INTERVIEW: Hippo Campus
Photos: Jake Haseldine
Indie four piece Hippo Campus hasn’t taken a break since they made their mark with debut single “Suicide Saturday” back in 2014. Since then, they’ve toured with Walk the Moon, My Morning Jacket, and Modest Mouse along with performing at many sold out shows across the pond. Earlier today, I spoke with lead singer Jake Luppen about the growing pains that come with writing, new music, and more in the interview below!
When you guys first started playing shows you mentioned how you had to write a bunch of new songs for your set. Since you’ve had a little bit more time in between touring to write and that sense of urgency isn’t there, has your guys’ approach to writing changed?
It’s changed in the fact that we’re working with a producer, so there’s kind of another cooperative party evolved. So we’ve written the songs the same way but we’re recording them in a different way. We kind of record them, listen back, and kind of critique that version - so there’s been more map changing then we would have in the pass. Like changing parts, changing arrangements….just because now we have the luxury of time that we didn’t have before. So it’s changed in that way, but I think we’re still writing the songs traditionally the same.
There’s an interesting change from ‘Bashful Creatures’ to ‘South’ - ‘Bashful Creatures’ is very cheery and uplifting and then ‘South’ starts to reveal a different side of you guys with songs like “Violet” and “The Halocline”. Was that something you guys planned on doing or did it happen naturally?
I feel like it naturally happened, South was written actually directly after high school, before Bashful was. So those are songs we’ve been sitting on for a lot longer. I think it was a representation of where we were at. It wasn’t necessarily a sad time but there was definitely some awkward vibes you know? We had just graduated high school, we didn’t know what we were doing, we had just kinda started the band and it was just kind of where we were all at. You know we still want the music to be happy and dance songs but I do think the songs from ‘South’ are more cynical. But I think with these new songs we’re kind of encapsulating both camps and we’re really diving into cynicism from a lyrical standpoint.
Last month I interviewed Bad Bad Hats before their show at The Riot Room and I asked them how it was touring with you guys and they all mentioned how you inspired them with your live show because of how passionate you are. What are some of your favorite songs to perform live?
Yeah, this is a good question. Those guys are awesome…it was really fun touring with them…and honestly it really just depends on the night. A lot of it depends on the audience because you have to see when they’re into and what songs they’re feeling. Um, “Bashful Creatures” is always a fun one to play live. Playing new ones live is always fun because it kind of catches people by surprise.
Something that really resonated with me is the messages in your guys’ songs. “The Halocline” is a great example, especially for people around our age since we’re all experiencing that shift into adulthood. When did you start writing?
Nathan and I both write lyrics. It’s kind of like 50/50…he’ll write a batch and then I’ll write a batch and then we’ll edit each other’s work. It’s nice having a collaborative partner…it’s kind of a best of both worlds to a certain degree. But we’ve both been writing for a while…I’ve been writing lyrics since I was fourteen….they were all pretty….bad (laughs). Yeah they were all pretty terrible, but you evolve and you grow and you start to realize what you’re saying and why you’re saying it. Like…it actually makes sense, people understand it….it’s tangible for the first time. I think once you realize that you’re like, “Oh! Jeez this song is cool now.” …….but by no means do we have it figured out.
When can we expect new music?
Um…I’m not sure on that. I don’t want to give a clear date because things change. I think we have a lot of cool songs recorded but I feel like we can keep writing at this point….. I don’t know! I don’t want to give a date away….but I feel like it’ll be sooner than you expect.
What producer are you guys working with?
BJ Burton! He’s produced a lot of cool stuff. He’s worked with The Tallest Man on Earth, Slyvan Esso. Yeah, yeah he’s really cool. He’s got a lot of background in hip hop, which brings a really cool element. And so many different genres stem from rap - like jazz, which is so creative and there’s a lot more rhythmic eccentric elements. It sounds really really cool and really different than what we’ve done before.
I know you guys are rap fans so if you could work with a producer/artist who would it be?
Oh, this is always an interesting question…..I don’t really know…..there’s a lot of artists that we really respect who have a lot of creative power, like Kanye….who’s a classic. And Justin Vernon is a creative powerhouse. Those are two people who would be great to work with. But at the same time I don’t even know if they would be open to collaborate with other people because they’re so brilliant. (laughs)
Have you heard ‘The Life of Pablo’ yet?
I’ve heard some of it, Nathan has listened to all of it. I just don’t have TIDAL so…I know it’s out now on like other mediums but that’s what initially turned me off to it. I totally respect TIDAL though, I think it’s dope they’re doing their own thing. But yeah, I’ve heard some of it and everything I heard sounded cool. It’s really interesting how he kept going back after it was out and changes stuff….who does that? (laughs). I really really respect Kanye….I know a lot of people think he’s a jerk and stuff but I think he’s smart and has a lot of good points. We’ve had debates as a band about him and it’s been pretty heated at times. But yeah he’s definitely a hot topic for everybody…..and that’s exactly how he’d want it.
Hippo Campus’ upcoming tour starts on 4/26 in Fargo, ND and they will be performing in Kansas City at The Tank Room on May 11th!
Get tickets at http://hippocampusband.com/shows