Only a few years ago, it was no surprise to hear an Atlanta musician say, “I’m moving to Nashville to play music.” It makes sense, right? It is the music capital of the South – or, at least it was. But for Nate Cain, lead vocalist and guitarist of the tart-pop quartet The Hipps, the opposite was true. After a stint in Tennessee, he made the decision to return home to Atlanta and pick up where he left off, alongside childhood friend and keyboardist James Deveau, drummer Wade Sullivan, and bassist and vocalist JT.
Following the January release of their latest single, “Take It Off My Hands,” I caught up with Nate to talk about the transition from solo songwriter to lead vocalist in an incandescent pop band, the first good song he ever wrote, and his favorite music venue in the city.
AF: Let’s start with the basics! How did The Hipps form? Were you all involved in bands growing up, or was it something you became interested in as you got older?
NC: The keyboard player, James Deveau, and I have known each other through friends since we were both in high school. When I graduated, we lost contact, and I was playing music in Tennessee while going to school. I decided to move back to Georgia and when I did, I made sure to contact James and start working together again. From there, I met the other guys working at a music shop in Alpharetta. We all come from different sorts of backgrounds, so our music definitely has some unique vibes to it.
AF: What initially inspired you to pick up an instrument or write a song?
NC: I actually started writing when I was in sixth grade. I think initially I just wanted to create something, and that’s what I enjoyed the most. I tried to start a band and got three other kids at my house to put together some makeshift sounds. I remember my buddy looking at me after I played what I thought was the best out of the three of the songs I had written, and he just was like, “We can’t play that, man.” So I think for the next couple of years, my audience remained my dog in my room. I just wrote bad song after bad song until I finally got one right. From there, I guess I just got addicted to writing.
AF: Who do you consider your greatest musical inspirations? Are the bands who have inspired your sound different from the bands that you listen to when you’re just hanging out?
NC: I’d say we’re all somewhat predictable in that we like everything. Like, none of us are super against any genre. But then again, there’s almost always artists that someone listens to that no one’s ever heard of, right? I think for me specifically, I’d have to say some influences that I can’t ever get out of my system are Father John Misty, Darwin Deez, and James Taylor. Those are three that I just have never stopped listening to. I love the integrity of their art. Interestingly, when I am just listening to music casually, usually I’m just trying to find something new. Whether it’s pop, indie, rap, country, or whatever. Lately, I’ve actually been listening to ton of Lennon Stella. She’s great.
AF: You guys just released a song, “Take It Off My Hands,” and it’s so rad. Can you walk us through your creative process? What inspired it, and how was it different from other songs you’ve written before?
NC: So I actually wrote “Take It Off My Hands” about four or five years ago. It’s a pretty simple song. Back then, I was going for more of what Darwin Deez does. Which I guess is sort of like sweet, hyper-indie, sorta bedroom pop sounding tunes. Just go listen to “Bad Day” by him and you’ll see what I mean. But “Take It Off My Hands” was slower, more simple, and definitely a deeper concept than what I was comfortable with singing about at the time. I was going through a pseudo identity crisis, and that’s what the song is about. It also brings in the idea that you need support and love from people to make it through life.
AF: How has your creative process changed since The Hipps was formed?
NC: Back when I wrote that song, and really up until the time when I formed The Hipps, I pretty much wrote all the songs by myself and then brought it to musicians and had them learn my parts. Back then, I was just trying to dip my music into the local scene where I could, here and there, while being in school and in Little Moses, another band I played lead guitar in with Nick Carpenter (now known as Medium Build). Now it’s completely different. At this point, I’ve dived into the deep end with The Hipps. It’s my baby, and we’re not gonna stop pushing as hard as we can. Ultimately that means we’re a team and we write songs and finalize arrangements together. That being said, when we’re in the studio, a lot of things change. That’s partially due to wanting the song to come out better and realizing places where we could’ve done better, but also we’re super thankful to be working with Paul Rogers and Jimmy Mansfield. Paul finds genius pockets of secret sunshine in arrangements that I never would’ve thought of, and Jimmy is an incredible engineer. We’re thrilled with how “Take It Off My Hands” came out, and so excited to show you guys what else we’ve got.
AF: What’s been your proudest moment as a band?
NC: I think we’d all agree that our release party for our single would probably be that moment. It was a relatively small show of maybe 150 people at 529 in East Atlanta Village. The moment was playing the last chorus of that song and being able to step back from mic ’cause the audience was loud and clearly knew the words. I think that was cool for all of us, having worked hard to get a great sounding song out in existence and literally hearing what we had worked on sung back at us. But we keep having great moments, and hopefully that will continue. We’ve had the chance to open for Trongone Band, The Suffers, and recently Daniel Donato. All of which we were honored to be able to be the supporting act.
AF: The Atlanta music scene has grown exponentially over the last few years. What’s it been like to be part of the city’s music and arts scene?
NC: That is 100% true. When I first moved back from the Nashville area, I had a hard time finding good indie music. Ever since, it’s been this exponential growth. We have so much love for the Atlanta music scene. Every once and while you strike gold with an experience here. Shout out to people that are changing or have changed the game like Rowdy Dowdy, 529 – specifically Kyle with Irrelevant Music – Creative Loafing, Tuna for Breakfast… I mean there’s just so many people. So many creative people in this city. It’s wonderful.
AF: What’s next for you guys?
NC: Next for us will be more singles, videos, and, ideally before the end of this year, we will release an EP and tour the crap out of it right out the gate.
AF: Last one! Best show you’ve ever seen in Atlanta, and best place for a late night hang?
NC: Best show I’ve ever seeeeeen? Sheeesh that’s a hard one. I will say that we just played with a touring band at Smith’s. They’re called Sexy Dex and The Fresh. I listened the their recordings and thought they were pretty impressive. But seeing them live was wildly entertaining. They are great musicians and their show was incredible. Locally, I’d say 529 has it nailed down right now better than anyone else. You could go there blindly on a Friday or Saturday, not knowing the bill or anything, and you’ll likely have a great night full of great music. Again, props to Irrelevant Music.
Keep up with The Hipps on Facebook, and stay tuned for fresh releases and 2019 tour dates.