For Sac brothers Hippie Sabotage, the bong helps the beat
Hippie Sabotage makes music with low-key swagger. On the duo’s instrumental single, “Righteous,” blues guitar wails over a subwoofer-busting beat, and it’s easy to imagine a slow motion closeup of an extra-cool movie character, reflected smoke curling in her aviator sunglasses.
What kind of smoke, you ask? Well, like most of Hippie Sabotage’s songs, “Righteous” is best consumed during periods of significant cognitive impairment. After all, brothers Jeff and Kevin Saurer—the minds behind the electronic music project—may or may not have been blazed when they recorded the track.
“For us, I think it enhances and contributes to the creative process, but it’s not like a necessity,” Jeff said of using cannabis in the studio. “Generally, I think it’s different for everyone, whether it helps or inhibits. But I do like making beats, smoking a joint and listening to guitar jams. It’s a good vibe.”
The brothers have been vibing off each other for years, well before they were a quickly ascending EDM act. Jeff plays guitar and sings, and Kevin produces the beats; it’s been that way since they were kids growing up in Sacramento.
“I started taking guitar when I was like 12, and I would watch Kevin make beats on his computer,” Jeff said. “We’ve been making music together pretty much nonstop ever since.”
“We really got into music from skateboarding,” Kevin added. “We we just wanted to put our own music to our skate videos and shit. That led to a hobby that we did all day every day, and then it became our job.”
Hippie Sabotage is playing Ace of Spades on Wednesday, September 26. Speaking with SN&R from their home in Venice, the brothers say they’re coming armed with huge LED screens and a bunch of new instrumental bangers. The high-budget production reflects just how far they’ve come.
They started by making hip-hop instrumentals and connecting with local rappers through Omina Laboratories and SoundCap Audio, where they were gradually exposed to a wider range of electronic music. They started competing in beat battles at Sacramento State and Capitol Garage on K Street, but the project didn’t really take off until web-based platforms such as Bandcamp and SoundCloud emerged as ways to release instrumental beats online.
Hippie Sabotage’s bass-boosted 2014 remix of Tove Lo’s “Stay High” turned the duo into an in-demand act on the EDM festival circuit, but also led music critics to pigeonhole them as chilled-out electronic beatmakers. However, they’ve pursued a wide-ranging sound all along, from subtle, understated pysch to hard-hitting EDM influenced by heavy metal.
“One of the cool things about electronic music now is that you’re allowed to be a multigenre act,” Kevin said, “and I think we take full advantage of that creative space.”
The duo uses a mix of typical DJ techniques and old-school hippie tricks to get the crowd amped at their shows. Audiences are equally likely to be barraged by a series of rapid-fire drops or serenaded with one of Jeff’s extended guitar solos.
“The guitar really provides a whole other element to our shows,” Kevin said. “We’ve done all sorts of crazy high-energy shows, but now we’re able to take people on more of an emotional journey.”
Hippie Sabotage is very much along for the ride; in fact, they have a history of smoking blunts with fans in the crowd. And who knows? Maybe that inspires the lengthy jam-outs, or maybe they just get into a serious thing and forget how the song is supposed to end.