Discussing Butt Plugs, Music Videos, and 'Bambi' with Hippo Campus [Q&A]


Photo Credit: Pooneh Ghana

Hippo Campus is living the American dream. Since their musical debut in 2014, they've been pioneering indie pop and gaining a cult fan base. The longtime four-man band has extended their group to welcome multi-instrumentalist DeCarlo Jackson, who excels on the trumpet and truly enhances Hippo Campus' live experience.

Witnessing Hippo Campus live is a transcendental experience, in which one is swept into their perfectly curated world of exquisite music. Their emotionally- driven tunes bring the viewer onto a rollercoaster ride, from the upbeat tempo in their opening song "Bambi" to the slower, passionate "Why Even Try." Their incomparable live show has been attracting fans around the world, as proven by their many sold out headline shows and festival participation.

Last year, the Minnesota natives released their sophomore album, Bambi,  which has pleased fans and critics alike. They've been dropping accompanying music videos, and their latest visual has us in awe. The  "Honestly" visual gives us a taste of the boys'  shenanigans on the road without us having to suffer through the odor a smelly tour bus. With milkshakes and electric scooters galore, the  "Honestly" music video shows how free-spirited Hippo Campus is with not only their music, but with everyday life as well.

We sat down with Zach Sutton (bassist and keyboardist) to discuss Bambi, music videos, and more shortly before the band played a sold out show at the Novo in downtown Los Angeles.

OTW: Over a year ago, we sat down with Jake Luppen (lead singer and guitarist) to talk about your debut album and touring. Did you see yourself here then?  

Sutton: No, I don't think I did. None of us did. I don't want to sound egotistical, but it has been pretty meteoric. In terms of our definition of that. We were playing the Echoplex three years ago. If someone told me then that we'd be playing, and selling out, this venue, that is ten times as big, I'd just be like, "Wow, okay." Really grateful for everything we've been afforded and happy to keep going.


Photo Credit: Skyler Barberio

OTW: In the year since you released your debut album, Landmark, you dropped your  sophomore album, Bambi, and it  is amazing. How does the feeling of creating and releasing Bambi compare to that of Landmark?

Sutton: Yeah, very different processes for each album. The first one, Landmark, kind of aligned with our old writing method where we all just got in a room, someone had an idea, and we'd just kind of explore the song from there. With Bambi, like in the Landmark process, we learned a lot about recording and producing, so when we got to Bambi we had started splintering off, chasing ideas more individually. You know, finishing them on the computer, recording them, then sharing with the group. Then it'd be like more of a collaborative process in the back end. It was creatively challenging to finish Bambi  that way, but really fulfilling as well to explore more of the creating process.


Photo Credit: Skyler Barberio

OTW: Since you guys did work very individually on this album, what was the overarching inspiration? Was there one thing that inspired you all?

Sutton: Yeah, a lot of what we write about now is the way we feel. A lot of what we're inspired by and what we want to talk about now is the way we feel–mentally, physically, and socially. Especially about how things have changed from when we were just a smaller band to now and how that's affected us. Not in an egotistical way, but in a "we're experiencing these mental blocks and hopefully someone can feel and experience that too." So, a lot of the songs on Bambi, like "Anxious," "Why Even Try," and "Thinking of Others," are just about the patience you have to have with yourself and we all felt that pretty unanimously.

OTW: What is your favorite song, lyrically, and what's your favorite line from that song?

Sutton: I think my favorite is from "Bubbles," like the really loud part. No one can understand what anyone is saying there, but the whole lyric is "wish I could say I was a better friend to you then." I think, personally, I have a lot of regrets about the way that I've handled my friendships in the context of being away from home. I'm not a very good communicator, so it's like I feel obligated to stay in contact with people, but it's tough.


Photo Credit: Skyler Barberio

OTW: Since you are always on the road touring, away from home, what has been your favorite song to perform live?

Sutton: I really enjoy playing "Bambi" because it's fun and challenging. "Why Even Try" is also really good. It's pretty depressing. I don't know. The lyrics are really self loathing. Whenever we play those [depressing] songs, or at least when I play those songs, I get into a headspace and I think about why we wrote that song. "Why Even Try" is pretty depressing, but I think it's nice to have that catharsis.

OTW: Out of all your songs that have videos, what has been your favorite music video to create?

Sutton: We hate doing music videos. We've tried so many times to come up with a good idea and bring it to the team. They're like, "Okay, maybe," and it turns out they change it a lot and we try really hard, but whatever. I think the one I'm most happy with is "Buttercup" because we almost had nothing to do with it. An animator, Noah  Farrar, really talented animator went with it, did his thing, and it turned out great. "Bambi" was also pretty good. It was a little bit our idea, but it was mostly Kyle Saucer.

OTW: In the interview last year, you guys said your favorite show was Lollapalooza. Has this changed?

Sutton: Lollapalooza was really really fun. We played Red Rocks, just as an opener, but even then still great. Recently, we just had two hometown shows in St. Paul. Coming home is always relieving for us. Hometown show: everyone comes out, its all the friends, and it's a real rewarding experience to come back to where we started it all.

OTW: Going off of that, what do you prefer? Your own headlining shows or the big festivals?

Sutton: Well, it depends on the festival. We played Bonnaroo two years ago and it was so great. I mean Bonnaroo has a great atmosphere, great vibe, so it's hard to beat that. But, you can curate a space at a venue, like your own headlining show, a little better, so it's more intentional. When you go see a band, they've kind of doctored everything to be the way they want it to be, but at a festival, it's at the will of the weather and the vibe. They're both good.


Photo Credit: Skyler Barberio

OTW: So, at all these shows, you're probably seeing thousands of fans every week. What has been your favorite, or craziest, fan experience?

Sutton: I don't know if this is appropriate, but we were playing in Phoenix, not this tour, but a couple years ago. Inappropriately, they dropped off this goodie bag of gifts and I was like, "Oh, that's so sweet of you!" We open it and there are some good gifts, like a Rupert Holmes vinyl and a Catch shirt, but then there's just a bunch of butt plugs. And I was like, "Uhhh… thanks, I guess?" We left them at the venue.

OTW: So… it wasn't band bonding time?!

Sutton: No, it wasn't actually. We left them ALL there.

OTW: What is your favorite bonding thing to do together?

Sutton: When we're on tour, we love just chilling. We usually go to a bar and find something interesting in the city that we're in. On tour, we usually try to watch a movie series. We watched all of Harry Potter last time and we're trying to watch all of Star Wars now. At home, we're always working on music.


Photo Credit: Skyler Barberio

OTW: Besides the butt plugs, what has been the craziest thing to happen to you guys as a whole?

Sutton: I think we all have different definitions of what crazy means, but this wasn't even a thing. It was just a horrible fucking day. We played in Cannes, France, for this thing. I don't know why. Either way, we stayed up really late, got really drunk, and got like three hours of sleep because we had to leave the next day. We woke up super hungover and tried to take a taxi to the airport, but there were taxi strikes because of the Je Suis Taxi thing, because they're all mad about Uber, so the taxi drivers literally blocked off the airport entrance. So, we had to carry all our gear like a mile to the airport. We took a thirteen-hour flight back to JFK, I missed all the meals because I was sleeping, got to JFK, and there was a three-hour wait for customs. Then, we had to get our bags, recheck them in, and it was just the longest day ever and I was really mad at everyone.

OTW: That sounds absolutely awful. The things you do for your fans! Is there anything you want them to know?

Sutton: Thanks for listening. Thanks for sticking with us. We're always writing more music, and we always have something coming out. We don't have anything planned, but there's definitely a lot of music in the works.

OTW: From all of that, who are three Ones To Watch we should keep our eye on?

Sutton: Sure Sure - they opened for us on our last big tour and they're from LA, and they're awesome. The band opening up for us right now; they're amazing. They released their newest album probably half a year ago. Cavetown is really good. Oh, also Field Medic.  

If you want to experience the Hippo Campus magic live, be sure to catch them on the 'Bambi Tour' this fall:


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