The boys of indie rock band Hippo Campus are composed of Jake Luppen (guitar/vocals), Nathan Stocker (guitar/vocals), Zach Sutton (bass/piano), Whistler Allen (drums/vocals), and Decarlo Jackson (trumpet). Their sophomore album Bambi was released last September 28, 2018 via Transgressive Records after more than a year of their debut album, Landmark.
Second albums are tricky. Should artists stick to their original sound that made everybody fall in love with them in the first place or should they try to step out of their comfort zone and explore? For Hippo Campus, this dilemma had a clear answer: they would do whatever they wanted, whatever spoke to them at the moment, they would put it on track. Thus Bambi was born, a bubbly, bouncy, head-bopping album that, if anything, reflects each person in the band.
Known for making happy sounding songs with deep lyrics, Hippo Campus explores their personal issues, touches on relationships and mental health, and gives a refreshing take on songwriting. Suffice to say it didn’t disappoint.
We asked the band some questions about what went through their heads during the making of Bambi and here’s what they shared:
8LIST.PH: You released Landmark just last year and this year you’ve produced yet another great album. What was the album writing/creating process like for Bambi? Were some of the songs in Bambi meant to be in Landmark but never made it? What was your goal for this album?
HIPPO CAMPUS: We developed the songs more independently from one another than we had in the past, which allowed us to focus on certain ideas in greater depth. In the communal process some avenues of creating are more challenging due to individual reservations about styles and choices, but when creating separately from that it’s easier to push an idea further.
Nonetheless we would bring these drafts to each other and work on them as a group and then again with our producer BJ [Burton]. We started writing these songs from scratch which aligned with a certain goal we had at the time; to be as honest as possible. We decided to use different instruments and different language to express ourselves more honestly than we had in the past.
8LIST.PH: What’s something about this album that sets it apart from all your other releases?
HIPPO CAMPUS: This record was the first time we wrote the songs individually before developing them together in the studio with our producer BJ [Burton].
(Fun Fact: Their debut album Landmark was also produced by BJ Burton who is also the producer for Bon Iver and Low.)
8LIST.PH: Can you explain the origin or the inspiration behind the Bambi album name and the Bambi single?
HIPPO CAMPUS: Jake has an aunt named Bambi [and she] has a lake house in rural Wisconsin. We use this lake house often as a retreat for writing and isolation. A large portion of work for the album was done at this lake house so it was fitting that we name the album after such place. The song Bambi was ironically not written at the lake house.
8LIST.PH: What’s the first song off Bambi you’ve started to record? Which song was the most difficult to make? Why was it difficult?
HIPPO CAMPUS: We started with the songs Anxious and Doubt at a studio in Minneapolis. While these two proved to be quite challenging, the most elusive was Bambi. We re-worked it a dozen times just trying to get the chords and melody fitting right. It was tough for unknown reasons. Sometimes songs just try to run away from ya.
8LIST.PH: How do you find being on the road and on tour once again? Are there times you get tired of the band life or each other? Do you see yourself being in a band forever?
HIPPO CAMPUS: There’s always an adjustment period but we usually get into the groove of things fairly easily. It’s important to respect every individual person’s privacy on the road. We take it day by day!
8LIST.PH: When did you realize that you’ve made it? Because with a second tour and most of the first sold out, there’s no doubt you’re on the rise, if you aren’t at the top already. A lot of fans in the Philippines are begging for you to come here also!
HIPPO CAMPUS: We still have goals; we still have things we want to do. There’s always a place to be and we’re more than thankful for the places we’ve been. A lot of our success is beyond our own doing. The fans are our life-force.
8LIST.PH: If you aren’t playing for Hippo Campus, what would you have been doing?
HIPPO CAMPUS: We all worked various jobs around the twin cities, so maybe we’d be making sandwiches, or working at the local grocery store, or working at the airport, who knows? We all wanted to do music for a very long time so it’s tough thinking about other lines of work.
8LIST.PH: You guys are awesome doing acoustic versions of your songs. Will you ever release an acoustic album?
HIPPO CAMPUS: That’s been a topic for years! At some point, it would be nice to arrange an entire album of new songs in that stripped down “acoustic” form, but a large part of the appeal is hearing songs we’ve already recorded in new and unique ways. Maybe we’ll get to it someday!
Bambi is out worldwide via Transgressive Records. You can listen to it on Spotify.