Hippo Campus/Waterloo Records PC: Jean Hritz

Hippo Campus in Concert,

As a starving college student, food tastes better when it’s free. Similarly, as an Austin resident, live music sounds better when it’s free, and it often is. Consequently, for a starving college student in Austin, free music isn’t hard to come by, and it’s especially appreciated. The city of Austin has many amenities, one of which is the proverbial SXSW, an ATX music festival among other things, which holds festivities of biblical proportions and musical performers of equal measure. Now, that isn’t to say that every musical performance at SXSW is a good one, or that every event at SXSW is in fact musical, as there are film premieres, gaming expos, and more. I’ve seen my fair share of cringe-worthy live shows, but I also discovered some impressive new bands as well.

At 2017’s SXSW, I was first introduced to the band Hippo Campus. They were a band that I hadn’t really heard of but went to see based purely on their bizarre name, and the fact that they were being featured at several free stages around SXSW. “Hippocampus” was a word with which I was already distantly acquainted, meaning either a Greek horse-sea-monster or referring to the brain’s center for emotion, memory, and the autonomic nerve system. However, neither of these definitions really prepared me for Hippo Campus’ unique and memorable sound; a sound that, albeit unknowingly, I had heard before.

Jake Luppen PC: Jean Hritz

Hippo Campus, hailing from the presumably cold environment of St. Paul, Minnesota, ventured not only to the sunny city of Austin in 2017 for SXSW but also headlined in Lollapalooza and was featured on Conan. Some of Hippo Campus’ best-known songs “South” and “Suicide Saturday” have already made their rounds on the hit Spotify playlists, where I doubtlessly heard them. The Saturday I saw Hippo Campus live at SXSW was hot and sunny, and the outdoor venue of Waterloo Records was packed. Hippo Campus had just recently released their first full-length album, Landmark, and they were expected to play a set of new songs. The four members of the band, Nathan Stocker (Guitar/Vocals), Zach Sutton (Bass), Jake Luppen (Guitar/Vocals) and Whistler Allen (Drums/Vocals), hyped up their audience, and drenched the crowd with “Super Soakers.” According to interviews, the band met in high school, and independently released their first EP, Bashful Creatures, before being swept up by Grand Jury records and re-releasing their EP under the support of their new producers.

Nathan Stocker PC: Jean Hritz

The live performance at Waterloo Records was full of energy both presented by the boys of Hippo Campus and the crowd. The weather was nice but hot, and the water gun cool-offs were sporadic but appreciated. However, like most free things, there was a hidden cost; a grueling sunburn, but Hippo Campus’ performance and the energy made up for the small toll, lifting their audience with beachy buoyant songs. Waterloo Records received a lot of business that day, as almost every member of the crowd headed inside at the conclusion of Hippo Campus’ set to purchase the new album and have it signed.

 

New Album Landmark,

Nathan Stocker PC: Jean Hritz

Hippo Campus’ first full-length album, Landmark hit iTunes February 24th, 2017, and currently priced at $7.99, is worth every penny. The album features thirteen songs, and from their first song, Sun Veins, to their last song, Buttercup, it’s worth a listen. “Way It Goes” is the most popular song on the album by far and holds a buoyant melody, and lyrical excellence. Interesting enough, the music video for “Way It Goes” appears to take place in the cold country residence of Minnesota, but with the warm indie sounds and beachy lens flares, it reads and listens like a summer jam similar to “California Sunrise” by Dirty Gold.  

Hippo Campus PC: Jean Hritz

“Sun Veins” starts off the album with a smooth minimally jazzy sound, allowing “Way it Goes” to really knock your socks off with its layered volume. Following “Way It Goes,” is “Vines” with lyrics that are almost incomprehensible due to their rhythmic sort of spat-out sound, courtesy of lead singer, Jake Luppen. However, “Vines” is a personal favorite of mine, especially when played live due to its great energy and bounce. Then we have “Epitaph,” a slower jam with hints of psychedelic guitar and vocals. Following “Epitaph” is “Simple Season,” another summer jam and a personal fave. It’s got a good rhythm and occasional syncopation that makes your foot tap. Next is “Tuesday,” and although it isn’t the most memorable of the album, it’s still an upbeat good tempoed tune. “Western Kids,” however, the next song, is one that sounds evenbetter live. It has that dance feel that makes you want to jump around a campfire or sway in the summer sun. Then we have the five-minute oddity of “Poems,” the pensive song with a surprising change of pace. The song is like a lyrical sunset, and I do like it for its tempo change and melodic la-la section, although “Wester Kids” handles its la-la section in a bouncier, and in my opinion, more memorable, way. We then move into “Monsoon,” another slow jam that just doesn’t pick up, but does hold the same lyrical quality and psychedelic undertones as those it follows. Then we get “Vacation,” a song similar to “Poems” but with more trippy instrumentals and less hop. Finally, we jump into “Boyish,” and we’re back to the beachy bouncy of summer, followed by “Interlude” which is really just a minute long instrumental with a harmonica-esque whine and a few seconds of alien radio feedback, but it’s preceded by “Buttercup,” the closer, and the world
makes sense again. “Buttercup,” my all time favorite of Landmark, doesn’t fall into the same beachy sound as the rest but is still warm with summer vibes. “Buttercup” is a good ending note for the album. It’s also a good one to crank real loud to drown out the world.

Hippo Campus/Waterloo Signing PC: Jean Hritz

Hippo Campus/Waterloo Signing PC: Jean Hritz

Hippo Campus is definitely a band to keep your eye on. These boys from Minnesota are going places, and Landmark is a great jumping off point. Their sound is emotive and freshly evocative of carefree warmth, so don’t let the bizarre name of the Greek horse-monster of the sea scare you; they’re seriously worth a listen.

 

 

 

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