The hippocampus is the seahorse-shaped part of your brain that processes long- and short- term memory. You can expect Hippo Campus, four young scamps from Minnesota, to be taking up residence in it very soon. But that’s just a coincidence. “Nathan [Stocker, guitarist] was in psychology class and saw the word in one of his textbooks,” laughs frontman Jake Luppen. “Honestly, it was just the least-worst band name we could think of.”
In life, as in music, Hippo Campus teeter on the precipice between youth and young manhood: none of them are yet old enough to have a drink in their hometown of St Paul, but already they seem destined for big things. Luppen, Stocker, bassist Zach Sutton and drummer Whistler Allen met at the St Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, which Luppen describes as “a huge, inspiring community of artists and people who were really passionate about creating things, whether they were musicians, actors ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼or dancers”.
It’s where Luppen and Sutton formed their first band, a “pretty terrible” classic-rock covers outfit, which evolved into a “kind of alright” pop-jazz group, who eventually (and inexplicably) merged with Stocker and Allen’s post-rock project to form Hippo Campus. Debut EP ‘Bashful Creatures’, a jittery, infectious amalgam of Brit-indie influences and Afro-pop charm, was written about their experiences at the school. Though they come from fairly disparate musical backgrounds, says Luppen, “there are four bands that we really connected over: Last Dinosaurs, Little Comets, Wu Lyf and Bombay Bicycle Club.”
Last Dinosaurs aside, it’s a conspicuously British spectrum of influences, and they’re no mere casual fans: Luppen remembers hassling Little Comets after a show in St Paul, “asking them a million questions about how to be in a band”, while Sutton even has a Wu Lyf tattoo. “The whole philosophy behind Wu Lyf was really inspiring to us, and they had a really profound effect on the band,” explains Luppen. “Zach was the first one to stumble across them and after that, it was like, ‘Oh man, we wanna be like those guys.’”