Interview with Hippo Campus: Embracing Uncertainty and Defining Happiness as a Musician

All photos by Stephen Chong

As this year comes to a close, Hippo Campus have enjoyed monumental experiences making 2017 one to remember. Mediocrity is not on their horizon. From the release of their first album, Landmark, to a live set at Bonnaroo, these Minnesota natives are on a powerful trajectory to an even brighter future than they’ve already established for themselves. Formed by Jake Luppen (vocals/guitar), Nathan Stocker (vocals/guitar), Whistler Allen (drums) and Zach Sutton (bass), Hippo Campus has blown away indie counterparts with their ability to master soaring vocals and enchanting melodies in tracks like Way It Goes, Epitaph and Baseball. Luppen and Stocker are adept at composing lyrics with a meticulous web of playful metaphors. While on their fall tour, we caught up with Stocker to discuss his thoughts on their releases from this year and the value they create for others. 

Teal Magazine: You guys only have a few more dates left on your tour, how has it been on the road since coming back from the UK?

Nathan Stocker: Crazy. It’s just been so good. Like playing all these shows and hanging out.

TM: We saw that you guys are doing meet and greets before the show. Has it been nice having that set aside time to connect with your fans?

NS: Yeah, it’s been cool. I think we’re still figuring out the best way to make the situation the least awkward as possible. But yeah, it’s cool. It’s been fun just playing the songs stripped down and being able to meet everyone in one communal experience. 

TM: And you can do it inside rather than meeting them outside in the cold. 

NS: Exactly.

TM: Would you say that doing the acoustic set is your favorite part of the meet and greet? 

NS: I would say talking to people and getting a grasp of where they are from and it’s kind of fun just to talk about life. 

TM: You kind of get the story behind all of the people who are supporting you.

NS: Yeah, it’s interesting too, seeing how many people drive like ungodly distances. It's great. 

TM: With these listeners being able to hear your songs live, what kind of experience do you hope they walk away with?

NS: I just hope for a genuine moment to happen, a mutual experience where we can kind of understand each other and we’re all together here. Just being present in the moment. I guess thats all that I can hope for and obviously people having a good time.

TM: So you guys definitely have a pretty extensive fan base. What do you think has been the most effective way to grow your listeners? 

NS: I don’t know, it’s weird to watch stats on social media and where people are listening from on Spotify. There are all of those numbers, but I think it just comes down to people sharing through the internet.

TM: On this tour, you’ve had both your Landmark album and Warm Glow EP released and have been able to play these songs. What are some of your favorites on each of these pieces of work? 

NS: I like playing Traveler a lot. Landmark, I haven’t listened to any of that in a really long time but I guess Buttercup is always fun to play. 

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"Doing this for four years now, I don’t think we’ll ever really figure it out 100%. I don’t think anybody does. It’s all about picking up on the small things. Just as if I had brothers, you kind of learn how to love them more than you already do."

TM: Since your album is still fairly new, what made you decide to release more music?

NS: It’s a bit of a combo of coming across songs we were first trying to write cause those were all kind of leftover from Landmark. They just didn’t make it onto the album. Then kind of just having more leverage in the game. We want to keep things fresh and understand that you have to have a pretty wide catalog to establish yourself. Also, in the industry with labels and all of those stuff, it’s kind of important to keep things moving. I think that’s the most important thing, being proactive with everything.

TM: In writing Landmark and Warm Glow, how did you go about connecting with the audience on a deeper level without sort of compromising your privacy?

NS: Yeah, I think there are certain things you have to keep private I guess.

TM: Kind of just choosing what you’re going to share.

NS: Sure. Well, with Monsoon that was kind of the thing for me. Leading up to the release of the single I definitely wasn’t sure if I wanted to talk about it just because I didn’t want it to become like that song. It’s hard to explain but that’s definitely an interesting aspect when you’re writing a song. Usually when you’re doing that, kind of exploring every possibility regarding sharing and being as bold as you can is what it’s about. Writing from your own perspective you have to be able to embrace that rather than shying away from it, I think. It’s the same as anything that we make, I guess, we have to be able to surrender it to an audience of some sort, whether it’s a friend, family or people you don’t even know. 

TM: So you’ve said that the EP has kind of become an ode to you’re relationship as a band. Were you guys close from the beginning or did it take some time to create that deep connection between each of you?

NS: I think it’s definitely taken time. Doing this for four years now, I don’t think we’ll ever really figure it out 100%. I don’t think anybody does. It’s all about picking up on the small things. Just as if I had brothers, you kind of learn how to love them more than you already do. Kind of on a deeper level. Yeah, it’s a mix of both.

TM: Then you end up spending a majority of your time together so it’s bound to just happen.

NS: Yeah, and respecting each others privacy is really important too. 

TM: Each person has their own definition for what happiness is. While on this journey as a musician and as a band, what has brought you that happiness?

NS: I think it’s become like trying to achieve a form of giving where instead of looking at happiness as something to get from an outside source or from yourself, looking at happiness as something to give and it gets recycled and shows up again. You know, karma. It’s seeing like where people get their happiness from too. It’s an interesting process and meeting people from all over the word is really humbling.

TM: It’s kind of cool that some people say they find their own happiness in the music that you write, you know.

NS: Yeah, that’s kind of weird too. You hear that a lot but it’s also really beautiful because it’s just a chance to keep doing it.

TM: You guys are almost done with this tour. What plans do you guys have next?

NS: Before we went on tour, we started demoing at home so hopefully some new music will come out relatively soon, I guess. But other than that just enjoying home and skating or hibernating, 'cause I don’t ice skate. Winter is nice.

TM: I guess you get used to the cold because you’ve been there for so long.

NS: Yeah, I’ve lived here for eight years now 'cause I kind of moved around a bunch growing up.