The Hippos

The Hippos
Origin Los Angeles, California
Genres Ska, ska punk, pop rock, synthpop, power pop
Years active 19952002
Labels Fueled by Ramen, Vagrant, Interscope, Olympic, Stiff Dog
Past members Ariel Rechtshaid
James Bairian
Louis Castle
Rich Zahniser
Danny Rukasin
Kyle Briggs
Roman Fleysher
Brandon Bairian

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 synthesizer-driven power pop and rock sound.

Band history


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, Danny Rukasin on trombones, Roman Fleysher on saxophone, Brandon Bairian on auxiliary percussion, and Kyle Briggs on drums. 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

By 1996, the band added Rich Zahniser on trombone and had attracted the attention of Fueled by Ramen Records and Stiff Dog Records and entered the studio with producer Loren Israel to record their first album, Forget the World. Jointly released February 1997 through Fueled by Ramen and Stiff Dog 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. In 1998, the band's relationship with Stiff Dog Records ended and the record was re-pressed, this time by Vagrant Records. Around this time saxophone player Roman Fleysher and auxiliary percussion player Brandon Bairian both left the band, with Roman going on to join The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

Heads Are Gonna Roll

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 power pop 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 radio stations. The band toured the United States and Australia in support of the album, including stints on the Warped Tour during 1999 and 2000.

Final Days and Beyond

In 2000, during 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 Nate Morton and 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 disbanded, but released a posthumous self-titled album in 2003 through Olympic Records. The product of several months of recording demos in 2000, the album completed their transition from traditional ska punk to synth-driven power pop.

Following the band's breakup the members moved on to other musical projects. Castle and Bairian formed the now defunct band Dirty Little Secret, and co-founded and operate a commercial music house called Headquarters Music. As The Gifted, the duo handle music production and composition, and scored Southbound, a 2015 Horror anthology film. Rechtshaid played in Dirty Little Secret for a brief period before joining the group Foreign Born, but more recently has focused exclusively on music production and songwriting work, working with artists such as Taking Back Sunday, We Are Scientists, Plain White Tees, Cass McCombs, Snoop Dogg, and many more. Garrett Ray, one of three drummers on The Hippos (2003), was the original drummer of Dirty Little Secret and Foreign Born, and is currently a frequent collaborator with Rechtshaid on the records he produces. Rukasin became a band manager for developing artists Hellogoodbye, Man Overboard, For The Foxes, and more for Working Group Artist Management. Zahniser formed the now defunct band Southbase, performed as a touring member with several bands, and is active in music production and composition as one half of The Trust. Kyle 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 bands Junkface and Pine. He has also acted as editor, sound mixer, producer, and composer as well.

Band members

The Hippos lineups
(only official members listed)
Forget the World
Heads Are Gonna Roll
The Hippos



Year Title Label Other information
1997 Forget the World Fueled by Ramen/Vagrant/Stiff Dog Records 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

Year Album Title Label Song(s) Other information
1996 California Ska-Quake, Vol. 2: The Aftershock Caroline "So What?" Last recording made before Rich Zahniser joined the band.
1997 Take Warning: The Songs of Operation Ivy Glue Factory "Freeze Up" Originally performed by Operation Ivy.
Christmas Gone Wrong Drive Thru Records "Do They Know It's Christmas" Originally performed by Band Aid (band) - The Hippos along with Cousin Oliver were the studio band and Ariel and Louis were among several singers featured.
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" Outtake from "Heads Are Gonna Roll," available as a download from the band's official website.
no album no label "You Got Me" Theme song from 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd Season 1.
no album no label "Shake It Up" Appears in the pilot episode of Roswell (TV Series) and the film Love Wrecked.
2000 Just Not Punk Enough Missing Words Records "Man of the 90's" Most likely recorded in 1995, possibly same sessions as the Killer Cheese Demo
no album no label "The Aliens Are Here" Appears in Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders


Year Title Label Other information
1995 Attack of the Killer Cheese Self Released Contained "Get Away", "Asleep At The Wheel", "Rocky Ground", and "The Boss." "Asleep At The Wheel" was re-recorded for "Forget the World." "The Boss" served as the basis for "Celebrate" on that album as well, though it was pretty drastically re-written. Out of print.
1998 Heads Are Gonna Roll demo self-released, no label Demos for 1999 album including early versions of "Thinking" and "Pollution."


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