The Many Faces of Kenny Hauptman

I recently sat down with Kenny Hauptman (of punk institution Top Nachos and New Paltz DIY favorite, Shmave), to discuss his musical career as well as his new EP: Slow Down.

Hauptman has been playing music for well over a decade, having originally picked up guitar during high school.

“Playing music with my friends is what I grew up doing, and something I intend on doing the rest of my life too,” Hauptman said.

After high school, he began to take music more seriously by going on his first tour with a band named Dirty Rivers. During this tour the band just so happened to play alongside yet-to-be-discovered indie rock giant, Car Seat
Headrest. In hindsight, this chance encounter was a good omen for Hauptman’s music career.

Eventually Hauptman discovered Eli Frank, and the two formed the now revered punk group Top Nachos. Hauptman (who plays drums) described the band, which releases under King Pizza Records, as his “bread and butter.” Together with Frank (who handles vocals and guitar) the two have made some big waves, touring both domestically and abroad, as well as
having operated the now defunct DIY venue “Nacho House” in New Paltz.

The efforts of the Nacho boys were recently acknowledged when they were invited to play at the “Oh My Rockness Hardest Working Bands Show” at Baby’s All Right in Williamsburg, Brooklyn this past January.

Although Top Nachos was scheduled to play SXSW in March, their
plans unfortunately had to be canceled due to obvious complications.

However, you can still listen to their new EP, Donate 2 the Bands — the group’s first new release since their debut LP, Dank Side of the Moon) — on streaming services. The band has some gigs lined up for June and July,
but things are still very nebulous.

In addition to playing drums for Top Nachos, Hauptman has also played electric bass in Shmave for three years. He described his bandmates as his “very close homies” and happily admitted that “going to practice with them is just like hanging out, the shows are always fun with those guys.”

Shmave have recently put out a tiny-desk tribute video on Instagram.

“The desk isn’t so visible, but it’s there” Hauptman said.

On his new project, released under the name Larry Locust, Hauptman delivers a much different sound than might be expected from fans of his other groups. Slow Down pulls the listener into a wavy, ethereal, psychedelic soundscape. Listening to this project made me feel like I was sinking into a giant pot of honey. Hauptman cited Tame Impala, Modest Mouse, and Beach House as his main influences for the sound of Larry Locust.

Slow Down, which released in early April, was quite a long time in the making. Hauptman recorded the parts three whole years ago, but was only able to have the music mixed and mastered this past December due to his other projects taking precedence.

“Larry is the one that always gets kicked to the curb, but now that those other projects have been pushed back I can focus on it,” Hauptman said.

In my opinion, the EP was well worth the wait. Although Hauptman recorded all of the instrumental and vocal parts for the EP, he was quick to credit the people who helped out with this project. Avery Maracek (of Shmave) recorded it, Dylan Nowik (of Steady Sun) mixed and produced it, Rowan Brind (of Wooter) mastered it, and the artwork was done by artist and ceramicist Casey Taylor. In particular Hauptman praised Nowik
for his work.

“He really did a lot for that EP as far as putting on the effects that were
used. All of it was pretty clean, and he really just did a number on it,” he said.

The first track off Slow Down, “Dank Jenkins” is a heady instrumental oasis which does a great job of establishing a mood. On the next cut, “Anyway,” Hauptman introduces lyrics which describe not wanting to go to work because the speaker has a new love interest who they would rather spend the day with.

On title track “Slow Down,” Hauptman delivers hypnotic music coupled with the easily relatable theme of trying to strike a balance between being at a standstill and moving so fast that life passes you by. When asked about the inspiration for the song, he stated “Things slow down inevitably for whatever reason. But it’s also a reminder that when you’re in a constant rush … give yourself a minute. I feel like right now people are being given that minute.”

Although he is involved in three distinct projects, Hauptman holds down a full time job while also managing his personal life. He would ideally like to make music his career, and although it’s a daunting goal, he is well on his way.

“I feel like I’m the luckiest person ever to be honest. I’ve been able to go to Australia through my music,” Hauptman said. “I get to make music and there are people who support it. It’s really inspiring, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Right now Hauptman is putting out acoustic songs on his Larry Locust Instagram page, @larrylocust420, which he says will eventually be recorded with a full instrumental ensemble.

He’s also giving people the opportunity to interact with the art by letting followers name short keyboard melodies. You can follow Kenny Hauptman on instagram @NopTachos and his band, @TopNachos. Slow Down is available on Bandcamp, and Donate 2 the Bands is available on
streaming platforms everywhere.

Shoutouts from Kenny Hauptman include Casey Taylor, Sweet pill, Limited choice, Lorelai, Ashjesus, Godcaster, Dark Wing, King Pizza Records, Shmave and Top Nachos.