One of the best things about a thriving music scene is the collaborative spirit it encourages. The possibilities seem to be endless. And Hi Guppy! is a perfect example of how this cross-contamination can work.
After Samson Mankinen moved to Huntington Beach in 2017, he soon started playing drums in several bands. His girlfriend, Jacqueline Proctor, had just left her previous group and wanted to start transforming some of her previously written poems into songs. “So we kind of just messed around with some song ideas for a few months, and toward the end of 2017, we solidified a lineup with her cousin and her cousin’s friend,” Mankinen explains. “We played some shows and put out a demo. Then we had an extended period of time where we didn’t really have anybody to play with. Within the last year-ish, we resolidified our lineup with Koch and Mason [Ventura] from Joynoise, and our friend Lissie [Valenzuela] has been singing with us every other show, basically, since we started.”
Just two years later, Hi Guppy! have released their first official (self-titled) EP. Ventura had taken a break from the band while they were recording the songs at Volcom Studio in Costa Mesa earlier this year, so Julie Manoukian filled in and tracked the bass for the sessions. This revolving door of musicians isn’t necessarily practical, but it certainly keeps things interesting.
The EP is driven by Proctor’s singing and songwriting. While the songs certainly have a fair amount of grit, distortion and attitude, they also bear some intimacy and depth. “A lot of our songs are directly from Jackie’s experiences,” Mankinen explains. “She likes to write about her anxieties and her stresses and [from] the perspective of when she was a kid. ‘Goldie Lox’ is from the perspective of a little girl looking at herself and being eventually proud of who she becomes.”
Of course, the band also embrace their snotty punk edge, as can be particularly heard on the tongue-in-cheek “Free Melania.”
“HBPD” is a punk song with a poppy, sing-song delivery. As Proctor chants, “Ew, ew. No. 2 on you” over droning electric guitars, she sounds both adorable and sinister.
While they definitely fit in with OC’s garage-rock scene, it’s not hard to imagine them playing at a lighter pop show or even a full-on punk show. “It’s really strange because we all come from different musical styles,” Mankinen says. “But—I don’t know—we’re kind of just a rock band. Our singer, Jackie, and I love Foo Fighters, so we have some weird elements of that in there, but there’s also a garage-y sound that Koch brings in with his guitar tones.”
Mankinen also currently drums with the Side Eyes and Melted, two well-established OC bands that undoubtedly keep him busy most nights. Proctor is the drummer for the Aquadolls, who recently returned from a national tour. And Koch and Ventura have been playing extensively with Joynoise. Thanks to these other commitments, Hi Guppy! haven’t been too active for the past year, but Mankinen hopes the new EP will change that.
“I want to try and hit 2020 and play way more than we did this year,” he says. “Hopefully, this EP will let people know that we have a decent sound and that they can add us to lots of different types of shows.
“I don’t really foresee a bunch of touring for us. That’d be rad, but we’re so heavily involved in our own stuff that I think that’s kind of like the last leg that we would try to pull with this band. But I just really want to play music and write and record more and see if that takes us anywhere.”