Subverting The System With Hippie Sabotage

The electronic music duo from Sacramento discuss their latest album, “Red Moon Rising,” and reveal their creative cannabis quirks.
Subverting The System With Hippie Sabotage
Courtesy of Listen Up

Despite the worldwide pandemic-induced cancellation of concert tours and live shows, Hippie Sabotage has been making the most of their time at home, seeing an opportunity to make beats day after day after day. Comprised of brothers Kevin and Jeff Sauer, Hippie Sabotage will have multiple new projects on the horizon in 2021, having used their annual “down time” of the typical touring year to kick their brains into high gear and focus full throttle on creating new music.

When we connect over Zoom, Kevin and Jeff take a break from their work to smoke blunts and discuss their latest album, “Red Moon Rising,” their ascension through the music industry, and the release of their preroll collaboration with Flower Records, Devil Eyes OG.

I read the group name “Hippie Sabotage” was inspired by your father’s initials. How did the name evolve?

Kevin Sauer: In second or third grade, we had to make keychains with our dad’s initials on them. Our dad’s initials are “HS.” He gave me back that keychain when he gave me the keys to my first car, and I carried it with me all through college. The initials “HS” were always imprinted on my mind.

When were trying to come up with a band name that encapsulated both of our personalities and what we were trying to bring to the table—some sort of subversive action against the larger system—it only made sense (and was poetically fitting) that two sons who were trying to please their father use his initials in the very name of their group.

Jeff Sauer: We’ll prove you wrong!

Kevin Sauer: The initials were just always stuck in our heads, so we decided to roll with that.

As kids, our dad would pull us out of school to go to Candlestick Park and watch Giants games in seven-dollar bleacher seats. We’d always go to the Hard Rock Cafe and see all the crazy memorabilia afterwards, and drive down Haight street to see the record stores and the prolific history of the neighborhood. Looking back, these experiences really imprinted music onto us at a really young age, which ultimately fleshed out into the craziness that is Hippie Sabotage.

Jeff Sauer: We weren’t in band class, but our parents were big music fans. As Kevin said, all of those San Francisco trips really left lasting impressions on our minds, so when we finally came into music, it was the lane we could see ourselves in.

Kevin Sauer: We are two hippie dudes who believe in subverting the system by any means necessary. We felt [music] represented who we are in our family most authentically. 

And what was the catalyst that really put you on the path to music?

Kevin Sauer: We grew up as little skateboard kids, little skate rats. We skated anywhere and everywhere around Sacramento everyday after school, everyday on the weekends and every summer.

Jeff Sauer: I used to wake Kevin up with waffles at eight-o’clock in the morning just so we could go skateboarding. We’d make our own little skate videos and really paid attention to the music in skate videos. It was always underground hip hop or Mobb Deep or Alchemist beats. Shit like that. When we were making our own videos, we were like, “Yo, we need our own music,” so we got into listening to samples and became huge record collectors. Things evolved from there when Kevin started messing around with the beat making program Fruity Loops. I watched him make beats for a year while playing guitar and we became obsessed. Like skateboarding, making music became something we did everyday and we’ve been doing it ever since.

Kevin Sauer: Our music has been through a lot of different periods. We were skating, making beats. Skating, making beats. As life progressed, music slowly became more and more serious for us in terms of being our central artistic focus.

Early on, was there an experience or set of experiences that encouraged you go all-in on your musical journey?

Jeff Sauer: When we first started putting out beat tapes on Bandcamp as Hippie Sabotage, Kevin went on Vimeo and emailed every single photographer and video person he could and sent them our beat tapes. The beats ended up being picked for a lot of extreme sports videos. When fixie bikes became a big thing, we had this video that went viral and notched one-million views featuring one of the beats on the beat tape, “Long and Lonesome Road.” That was the first moment where something [of ours] got a ton of plays on the Internet and blew up.

Kevin Sauer: We then produced three songs on Yukmouth’s album “Free At Last” that made the Billboard top 40. He’s one half of The Luniz—known for “I Got Five On It.” It was some real local shit that showed us, “Hey, the CD is in Best Buy.” There were lots of moments like that. 

“Stay High” [the Tove Lo remix of “Habits (Stay High)”] was a moment where artistically we saw ourselves progressing to where we wanted to be, and as long as we continued to work on our craft, we figured seven/eight years later, we’d get to where we are now.

How did the “Stay High” remix come to fruition?

Jeff Sauer: I’d dropped out of music school at UC San Diego and my parents had driven down for graduation. Kevin was down there too, and when I didn’t graduate, our parents disowned us for a minute. We were like, “Fuck you, we’re going to live out the back of our car and show you what’s up.”

Kevin Sauer: Hippie Sabotage, motherfucker.

Jeff Sauer: Mike Gao, my music professor at the time and our best friend now, had us come live at his place. At the same time, we were working with the rapper Sahtyre who asked me to go on tour as his DJ. So I told Kevin, “You live with Mike, I’m going to go on tour, I’ll be back in a month.” When I came back, I had fifty dollars left and Mike was telling us to get the fuck out of his house. But we had made a ton of beats during this time period, and “Stay High” was one of them. Kevin asked me to create the artwork for it—so I did—and two days later he’s like, “I dropped the song and it’s going crazy on the Internet!” And that was that.

Let’s talk about the new record, “Red Moon Rising.” Jeff, did you also create the album artwork for this one?

Jeff Sauer: This is the first time we hired an outside artist.

Kevin Sauer: Our shows are a beautiful blessing of crazy energy and overwhelming positive feedback, and it can be a bit distracting in that [creating artwork] takes a lot of time away from focusing on the shows. Since we didn’t have too many shows after the world closed, it took a little bit off our shoulders and allowed us to focus solely on the songs, the sonic details and the sounds coming out of the speakers. We didn’t want to think about anything else.

Jeff Sauer: It was hard to do everything ourselves. Artwork was one of the things we thought we could outsource and have someone else take it to another level. We gave our guy the basic idea of what we wanted and he gave us this super thought out album cover with a concept behind it and we just went with it.

Kevin Sauer: I also thought the artwork—through all of its intricacies—embodied the subconscious messages we were trying to send out there.

To that end, what are some of the messages you’re trying to put out through the record?

Jeff Sauer: Really overcoming adversity and what you do when you’re at your low point. It’s always been a theme in our music, especially now, where universally it feels like the world is hurting a bit. We’re like, “Yo, we can relate,” so we’re trying to be a voice through it as much as we can, or be an escape to help people enjoy life.

Kevin Sauer: Oddly, a lot of the songs on “Red Moon Rising”—like two thirds—were written and recorded a little bit more on the sadder side. In terms of, “Man, things are really tough, I don’t know what’s going to happen.” As we were going through the album and talking to ourselves, we wanted—as Jeff said—to specifically add the element of, “Yeah, life is full of struggle but push through, don’t get caught up in the adversity and allow yourself to progress forward,” both speaking to our audience and to ourselves. We’ve made a million mistakes in the music industry, sometimes very publicly, but you have to humble yourself and move forward. That’s all you can do in life and that’s what we were trying to communicate.

A lot of times, those moments of struggle propel us to the next thing. Which then bears the question: were the “misteps” actually mistakes?

Jeff Sauer: My favorite quote is by Miles Davis: “Fear no mistakes, there are none.” That’s the true shit right there.

From a creation standpoint, what kind of influence did cannabis have on this album?

Jeff Sauer: We smoke weed and we make music, man. It’s what we love doing and it’s always been that way.

Kevin Sauer: With “1000 Blunts,” I think we were trying to relive a couple of our glory moments smoking huge ass blunts in Amsterdam or when we were in Barcelona. We love all of those OG smoker songs, the genre from Devin the Dude, Cypress Hill, and we wanted to add our own flavor to it.

Jeff Sauer: Weed definitely keeps the ideas flowing. We like to sit down and talk about stuff and think about creative shit. Weed’s always been a thing to get ideas sparked. It’s not like we need it to make music, but when you’re stressing—for example—it’s a healthier alternative than some other choices people make. We love Sativas when we’re working because they keep us going. For us, weed helps, and creatively, we love it.

Kevin Sauer: We have our own weird cannabis quirks. Like we like to smoke regular Swishers containing a gram to a gram-and-a-quarter per Swisher. We smoke the same amount of blunts almost everyday. 

Weed’s especially great if we’re trying to progress beyond our normal creating patterns. Let’s say we’re using certain song structures too much, or we perceive we’re using them too much. Maybe smoking a joint and listening to music can help unlock the door to new sounds, structures and creations that we can then incorporate into our own art.

Sometimes weed is part of the routine, while other times it can be a fresh set of eyes.

Kevin Sauer: Different doses are right for different people. While we like smoking a lot of weed and smoking all day, that’s not necessarily the right choice for everyone. Some people only need to hit a joint once or twice and they’re going to have a fantastic time. There’s no “right amount” other than what you’re personally comfortable with. You can enjoy the marijuana experience in different degrees depending on who you are as a human being.

Was it your enjoyment of cannabis that led you to create your own brand of prerolls, Devil Eyes OG?

Kevin Sauer: We really enjoy cannabis and cannabis culture and we are beyond stoked like everyone else that it’s slowly being legalized throughout the country. Our collaboration with Flower Records and the Devil Eyes OG preroll represents ourselves loving cannabis by providing a low cost joint people can smoke at one of our concerts. For far too long, cannabis has had a stigma for no reason, so it’s beautiful to be able participate in this exciting time of legalization.

It seems though that a lot of people want to launch the next weed superbrand, but with us, we really truly appreciate cannabis and we just wanted to give something to our fans that they’d fucking like, even if they’re not 1000 blunt stoners like me and Jeff.

Follow @hippiesabotage and check out their latest album “Red Moon Rising” now available everywhere

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