Owning The Platform: Clash Meets Hippo Campus

Owning The Platform: Clash Meets Hippo Campus

Touring their new album 'Bambi' and promoting progressive causes...

When Hippo Campus pick up the phone to Clash the band are somewhere in Belgium, their tour van racing from show to show.

It’s a helter skelter existence, but the Minnesota four-piece wouldn’t have it any other way – building a fan-base gig by electrifying gig, their second album ‘Bambi’ landed at the end of last year, and it surpassed even their wildest expectations.

“We’re having a great tour!” exclaims Zach Sutton. “We just finished up our UK run, which was fun. The shows have been great. The UK audience is very engaging and excited. It’s definitely a little bit of a change in terms of energy and the live performance of it.”

“I know that our debut gave fans a lot to hold on to in the live shows, and ‘Bambi’ is more of a spectacle. It’s more of a performance. People have been really good in balancing those two things, engaging with the physical aspect. We love having an attentive audience.”

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That innate connection between band and fans has been there right from the start – Clash caught Hippo Campus at London’s Dingwalls venue some time back, and despite it being one of their first shows in the capital the sweat-drenched atmosphere was remarkable.

“I can’t try to describe it,” he admits. “We talk to fans after the show and it’s a fun time, it’s a blast to see us live. But I guess that’s true for live performance in general – going to see your favourite band, having a good time. It’s kind of unbeatable.”

Wearing their hearts on their sleeves, it’s the sheer relatability that Hippo Campus exude that seems to grip their fans. Zach agrees: “We’re honest about who we are onstage. We’re not trying to hide anything, we’re not trying to be anything.”

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New album ‘Bambi’ emerged at the end of last year, a terrific return that saw the four-piece step beyond the confines of their debut. Garnering their own equipment, each musician was able to pursue their own ideas, before returning to the fold – a neat balance between individual passions and the requirements of the group.

“When we’re home we all make music,” he says; “whether we have to or not it’s just something we really enjoy doing. We want to learn more about how to develop our songwriting abilities and production just happens to be a part of that.”

“We’re all working on ideas, we’ll all working on our own stuff, and then when we come together it’s that collaboration aspect, it becomes more creative than if we’d just done it in a song-vibe.”

Maybe you should just put the unused material online, Clash offers. “That’s a really good idea,” he exclaims. “It is collaborative, and we have to lead by majority, it’s a democracy, which usually means some people get disappointed at the end of the day if they didn’t get what they want.”

“Usually those songs go off and die or the ideas they have are snubbed, but that would be great – we should definitely just get those songs together and release a mixtape on SoundCloud. That’d be cool!”

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The band aren’t too concerned about their past work, though; when focussing on their next project, the four-piece want to be immersed in the moment. “It’s hard to go back and fish ‘em out because old songs just kind of feel like old songs,” he insists. “You’re not very excited about ‘em any more. You kind of want to leave songs in the past. But if you have a real fondness for something that you did a long time ago then it’s nice to go back and re-visit. I think the best songs that people write and release are usually of the moment, it’s very contemporary.”

Throwing themselves into the touring schedule, Hippo Campus’ unrelenting work ethic has literally taken them around the world. Developing their own routines within this, the band recently bought an array of Nintendo Switch consoles, while their reading lists have gone through the roof: Zach for example has just devoured fantasy novel Name Of The Wind, while Nathan has finished Norwegian Wood by Murakami.

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When on tour in the States the band expand their merch table, throwing their weight behind progressive causes and selling limited edition tees to raise money for charity. It’s something they feel compelled to do, using whatever platform they have to help prompt new conversations.

“It seems like we have a platform to affect some minute change, and it seems that the choice to do it is an easy one,” Zach explains. “If we ignored that responsibility, if we saw something happening that we didn’t like and that we could change it would be almost idiotic not to say anything. It’s an easy question to answer: Do we support Planned Parenthood? Yes! So we had them partnering every show in the States.”

“We have a really great team, they make it easy for us to set up and meet people. We have a platform and we have a lot of creative friends, so that’s where the t-shirt came from. Just a good friend of ours in Minnesota. Sometimes we want to see things change, so if you have a voice why not speak up…?”

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With a hectic list of tour dates ahead of them, Hippo Campus are desperate to meet as many fans as possible – but they’re also hankering to focus on new ideas, and to forge some kind of plan for their next endeavour. “I think we’re at our most creative when we’re at home and we have our toys and instruments to play with,” he insists. “I think we like to commit a lot of hours to ideas and on the road it’s a little more challenging as it seems to be more broken up. We can’t concentrate as much as we do at home. If we’re home for a day it might just come out.”

“Currently we’re just focussed on this tour,” Zach adds. “We want to keep play great shows and giving the fans what they want. And then actually we’re going to go home and hopefully write a little bit and figure out what form the next release would take. We want to re-arrange the way we approach things. There’ll be a little bit of downtime and hopefully that will enact some form of plan.”

Racing across the flat Belgian countryside, Hippo Campus seem ready to meet any challenge in their path.

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'Bambi' is out now.

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