By Tessa Solomon
After high-school graduation in 2013, four teenagers from St. Paul, Minnesota, left their hometown, not for college, but for the stage.
Three years, two EPs, and countless shows later, the band members have made a name for their guitar-driven, college-pop sound as the quartet Hippo Campus. On June 17, they will take a break from the Twin Cities circuit to play a show in Iowa City, 9 p.m. at Gabe’s, 330 E. Washington St.
The band comprises Jake Luppen (vocals/guitar), Whistler Allen (drums/vocals), Nathan Stocker (guitar/vocals), Zach Sutton (bass), although among the Twin Cities crowd they’re better known as Turntan, Beans, Stitches, and Espo, respectively.
Their vocals invoke Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, and their production dances between Beach Fossils and Bombay Bicycle Club, but their attitude is singular and evolving with each release.
“It’s a fascinating experience to watch our sources for inspiration change as we personally change and grow,” Stocker said. “As long as we keep growing, we don’t try to lock ourselves into boxes.”
They broke into Minnesota’s thriving music scene quickly, thanks in part to a pair of early cosigns by Twin Cities music veterans Trampled by Turtles and Low.
Hippo’s 2014 self-released EP Bashful Creatures showcases Luppen’s playful yet complex vocals and Stocker’s crisp guitar playing, elements that proved to be staples to the band’s style as it progressed.
“As we keep evolving in live-show production, our desire/ability to replicate recordings will evolve as well. We don’t want to treat the two as hand-in-hand, because that’s beyond our control,” Stocker said.
The buzz that followed the release of the group’s first EP (and the subsequent whirlwind appearances on “Conan” and at South by Southwest) resulted in a deal with Grand Jury Records and an official re-release of Bashful Creatures.
By the time the guys released their next EP, South, their sound and venue draw had grown, causing them to sell out the iconic and aptly titled Minneapolis venue First Avenue and open for Modest Mouse.
Despite its recent success, the band still likes playing the smaller shows.
“I think there’s something special in honest presentations of work, even if it’s a façade to the performer,” Stocker said. “Achieving intimacy in a room is important to the immediate experience, no matter how big the room may be.”
What: Hippo Campus
Where: Gabe’s, 330 E. Washington
When: 9 p.m. June 16
Tickets: $13-$15 (ages 19+)