Hippo Campus guitarist talks touring, Bieber and ‘making it’

Hannah Shulman, Deputy Multimedia Editor

Is Hippo Campus really just a group of “Minnesotan boys making music?” Though that’s what you’ll find on their Instagram bio, their live shows prove them to be something more expansive than that. Between the jokes and rhythmic dance moves, their youthful confidence has a way of drawing in a crowd. Audience participation comes naturally with their catchy and relatable songs, all backed by moving bass lines and lead guitar riffs that perfectly accent their melodies. The character of each member, paired with their visible band chemistry, produces something that are difficult to put into words. WSN spoke with guitarist Nathan Stocker from Hippo Campus.

WSN: How is the tour going?
Nathan Stocker: The tour is pretty good, just kind of ready to be back home and have the chance to write more music, but it’s going good so far. People are coming out and hanging out and showing us love. We have like two one-off dates in December — in the beginning of December — and than we have December and January off, and then we’re going to the UK in February. Looking forward to that small break in between. 

WSN: When you bring the songs into the studio, what’s the process that you go through to make it into what it is and to get it on the EP?
NS: It’s an interesting work. We’re kind of new to this whole thing — we only spent about six days in a studio between the two EPs. It all happened very fast, we didn’t have time to really think about what was going on. The way that we write the songs though, it’s very collaborative, so we try to finish them before the studio, I guess because, I don’t know, that’s the way we’ve always done it. Going into the studio, we already have the songs at a point where we feel comfortable with them. So any changes or additions made to the songs in the studio are usually just sonic choices, not really arrangement choices or time-altering choices are made when we’re in the studio.

WSN: What music have you been listening to? I just downloaded Spotify Premium so I’m delving into the whole making playlists thing. It’s the best purchase I’ve ever made, I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner.
NS: Isn’t Spotify amazing? I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Spotify because I had it, and my music experience changed so dramatically, I was kind of afraid of what it was doing to me. I was like, “Oh my god, I have access to everything.” Literally, I can listen to anything I want and, you know, if you have everything at your fingertips, then why, what’s the point? It kind of devalues the value of all these records that you’re listening to. But then I realized that it’s a tool, especially as a working musician, I should use it as an exploration. But I’ve gone back and forth. I used to want to only listen to like, records, I wouldn’t really use my phone for music. I don’t know. It’s a weird, weird age that we’re living in. But anyway, let me answer your question. The new Justin Bieber tracks are pretty cool. I think it’s good. It’s really good production quality. The new EL VY record, “Return to the Moon.” That’s really good. I’ve been listening to, fucking, a guy called William Ryan Fritch. He’s based out of California. He’s an amazing composer. Tame Impala, The Japanese House, that shit is really dank. There’s so much good stuff out there. Oberhofer… He’s from New York, right?

WSN: I think he went to NYU.
NS: He’s a quirky guy. That’s pretty chill. The new Kurt Vile record is good. Uh, have you heard of Low? They’re a Minnesota band, and Alan Sparhawk, the front man, produced our last two records. He’s a good friend. That record is really good.

WSN: Do you think there was any point where you either had the really cliché “we’ve made it” moment or do you think there’s a point where your careers took off?
NS: I don’t know. There have been highlights, definitely. You know, “Conan” was. Being on “Conan” was pretty unreal, playing [Lollapalooza]. It’s been a day-to-day kind of thing, you know. We try not to look at it like that. I think that tends to be kind of destructive. Like if you’ve made it, where do you go? So I like to think that we’re always making it, no matter where we are. I think it makes it simpler if we don’t get caught up in those big terms that have been created for fame or success. So, for us, things are going really well. It’s been a good year, we’ve been able to do a lot of really cool things and meet a lot of really great people on the road. We’re just grateful that we can do what we love and have people who support what’s going on and enjoy it. And yeah, I guess since day one, we’ve made it. 

Hippo Campus continues their tour in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Nov. 28.

Email Hannah Shulman at [email protected]