What does being a musician in this day and age mean? In a world that demands everything to be faster, better and easier to access, does real artistry really have to be just that? Or is there a way to find longevity, your own self and true freedom within the chaos? These and so much more are the questions the Minnesota-based indie group Hippo Campus gives answers to on their latest album ‘LP3’ – or at least they try to. Because let’s be honest, sometimes you don’t just want a quick fix for all the intricate riddles life has to offer. Sometimes you just want a piece of art that will let you reflect on your most honest self – and that is exactly what this record is here to do.
With over two years in the making and more than 35 individual songs penned down for it, it is safe to say that ‘LP3’ is Hippo Campus’ most honest portrait of who they are yet. Made up of lead singer and guitarist Jake Luppen, lead guitarist Nathan Stocker, drummer Whistler Allen, bassist Zach Sutton, and trumpeter DeCarlo Jackson – five guys who have been friends ever since high school and have grown up with and into each other – the group of young talents set out to dive deep into life, its many struggles but also highest hopes, with their third studio album.
One could even understand it as them painting the portrait of what growing up feels like. For starters, there is the record opener ‘2 Young 2 Die’, a blazing electronic rocketeer that looks at coming to terms with your own mortality but still holding on to that invincibility of youth and the need to kill parts of yourself to be reborn. On the other side – and unsurprisingly, with the five-piece all being in their mid-20s – love and relationships, and the whirlwind rollercoasters they can be, play an instrumental part in the musical epic and lend the record its more personal lyrics and highly self-referential storytelling. While the addictive ‘Bang Bang’ – an absolute fan-favourite first premiered during one of the band’s live stream performances back in 2020 and kept under covers up until now – explores the fatal last stroke of a long-lost relationship, the exciting ‘Ride Or Die‘ paints a picture of youthful love and the tangled balance between sweetness and brutal sincerity.
But it’s not just true mortality – be it in life or interpersonal connections – that ‘LP3’ investigates with an almost immaculate eye to detail, but also the metaphorical death to artistry and creativity. What happens when you aren’t a musician anymore? Who is the person that is left? Maybe the ultimate indie pop-gem on the album, the upbeat ‘Semi Pro’ can lead to the answers to those very same questions, as it walks down the road of death of music careers, the meaninglessness of fame, and the elemental realisation that, sometimes, dreams change.
Always based on the theme of camaraderie and walking through life, not by yourself, but supported by the people that mean the most to you, it comes to no surprise that Hippo Campus’ latest endeavour had multiple voices involved, most notable the influential assets of Caleb Hinz, a long-time friend and collaborator of the group and third person in the pot of the band’s experimental side project Baby Boys. Seamlessly leaving his fingerprints all over the record’s production – for example through the distorted drums on ‘2 Young 2 Die’ or the drum kit on ‘Boys’ made up of nothing but literal garbage cans, pots, and pans – Hinz managed to bring his unique experimentation to the album, while he also kept the band on their feet and ultimately helped them get to the version they have become now.
Closing the record with the softly sweet ‘Understand’, a slow, rose-coloured, but honest ode to love in all its realness and complexity, ‘LP3’ stands firmly as Hippo Campus’ most honest, personal and probably also most beautiful body of work yet. With a four-year-long break and no timeline to adhere to, the band was free to do and write whatever they felt like and for the first time since their very first steps in the business, they were able to create a record that does not depend on racing to the charts or having to be loved by everyone. In its essentialism, it is an album that is enjoyed the most by its creators, and that excitement and creative flow during its production are exactly what give the long-player its special glow. Looking at how growing up can sometimes feel like something that’s moving past you while you are trying your best to hold on to moments that slither through your fingers one by one, ‘LP3’ reminds us all that sometimes it’s best to let certain things go and just let life be life. Because at the end of the day, you will always stumble onto the right path for yourself, as long as you believe in it.
Written by Laura Weingrill // photography by Tonje Thilesen