An Interview with Dwarf Eats Hippo
BALTIMORE — Dwarf Eats Hippo is one of those bands that’s hard to describe. They’re better heard than written about. There’s definitely a punk/industrial influence. Singer/guitarist Waylee Freid tends to keep her hooks simple and her voice loud. But electro-whiz-kid Pelopidas Demopolous throws in layers of e-mood, and snippets recorded around Baltimore. Throw in cutie-core bassist Kiyoko Pingyang, who’s Waylee’s not-quite-legal-age sister, and drummer J-Jay Winter, who’s arguably the most talented musician of the bunch, and you’ve got an act that transcends genres and a repertoire that varies from fast and pounding to slow and tortured, sometimes within the same song. I caught up with the band last Saturday before a gig at Club Antiseen.
Justin Fisher: Your band seems an odd mix. How’d you get together?
JF: What’s so funny?
Waylee: Trading questions for profit. I interviewed your band last month for the Herald, and now you’re interviewing me for Trends.
JF: Tough making a living playing music.
J-Jay: Know that.
Waylee: Well I’ve been at this, playing music, since middle school back in Philly, but I put Dwarf Eats Hippo together three years ago. I brought Kiyoko in—she really wanted to play in a band—and advertised for a synth-jock and drummer. Pel and J-Jay showed up and fit right in.
Pelopidas (winking): In more ways than one.
Waylee rolls her eyes.
JF: How’d you come up with the name? Dwarf Eats Hippo?
Waylee (laughing): It was pretty much random. Pel came up with it.
J-Jay: We were stoned out of our skulls, is what it was.
Kiyoko: I wasn’t even there. And then I got outvoted.
Pelopidas: It was a twist on an old fake news story, “Hippo Eats Dwarf,” where this circus midget bounces off a trampoline into a hippo’s mouth by accident and the hippo swallows him. Waylee just flipped the words.
Waylee: Ironic naming our band after a fake news story, considering how much I detest fake news. So the flip, that’s the positive spin. The powerless overcoming the behemoth, Leviathan—the plutocrats, the State, and their control mechanisms.
JF: You write all the lyrics for the band.
Waylee: Sometimes they come faster than I can write them down. Scoring takes time, though, there’s all that musical give and take. If I write fifty songs a week, only one of them will actually get recorded.
JF: Most of your songs have a strong social message, and you’re pretty involved in local politics.
Waylee: Is that a question?
Waylee: I do what I can for the People’s Party, mostly throwing fundraisers and spreading the word. They’re the only registered political party anymore that gives a damn about real people, and that the world is dying and the handful at the top are dancing on our collective grave. But I’m a journalist, even if it’s not covering big stories, and so I have bounds. I’m not going to run for office or anything.
JF: Are they your inspiration? The People’s Party?
Waylee: There are inspiring people all through history. Gandhi, King, Goldman… I could go on and on. And here in Baltimore, Bryan Cutler, folks at the INC [Independent News Center], and a ton of friends.
JF: How about the rest of you?
J-Jay: What do you mean?
JF: Your inspirations.
J-Jay: Shit, there’s more than I can count. You know, the black man—
Waylee: And women—
J-Jay: And women, created music in this country - jazz, blues, rock & roll, hip-hop, everything worth listening to. And not only that, we built this whole damn country, built it with our sweat and blood, but ain’t got shit to show for it.
Pelopidas (looking uncomfortable): Talk about going off on a tangent. My inspiration’s mostly old school: Ministry, Skinny Puppy, Nurse with Wound, E.A.R…. And in the IT world - that’s what I do to put food on the table - I find people like Alan Turing, Kevin Mitnick, and Julian Assange inspiring for their imagination and what they accomplished despite living on the margins. Oh, and multiple thumbs up to all those out there, like the Collective, fighting for information freedom.
Kiyoko: My heroes? Let me start with my biggest inspiration, Princess Pingyang, who led an army to defeat the evil Sui Dynasty. And then there’s Princess Celestia, Rukia Kuchiki, Amaterasu, Princess Serenity, Bast, lots of nekojin—
Waylee: BetterWorld and anime characters, I’m pretty sure.
Kiyoko: Not all of them. And you didn’t let me finish. My biggest hero in Baltimore is my sister Waylee.
Waylee looks surprised.
Kiyoko: She saved me from an evil monster and brought me up.
JF: A monster? What kind of monster?
Waylee: It’s a long story and we need to get ready.
JF: Okay, a couple more questions. You play shows every week and put a lot of songs on the Comnet. How are you trending?
Waylee: Well, like you said earlier, it’s tough to make a living at music. We’re building a base. We have a lot of hardcore fans here in Baltimore. But mostly we do it ‘cause we like it.
J-Jay: Although a little more money would be nice. Waylee and Pel have decent jobs, but mine sucks.
JF: Any touring plans?
Waylee: Yeah, we have a U.S. tour starting in June, as soon as Kiyoko graduates. The dates are all posted on our Comnet site.
Pelopidas: I’ll push promos out to all the venue geographies. Anyone reading or listening to this, come check us out.
Kiyoko: We’re doing a virtual show in BetterWorld next Wednesday at 5 pm Eastern. Details @DwarfEatsHippo. And there’s a ton of cool stuff @Princess_Kiyoko: music, videos, anime, fan rooms, all kinds of merchandise... Mention this interview and everything’s 25% off.
Waylee: We’ve never done a virtual show before, but the real shows, no one’s ever been bored. You’re reviewing tonight’s, right?
JF: Absolutely. Thank you and good luck!
Dwarf Eats Hippo (collectively): Thanks.