaid - vocals, guitar, keyboards, programming, percussion
  • James Bairian - bass
  • Louis Castle - trumpet, vocals, keyboards, programming
  • Rich Zahniser - trombone, keyboards, programming
  • Danny Rukasin - trombone, Keyboards
  • Blair Sinta - drums, percussion
  • Nate Morton - drums, percussion
  • Garrett Ray - drums
  • Ariel Rechtshaid – vocals, guitar, keyboards, programming
  • James Bairian - bass, vocals
  • Louis Castle - trumpet, vocals, keyboards, programming
  • Rich Zahniser - trombone, vocals, keyboards, programming
  • Danny Rukasin - trombone, keyboards
  • Kyle Briggs - drums (1995–2000)
  • Blair Singa - drums on The Hippos
  • Nate Morton - drums on The Hippos
  • Garrett Ray - drums on The Hippos



Year Title Label Other information
1997 Forget the World Fueled by Ramen/Vagrant First album.
1999 Heads Are Gonna Roll Interscope Last album with drummer Kyle Briggs.
2003 The Hippos Olympic Final album.


Year Song Label Other information
1999 "Wasting My Life" Interscope Out of print.

Non-album tracks[edit]

Year Album Title Label Song(s) Other information
1996 California Ska-Quake, Vol. 2: The Aftershock Caroline "So What?"
1997 Take Warning: The Songs of Operation Ivy Glue Factory "Freeze Up" Originally performed by Operation Ivy.
1998 Five Years on the Streets Vagrant "Lost It (Live)"
The Radiolistener Remixes Vegas "Asleep at the Wheel (The Boom Shaka remix)"
1999 Before You Were Punk 2 Vagrant "Our Lips Are Sealed" Originally performed by The Go-Go's.
no album no label "1999" Was available as a download from the band's official website.


Year Title Label Other information
1995 Attack of the Killer Cheese Self Released Contained "Get Away", "Asleep At The Wheel", "Rocky Ground", "The Boss" and an untitled instrumental. Only "Asleep At The Wheel" was released on an album. Out of print.
1998 Heads Are Gonna Roll demo self-released, no label Demos for 1999 album including early versions of "Thinking" and "Pollution."