An Interview with Hippo Campus — we talk social media, the cathartic nature of songwriting, and short attention spans

Hippo Campus

It’s really easy to write-off Hippo Campus as just another indie-pop band. From their young age to their weird name, they have all the markers of the average Bandcamp musician. But the Minnesota-based quartet, comprised of Jake Luppen (vocals), Nathan Stocker (guitar), Zach Sutton (bass guitar), and Whistler Allen (drums), are able to set themselves apart from the pack.

When I sat down with Luppen before their sold-out show at the Fonda, it was clear that his passion lies in making music. This sentiment is made even more apparent when considering the band’s surprisingly long discography that features the full-length album Landmark and three studio EPs.

“The first moment where I realized that Hippo Campus was going to last beyond high school was when we played at a birthday party for our trumpet player (Decarlo Jackson) really early on. I think it was our second show and it was just a house party. But just by seeing people’s reaction to the music we were playing, people were dancing, I knew that it was different from anything I had ever seen before,” Luppen said.

Music, it seems, runs through Luppen’s veins. From childhood, he was surrounded by the musicians in his family: his grandfather and mother. But for Luppen, music is about expression. One needs to look no further than their deeply personal, sometimes autobiographical lyrics to realize that music serves as an emotional release for the members of Hippo Campus.

Hippo Campus at Fonda Theatre — Photo: Sammy Park

“The way we write is very subconscious. If I’m writing lyrics, I just sit down and start writing. As opposed to sitting down and having a theme in mind or anything like that. I think that by doing that it allows me to find out things about myself that I wouldn’t normally realize. It’s (music) is my favorite form of expression because sometimes I don’t know how I’m feeling and I am able to sit down and write I can figure it out.”

Hippo Campus’ mission statement is to be more than just a group of people who release music. Of course, the music comes first, but the Minnesotans want to create an experience for fans that goes beyond sound. In the 21st century, it seems obvious that fans and casual listeners must be able to ‘see’ (or at least scroll through) Hippo Campus’ life. Whether that may be through a picture of them on a tour bus or a behind-the-scenes Instagram Boomerang, Hippo Campus content is a good that is in high demand.

“A few months ago, I made the decision to delete my personal Instagram. I think it all had to do with mental health at the end of the day. It’s an exciting thing to see what people are saying about you all the time, to see all the pictures that people take with you, and to see what people comment on them. There’s benefits to that but there are also drawbacks. I’m a pretty sensitive person and sometimes it hard to see hate or disrespect. I have felt more clearheaded since I deleted my Instagram just because I am less focused on what people are saying or what people are thinking about what I’m doing. And I am more focused on what, as an artist, that I want to do.”

One of the main themes of Landmark is that social media can have harmful effects: and has had particularly adverse effects on their generation. With tracks like “Western Kids”, critiques of social media culture are well-hidden amongst Hippo Campus’ signature bouncy guitar lines.

“People’s attention spans are so small it feels like you continually have to be bombarding them with content. It’s like if you’re not seeing a million pictures of your artist a day you might just forget and move on to the next one. So I do feel like because of social media there is more pressure for artists to constantly be generating content. Whether that’s a positive or negative thing for art, I don’t know. But I suppose we’ll see.”

Luppen and the rest of Hippo Campus seem unfazed by their status as indie-pop darlings. They are unafraid to call out the artificial nature of notability while promoting organizations they stand behind á la their newest partnership with Planned Parenthood.

The band looks to 2018 with hope: hope that their tour goes well, hope to grow their fanbase, and hope to positively impact people through music.

Words: Sammy Park

For tour dates, new music and news from Hippo Campus, follow the band via their Facebook.

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