Jake Luppen of Hippo Campus talks 'Demos I' and how he ended up on a Bon Iver track

Jade with Jake Luppen of Hippo Campus at Bonnaroo 2019
The Current's Jade with Jake Luppen of Hippo Campus at the 2019 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. (David Safar | MPR)
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Bonnaroo 2019: Jade interviews Jake Luppen of Hippo Campus
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Having a broadcast presence at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival means The Current is perfectly situated for awesome artists to stop by for spontaneous conversations.

On Saturday, June 15, Jake Luppen of Hippo Campus stopped at The Current's broadcast booth to talk to host Jade about Hippo Campus's recent release, Demos I, and about how he ended up playing guitar on a new track from Bon Iver.

Use the audio player above to listen to the conversation, and read a transcript below.

JADE: You guys just released these demo versions — are they alternate takes or just demos from Bambi?

JAKE LUPPEN: They're demos, they're kind of early versions of the songs, like some of the lyrics and the instrumentation; the parts are different. We wanted to release it just to show our process because things evolve a lot from square one to what y'all hear, and we thought it'd be a cool thing to share it.

So what songs on the album do you think changed the most from beginning to end?

I think "Anxious" changed a lot. The early demo was basically just bass, a shaker, a drum machine and a vocal and very minimal guitar, and it just changed a bunch in the studio. I think we had maybe three or four iterations of it. We almost scrapped it, and then we landed on kind of a weird arrangement of it that ended up being the final version.

The idea behind Bambi was we had all these demos that were really fleshed out, and we picked one instrument and the vocal that was the most important part of those demos, and we were like, "OK, we're going to take that and we're going to rebuild totally around that" so that what stands out are the melodies and the words. That was our goal with the whole record.

So with "Anxious," yeah, we just stripped it back to basically the chords on bass that you hear on the demo version and the vocal, and then just kind of built everything around that.

You guys like to play around a lot; I mean, there are songs that you have that have been works in progress for years and years and years, bits and pieces of them.

Yeah, totally! Our producer BJ [Burton] loves to tear things apart and rebuild them and start over, which has been a good learning process for us.

I feel like at this point, BJ Burton — he's part of April Base, that's Justin Vernon's studio — I feel like he's almost another part pf the band now, because you guys have worked within him so much on so many of your records.

Yeah, at least on these past two records, he's definitely been like a fifth member of the band for sure.

So did he rope you in to doing the guitar work on the new Bon Iver album?

No, it was actually Ryan Olson. I was at his space one night, and after a few beers, he just had me play guitar on a bunch of tracks of his that he was working on, and one of them happened to be "Hey Ma." I had heard it earlier from BJ, and he obviously did the final mix, so BJ was the one who kept it in there, but I tracked it with Ryan.

Ryan Olson is another producer around Minnesota; he's worked a lot with Poliça. I love the idea that he can just invite people over and be like, "Hey, why don't you noodle away on something?"

That's what's great about Justin's music in general: there's so many people working on the Bon Iver tracks. It's not just a band; it's kind of this big collective of musicians and anyone can play on it at any time. … Whoever's in the studio, it works. It's way more freeing.

And you've got another side project with [Hippo Campus bandmate] Nathan [Stocker]?

Yeah, me and Nathan have a project with our friend Caleb [Hinz] — who plays in this band called the Happy Children — called Baby Boys that we just put out a project with. It was kind of like a "yes" project; we just got in the studio and we said "yes" to everything. It's got these really weird sound collages.

We just listened to Dr John's "Desitively Bonnaroo"; is there a Hippo Campus song that would be the name of your music festival? And who would play?

I've been all emotional lately, so maybe like "Monsoon"; it's just a festival where everyone goes and cries. You'd have boygenius and Big Thief; everyone just puts down blankets and we all cry. … Eaux Claires was sort of like that, but we need more tears.

External Link

Hippo Campus - official site

Related Stories

  • Watch Hippo Campus live from the Palace Theatre Hippo Campus capped off their fall tour with a pair of shows at St. Paul's Palace Theatre and The Current was there with another live video stream. Watch the archived video from Saturday, November 24.
  • Friday and Saturday: live broadcasts from Bonnaroo The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., is one of the big musical highlights each June. The Current's Jade returns to Bonnaroo this year for live broadcasts and spontaneous interviews with the artists performing at Bonnaroo. Listen Friday, June 14, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. CDT, and again on Saturday, June 15, 12 to 4 p.m Central.

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    Hippo Campus (Pooneh Ghana)