The right guys, the right time

'Planned happenstance' drives band

The three "heads" of Trichotomus Hippopotamus: Jesse Gaze, Ryan Lentine and Connor O'Shaughnessy, photography by Ellie Bogue

The three "heads" of Trichotomus Hippopotamus: Jesse Gaze, Ryan Lentine and Connor O'Shaughnessy, photography by Ellie Bogue

Timing is everything, and when it comes to the short history of Trichotomous Hippopotamus, timing has been impeccable. The very formation of the three members of the band – bass player Jesse Gaze, drummer Connor O’Shaughnessy and guitarist and vocalist Ryan Lentine – is a perfect example of that serendipity. Lentine is the common glue, having gone to Homestead High School with O’Shaughnessy and having attended Ball State University with Gaze. When Gaze sent a text to Lentine asking if he was interested in forming a blues band, O’Shaughnessy was standing with Lentine and was immediately included in the plan. Timing.

Time is also something the trio hasn’t wasted. While they got together to learn a few covers, the timing was right for last summer’s Battle of the Bands, and they decided to try their luck.

“I asked the guys if they wanted to write a couple of songs and do this,” said Lentine. “We ended up coming in third, but those three shows were the first ones we ever played.”

Trichotomous Hippopotamus has continued to add more covers and originals to its setlist, making more official debuts at a show in Muncie and at O’Sullivan’s here. Each member brought his own musical leanings to the collaboration. Gaze was thinking along the lines of Led Zeppelin. O’Shaughnessy was a Motown fan, and Lentine a fan of jazz and pop. But they were quick to find common ground.

“We all wanted to learn what the other people wanted to cover,” said Gaze, “and ready to see how we chose to cover them.”

In the year since they started playing together, the musicians have focused on developing their sound while establishing their unique name. Lentine put together a press kit and website and started promoting them while also receiving help from other bands in the area, particularly Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra, the ultimate victors in the Battle of the Bands in which they competed. All of that work led to an unexpected call this year from Jack Hammer, executive director of Three Rivers Festival, asking if they’d like to play.

“We thought he was going to ask if we wanted to play at 4 o’clock one afternoon or something,” said Lentine. “But instead he was asking us to play at 7 p.m. and open for KC & the Sunshine Band. We were elated. It’s hard to describe. It’s definitely the biggest crowd we’ve played for so far.”

For now they continue to work on an album, hoping for a release at the end of this year, and they’re talking about what happens next in terms of promoting themselves outside of Fort Wayne and looking for a record company. Gaze says he learned from a counselor that a musician’s life is described as “planned happenstance. Which means you have no control over what happens, but you control how you’re going to make it possible.”

First appeared in the October 2015 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.

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