"Songwriting process." "Influences." "How's the tour going?" If you're like any reasonable person, those boilerplate music interview questions are enough to drive you insane. To combat that tedium, the City Pages Reader Insight Action Desk deeply studied online behavior and arrived at a profound conclusion: People are super into cute animals. Thus, we give you Pets of the Local Music Stars. It's exactly like it sounds.
First up in the series: Hippo Campus and bassist Zach Sutton's 19-year-old kitty Feather. The boys of HC set the scene on fire this year, scoring national TV exposure on Conan in March and serving as the only Minnesota representatives at Lollapalooza in July. The remarkably polished young pop-rockers even won over the hard-to-please A.V. Club comment section in August with their cover of Electric Light Orchestra’s 1979 hit “Don’t Bring Me Down."
The Hippos just dropped a new EP, South, and set off on a U.S. tour that will be capped November 28 with a headlining First Avenue date. That's all well and good, but we hear you: What about Feather? Well, dear readers, let's find out.
City Pages: Zach, is Feather a widdle guy or a big boy?
Zach Sutton: Feather, 19, is a sweet, all-white, old lady cat that is slender but has a sweet tooth for those kibbles and bits. She also has a hard time staying away from the catnip, if you know what I mean.
CP: Tell us about Feather's history with Hippo Campus. Has she served as a source of inspiration? As a mascot? Does Feather like loud guitars and drums?
ZS: There are a couple B-sides that have been directly inspired by dear old feather but no public songs yet. She is more of a silent cheerleader/therapist than a mascot. And she is not a fan of the loud music, unfortunately.
CP: If Feather is a Hippo Campus song, which song and why?
ZS: The as-of-yet unreleased song has a working title of "You Were Always There," which was written shortly after we thought she snuck out and we couldn't find her but she was just sleeping in the bathroom.
CP: If Hippo Campus is a famous cat, which cat and why?
ZS: Cat Stevens. What do you mean "why"?
CP: In the local music scene, do things ever get "catty" between the bands? Or is it mostly a mutually supportive, good-vibing scene?
ZS: From our experience in the local music scene, nothing has ever been less than peachy. At times it may have felt like we were the new cat on the block, but all the other cats were very supportive and instructive so now we feel like a well-educated musical cat.
CP: What are your favorite songs about cats?
ZS: "Thomas O'Malley Cat" by Phil Harris; "Who Let the Dogs Out?" by the Baha Men; "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan; "Rossini Cat Duet" featuring Pauline Tinsley and Elizabeth Vaughan.
CP: The hippocampus is responsible for short- and long-term memory, Wikipedia tells me. What's your favorite memory of Feather? What's your favorite memory so far in Hippo Campus' career?
ZS: Feather has left me with so many fond memories it's hard to say. She once ate some grass and leaves on one of her adventures then subsequently vomited on the carpet which I then had to clean up and there is still a stain to this day.
A fond Hippo Campus memory which I cherish is one night after dining at a reputable Indian restaurant, we returned home to practice and slumber. When I awoke I found vomit on the carpet which belonged to a unnamed Hippo Campus member who then politely cleaned it up. There is still a stain to this day.
CP: The internet cat world is obviously booming. Have you ever considered monetizing Feather and quitting music forever?
ZS: While she is cute and viral-worthy, she has expressed disinterest in the ever-revolving door of cute internet cats and their careers. She's more inclined to be the cat who profits from the success of other cats' fame. Say ... as Snacks' manager?
CP: Do you ever feel like Feather gets jealous of famous indie-rock pets, like Best Coast's kitty Snacks? Follow-up: Would you say Feather is a BETTER indie-rock cat than Snacks, objectively?
ZS: Feather seems to have whiskers for the finer things in life. You'd sooner find her lapping at a fine wine on a summers night listening to Chopin before you'd find her in a basement studio recording mixtapes. I'd say Snacks and Feather are in two separate camps here. However, Feather does have respect for early Pavement records as well as Best Coast records.
CP: Should you become a fabulously wealthy rock star and cloning makes financial sense, would you clone sweet Feather?
ZS: There can really only be one Feather. One Feather to rule them all. One Feather to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
CP: Who's winning in a fight: Feather or a hippo?
ZS: Clean fight? Hippo. Dirty fight? Feather
CP: Are there any other pets on the local music scene we should know about/interview?
ZS: I heard Prince has a dog or something?
CP: Feather, this one's for you: Give us a very brief review of Hippo Campus' new EP.
Feather: It's so good I wish I could eat it.