Hippo Campus opened Bonnaroo’s Saturday evening sets with an energetic performance that prevailed over the scorching heat. The Minnesota band played hits from both of their last two albums — Landmark which dropped in the winter of 2017 and Bambi that followed a year later — the sixty-minute set showing their range as a collective, while giving a taste of their development from one project to the next. After the show, all five members of the band (lead guitarist Jake Luppen, lead guitarist Nathan Stocker, bassist Zach Sutton, drummer Whistler Allen, trumpeter DeCarlo Jackson) sat down with The Daily to talk about the evolution of their sound, their first musical influences and their band’s code of conduct in the event of mass hysteria.
The Michigan Daily: How does playing at a massive festival like Bonnaroo compare to a smaller, more intimate show?
Zach Sutton: I think you answered your own question. It’s definitely less intimate at a festival. At a show, especially at a smaller show with a smaller venue, smaller attendance, you have the opportunity to be more subtle, more intimate, more … quiet, even, whereas at festivals you kind of have to keep the ball rolling, keep the energy up. I can’t say I prefer one or the other, they’re both different. They’re both super fun.
Nathan Stocker: One’s a buffet and one’s the main course.
TMD: Bambi felt like a big change from Landmark, both in terms of the electronic instrumentation and the confessional themes. Would you say those changes are connected?
NS: Yes. Jake (Luppen)? What do you have to say about that?
Jake Luppen: …
ZS: Process, process …
JL: Mmm, I don’t know, what do you guys think?
ZS: Well I personally feel like there’s a correlation. We spent a lot of time separate from each other, writing Bambi with our computers, outside of the room jamming together. And that happened because of natural changes — whether that’s with our producer or just learning more about production — and then that was reflected in the lyrics and in the content because we drifted more outside of the ‘Basement,’ as we call it.
JL: I think the electronic elements helped us strip things down because everything was so clean. It allowed us to strip all the songs down to a minimal amount of instruments while still allowing them to be as loud and aggressive as we wanted them to be.
TMD: Do you see that as a future direction for Hippo Campus?
JL: I don’t know, I feel like we’ll probably make a record that sounds totally different from Bambi next … cause we’re in the business of making records that sound different.
ZS: That’s right.
JL: Every time.
DeCarlo Jackson: (Mumbling a melody) Burr-pa-burr …
JL: Yeah, something like that.
TMD: Speaking of future projects, Jake, you recently posted on twitter about a future demos album. You just released Demos 1 a few days ago. What will that (future album) be? Will that just be Demos 2?
JL: Well, you know, what naturally follows one is typically two.
(The band laughs)
NS: What normally follows one? When I say I have to go to the bathroom, and they ask which number, I say number one.
JL: It’s not demos three.
NS: And when I say I have to go to the bathroom a few hours later, they don’t ask, they know. He’s going number two.
TMD: What track would you say you’re the most proud of?
ZS: In our discography?
ZS: I like “Warmglow” the best. It’s different from the rest, and I fuck with it.
NS: I can back that. I like different songs for different reasons, you can’t really pick one. But that’s sort of the point, to reach closer and closer to all of them completing a puzzle, but it’s never really ending, that search for the right pieces.
TMD: Okay, so, you all are stranded on a deserted island. Something’s gone terribly wrong, it’s just the five of you. Who is the first to resort to cannibalism and eat the others? That or some other depraved nonsense.
JL: Zach (Sutton).
ZS: You think I’m gonna —
NS: You’re gonna eat one of us first. Yeah.
JL: Zach’s the most violent one.
DJ: Or at least suggest it (cannibalism), like.
NS: Yeah, you’re like, “Guys, just thinking, we’re all hungry.”
ZS: Guys, I would never do that.
NS: It’s not about you never doing it, it’s about you being the first one —
ZS: Genuinely, I think it would be you, Nathan. You’d be like, “We’ve gotta look at the facts.”
NS: The first one to be eaten would definitely be Whistler (Allen).
Whistler Allen, silent until now, smiles.
Whistler Allen: That’s not the question.
ZS: Unfortunately, I agree with you (Nathan).
(The band laughs)
NS: Whistler would be eaten first. We wouldn’t be able to find DeCarlo (Jackson) ‘cause he’d be playing trumpet somewhere.
ZS: ‘Cause he’d have his trumpet, undoubtedly.
NS: Jake would leave a breadcrumb trail of shit he brought with you.
DJ: Just a whole stack of hotel cards.
NS: Zach would be working out or something. And I’d be doing what I’m doing right now, analyzing all of it … Yeah you know, maybe I would do it.
TMD: So what was the transition like, adding a fifth member (Jackson)?
NS: Yeah, there wasn’t really much of one.
JL: (to Jackson) How’d you feel?
DJ: How’d I feel? Man, I felt a whole lot of things. It was really hard.
DJ: I mean, it’s a tough group to play with, because you can’t overplay, but if you underplay everyone will assume you don’t exist. It was a tough in-between to find. At the same time, I tried to make the transition as easy as possible on everyone else. In the sense that I tried to only make things better — I tried my best not to get in the way too much.
TMD: How did you get started with the group? How did you integrate or meet?
DJ: Umm, we all went to high school, so I’ve known these guys since they sucked at writing music.
NS: For the record, we still suck at writing music.
DJ: You didn’t let me finish my sentence, either.
TMD: Do you guys have any artists that you remember latching onto growing up? Kind of as your first influence? Your first favorite artist?
ZS: Was that? Because that was big for me.
NS: Enya was big.
ZS: The first record I bought was Black Parade by My Chemical Romance.
ZS: And I stand by that as being a big influence on everything I do — extending past music.
DJ: Fallout Boy Infinity On High. Pfff, crazy.
JL: Led Zeppelin had this live album called How the West Was Won, and I used to listen to that all the time.
TMD: Who are your guys’ favorite active artists?
ZS: The Brother Brothers. I cannot get enough of The Brother Brothers.
NS: The Brother Brothers are really good.
TMD: I’m not familiar with them, what are they like?
ZS: They are brothers, come to find out. They covered Buck Meek’s song on their I think first and only record —
NS: No, it’s their second record.
ZS: Second record? Some People I Know, something like that … (singing) “Sam Bridges burned down to El Paso / Chasing the sound of speed.”
NS: Anyway, anyone else?
DJ: Oh and Nilüfer Yanya, Nilüfer Yanya. Is that how you say it?
NS: (singing) “Mahhhliah, mahhliah.” Great. Great record.
ZS: And Fontaines D.C.
JL: Recently Club Night put out a really cool album, about a month ago, I think.
NS: Sandia. Doesn’t have a record out, but a lot of good singles.