Analogue Music | Lupin


By Matt Conner

Jake Luppen was finally ready for the next step.

After his band Hippo Campus wrapped the recording sessions for their 2018 release Bambi, Luppen and producer BJ Burton (Bon Iver, Francis & The Lights, Sylvan Esso) continued on their own path. As other band members were ready for a break, Luppen said he couldn't afford to do so. Staying busy kept him sane.

As his personal world was falling apart, Luppen leaned into his songwriting to process what was happening and channel the resulting emotions. From there, his chemistry and connection with Burton allowed him to take the next step, one he wasn't ready to face until the present. Enter Lupin, a new moniker for a new phase of his musical life.

We recently sat down with Luppen to hear more about the journey to date and why he believes he's entering a "golden age" for his own songwriting.

Analogue: After years with Hippo Campus, you're now out on your own. I read a quote where you said you can be more direct now, but I find that interesting given that stepping out on your own can also be a bit unnerving. Yet you sound confident. Do you feel either side or all of that?

Jake Luppen: It does feel far more vulnerable to make music as a solo artist as opposed to being in a band, but the making of this record has given me a confidence to be able to release music in a better way. I was in a band for six years before I made music by myself. It was something I didn't know that I could do. Making this record helped me realize I was fully capable of making a record on my own, and that's made me a better collaborator in the groups that I'm in. It's made me a better artist overall. When you're completely in touch with what you want and what you like, it makes you a better artist.

'Lupin' cover art
'Lupin' cover art

Analogue: Have the songs been out there for a while?

Jake: The record's pretty much been done for a year. I was never sitting on these songs for very long. We produced them kind of immediately. I wrote 20-ish songs for the record, and we whittled it down to eight. I think there's eight on it, right?

Analogue: [Laughs] Yeah.

Jake: Yeah, eight. So we worked very quickly. I don't like to sit on material for very long. I feel like I get further away from the songs. The best ones are always written very quickly because you're in the moment with those songs.

Analogue: Which of the eight songs came the fastest, then?

Jake: They all came pretty quickly. I think "NZ", the last song, came in a couple hours. I wrote it on acoustic guitar and recorded it and that's pretty much what you hear. "K-O Kid" came pretty quickly as well. I wrote the chords first and then improved the vocal the day of. Then I wrote lyrics and recorded it. The only one that took some time was "May". I went through a couple versions of that one. The OG version was slower and I didn't sing the verse in falsetto; I sang it in chest voice. It was just really fucking slow and really lo-fi. [Laughs] I heard it sped up and still tried to sing it an octave down and thought, 'It's still not right.' Then I sang in falsetto and it was like, 'Oh yeah, that's the move!'

Analogue: That's gotta be a great feeling to finally make that fit. You know you have something but to see it come together in that way.

Jake: Songs are like puzzles. You sit there and see the pieces spread out and you know you have all of them. You start assembling them and then you think, 'Oh my god, I see the rest of it!' Those are the moments I live for, both as producer and an artist. They're indescribable, that feeling of, 'Oh, I get this now.'

Analogue: You've referenced your own production work a couple times now. How does that inform a personal work like this album?

Jake: Producing other artists has given me a greater appreciation of music in general. Being able to fulfill another artist's vision is the greatest gift you can give as a producer. It's just music in its purest form. You're not making music to gain something. I think we can get really jaded making music on our own, so I was able to bring that energy back into what I was doing—seeing the beauty in music again from producing like Samia and The Greeting Committee and this band Milo, whose record is coming out pretty soon.

Analogue: How far back does the impulse go to record on your own?

Jake: Me and BJ [Burton], who did this record and produced Hippo Campus records, always had a great working relationship. When he's producing the band, it's a bit more complicated because everyone didn't see eye to eye all the time, but me and BJ did. So we discussed doing a solo record, but I didn't really feel like I was ready yet as an artist. So after we finished Bambi, BJ and I just ran right into this project where I was like, 'Now is the time to do this thing. I have things to say.'

I went through a lot of personal shit in the time I was writing this record, so I actually had shit to sing about from a personal level for the first time that would actually justify an entire record of that material.

Analogue: Is that part of why you said you weren't ready as an artist?

Jake: I think it was a mix of not really having enough things to say as an individual and also the insecurity of all of it sounding scary. I was pretty comfortable with my boys. The same thing was happening in my personal life. I was in a long relationship at the time and I was really comfortable in it. I was living life very comfortably. When shit hit the fan,I started thinking about the way I was making music, too, which was very comfortable. I desired to shake that up as well.

"I went through a lot of personal shit in the time I was writing this record, so I actually had shit to sing about from a personal level for the first time that would actually justify an entire record of that material."

Analogue: Were there other things going into shaking that up or are you referring to recording alone?

Jake: It just refers to making music on my own, challenging myself to do something entirely on my own. In Hippo, it's easy to rely on other people for things. When you get lazy or tired, you're stuck. Also in Hippo Campus, Nathan and I will write lyrics together a lot so I thought maybe that was something I needed. But with this record coming out, I've realized this is something I can do by myself.

Analogue: Was there some negotiation you had to do with the band to do this?

Jake: Honestly, not really. After Bambi, the other guys were burnt out on writing Hippo Campus music, just because the process was so intense. But I just wanted to keep going. Every break I had between playing shows, I was working on music. They wanted time to rest, which I totally understand. If I was in a point of life I'm in right now, I'd be like, 'I just want to rest right now.' But I had to work to remain sane, so they were comfortable with it. I didn't really let them hear it until it was done, though, which was funny. They're all stoked and we all have our own projects.

Analogue: Did they give you any feedback?

Jake: They've seen how I've grown as an artist. I've leveled up as a songwriter by doing this project, and I think they've had similar experiences with their projects. I feel that internally, too. I think every artist enters a point in their career when they enter what I like to call the 'golden age' of making music and writing songs. Or it's that time when you're older and you look back and think, 'Wow, I was really doing my best work at that point.' I feel like this album was the beginning of that phase for me, where I really understand myself as an artist. I'm making and working on the stuff that I'll look back on and be happy with later in life.

VISIT: Lupin