You can imagine the stories that might surround something called a Trichotomous Hippopotamus. “Archaeologists in Uganda recently unearthed the bones of the rare trichotomous hippopotamus. The animal was rumored to have lived in the area millions of years ago, but until now was never proven to have existed.”
Or “The newest attraction at the Lincoln Park Zoo is the trichotomous hippopotamus. It will be on display throughout the summer in the African Safari edition of the park. Get your tickets now!”
The reality is that Trichotomous Hippopotamus is the name of a new band right here in the Fort Wayne area, a band comprised of three musicians with a like mind for creating “high energy, in-your-face rock n’ roll with roots in blues and soul.”
Judging from their success in this year’s whatzup/Wooden Nickel Battle of the Bands (they placed third), they are connecting with an audience that craves the same things they do and are creating new fans with every song.
Influenced by the likes of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, The Strokes, John Mayer Trio and Soulive, the band “originally started out playing straight-ahead blues, but we couldn’t turn the energy down,” according to lead guitarist and vocalist Ryan Lentine. The result is a band that seemingly will tackle just about any type of music, putting its own spin on it and thus making it decidedly Trichotomous Hippopotamus.
Songs start out with a good idea and simply progress from there.
“We write about life, relationships, good times and bad times. Somebody brings a riff, chord progression or whatever to the table and we hash out the form and different sections together as a band,” says Lentine.
Though Trichotomous Hippopotamus are new to the scene, the band members are not. Lentine is also a member of Elements of Cosmos and The Mojo Band, recently joined up with Mason Dillon and has played a few gigs with G-Money. Bassist Jesse Gaze, currently pursuing an art degree at Ball State, has played with 2013 Battle of the Bands champions Trackless as well as freelance jazz and orchestral double bass gigs. Drummer Connor O’Shaughnessy also recently linked up with Mason Dillon and has played in Awkward Silence. He frequently plays with G-Money and the Fabulous Rhythm as well as other freelance gigs.
According to Lentine, putting a band of this caliber together wasn’t as difficult as it may seem. In fact, it actually started with a simple text message.
Lentine and Gaze “had been talking about working together on a project in the spring of 2014 and put a bunch of ideas on the table, but weren’t really sure what we wanted to do,” Lentine said.
Lentine later got a text from Gaze that said, “Let’s start a trio.” Lentine happened to be in the same room as O’Shaughnessy at the time. “[I] turned to him and said ‘so you doin’ anything?’ And the rest was history,” he said.
This year’s Battle of the Bands shows were the band’s first live shows, the first of many to come, most likely. Though they didn’t win the contest, the experience put the band on the map and, according to Lentine, was an overall positive experience. “Richard (Replogle) and Bob (Roets) really did a great job this year and made it a great experience. It was certainly great publicity for us, considering our first show ever was round one and our third show ever was at the Finals. It got us started off on the right foot. There was also a really nice communal atmosphere between all the bands that were competing.”
True to expectations, a Trichotomous Hippopotamus show is a decidedly raucous, fun time. Deep rooted in the blues/rock tradition of Joe Bonamassa and North Mississippi All Stars, the band is a tight-knit unit that also seems to crave the spontaneity that playing the blues allows. Lentine handles the frontman duties with ease and exudes an air of confidence seldom seen in the local scene, while Gaze and O’Shaughnessy contribute effortlessly. The band’s songs display a high level of musicianship and songwriting ability while maintaining an air of accessibility for novice fans. They are a true rock stars in the making.
At the same time, they are still a developing band trying to find its way in the scene. Short term, says Lentine, “we’re currently working on getting as many gigs as possible while growing our fan base and putting our first album together.”
So that brings us back to that name. The band members acknowledge that Trichotomous Hippopotamus is a bit difficult to pronounce for some, but other than that, they don’t seem to think it’s really that big of a deal.
“It’s actually just a result of “too much time with a thesaurus,” Lentine explained. “We’re a trio, or trichotomous, which rhymes with hippopotamus. Hence, Trichotomous Hippopotamus. Riveting.”