Listening to their latest album Landmark, one might not think Hippo Campus is a band of twenty-one-year-old guys from Minnesota. Zach Sutton (bass), Nathan Stocker (guitar/vocals), Whistler Allen (drums/vocals), andJake Luppen (vocals/guitar) came together in 2013 after performing in various other groups while in an arts high school near St. Paul. With their sweet, beachy, and smooth sound I could compare them to an indie rock, synth-addled Beach Boys. Luppen’s crooning voice, the backing harmonies courtesy of Stocker and Allen, and Sutton’s head-bopping bass guitar riffs certainly lead to this conclusion. What’s more, the songs off of Landmark vary incredibly in mood and subject, from upbeat and positive in “Way It Goes” to upbeat and pissed in “Vines,” to perhaps the most personal song I’ve ever heard, “Monsoon.”
But sitting down with the guys in between shows at SXSW, I saw a group of chill, like-minded friends who just so happened to come together to form a popular band. And I mean popular–just ask the many, many screaming teenage girls I saw at one of their shows during the week. But honestly, with their talent and charm, it’s a little hard, even for me, not to swoon.
HIPPO CAMPUS INTERVIEW
ALLI (HIGHLARK): Hey I’m Alli, nice to meet you guys.
ALL: Hi Alli!
ALLI: What’s your favorite song to play live?
ZACH: “Buttercup” — it’s a song off our new album, it’s really fun to play live ‘cause it goes frickin’ H.A.M. near the end.
NATHAN: I’ve been digging “Boyish” recently. There’s some sort of possession at the end of that song that overtakes me, and I like that. [To Whistler] What do you like to play? What do you like to drum to? [Laughs] Nothing of ours…
WHISTLER: Yeah, I hate our music. No…[laughs] “Vines” is cool, that’s a fun one. “Simple Season…”
NATHAN: Yeah, “Simple Season” is fun.
JAKE: I think “Western Kids,” that shit’s dope.
WHISTLER + NATHAN: Hard song. Yeah, that’s hard.
ALLI: I mean I like all of them, so…
ZACH: Oh, thanks!
ALLI: Also, yeah, my mom likes you guys.
ALL, OVERLAPPING:Oh thanks! Cool!
NATHAN: What’s your mom’s name?
JAKE: That’s my name! Shout out Janet.
ZACH: Give Janet our best.
JAKE: Yeah, tell her we say what’s up.
ZACH: Hi Janet!
ALLI: She’ll be happy about that. Alright, on to the next one. What is your dream concert line-up? You can have two openers and a main act.
ZACH: Hippo Campus, Hippo Campus, Hippo Campus.
ALLI: I had a feeling someone would say that.
JAKE: Celine Dion, headliner.
NATHAN: Michael Bolton opens.
NATHAN: And then in front of that… Matty B.
JAKE: Yeah. Matty B, Michael Bolton, Celine Dion.
ZACH: Three nights…
NATHAN: at the Wembley.
WHISTLER: No, no…
ZACH: Okay. WU LYF, The Gorilaz, and then Bon Iver. Yeah, that’s a fucked-up line-up.
ALLI:That’s cool, they can all come on stage and play “Feel Good Inc.” or something.
ALLI: Who or are your musical inspirations or influences?
NATHAN: Honestly, every time I see our friends perform and do something cool, that inspires me quite a bit.
WHISTLER:Yeah, dude. More recently–they’ve always been there, but–our friends.
JAKE: Yeah, our friends are really good. There’s a band they’re in back home, The Happy Children. They’re super dope.
ALLI:What’s your favorite ‘90s jam?
WHISTLER: Did “Amber” [by 311] come out in ‘99, or was that earlier?
ZACH: No, that was the 2000s.
NATHAN: Was Sugar Ray the 90s?
NATHAN: The 14:59 album by Sugar Ray.
ZACH: Perhaps “All-Star,” by Smash Mouth…
[Someone begins singing “Basket Case” by Green Day.]
JAKE: “Machinehead,” by Bush.
NATHAN: That song is terrible. Third Eye Blind? …Was Ed Sheeran alive in the ‘90s?
ALLI: No, but his older brother Ted was. Ted Sheeran? I don’t know if you know of him.
ZACH: I don’t know if you know Eric Clapton, but his older brother Aaron Clapton… he had a huge smash hit.
And… Shed! Shed Sheeran.
ALLI:That’s the whole line up. Okay, last one… What’s your favorite part of the brain?