Jake Luppen hasa risen to prominence for being the frontman and guitarist of acclaimed St. Paul, MN-based indie rock act Hippo Campus. While touring between 2018 and 2019 to support Hippo Campus’ most recent album Bambi, Luppen started writing new material as a n escape from the grind of endless tour and as way to process major and stress life events — in particular, the discovery by CT scan of an abnormal mass on his brain, which left him with the immediate impression that he was dying.
Interestingly, the material Luppen started to write during that Bambi tour didn’t quite fit with his primary gig — and the end result was Luppen’s solo recording project Lupin. Luppen’s solo, full-length debut as Lupin is slated for an October 9, 2020 release through Grand Jury Music, and as the Hippo Campus frontman explains in press notes, the album’s songs feel like he was meeting himself for the first time. “With this record I wanted to get to the point, and say how things were, as opposed to dancing around them.”
For the Hippo Campus frontman, the creative process being the album was one of self-discovery that led to a much deeper self-confidence, in which he learned who he could be — and always had been — as an artist and as a person. With his previously released work in Hippo Campus, Luppen took a much vaguer approach to his songwriting, frequently eschewing the personal in favor of broader, shared experiences of his bandmates. Striking out as a solo artist allowed (and perhaps, even forced) him to do the complete opposite. Instead of focusing on looser ideas and generalities, Luppen found the bravery to write about his life — including, the breakup of a long-tern relationship, the aforementioned health scare, sexual exploration and discovering his own personhood with incisiveness, earnestness and honesty.
Co-produced by Luppen and BJ Burton, Luppen’s debut effort is centered around sobering thematic concerns — but is paired with a bright and infectious soundscape reportedly inspired by by Charli XCX’s Pop 2, Tears for Fears, 80s New Wave and Prince. Fueled by Luppen’s desire to make 80s music through modern technology — or should i say 80s music for the 2020s? — the album also features synth and programming contributions from Jim-E-Stack and Buddy Ross. The end result is a shimmering yet off-kilter pop sheen that Luppen has said was guided more by intuition and feeling than anything else.
The learning curve of producing his own material, being singularly at the helm of his sound for the first time, as well as writing his most personal material to date was a deeply vulnerable experience. An experience, in which he reconciled that it was okay to be his true, weird and sensitive self, to make mistakes and to enjoy the parts of himself and his personality that he usually didn’t have an opportunity to indulge. “I spent a lot of time thinking I had to hide behind other people or other things, but I realized, ‘No, I’m fully capable of doing this myself, I’m fully capable of having this vision.” Luppen explains. “I didn’t think that I was but no, there was this whole other part of myself I’d been stowing away out of fear this entire time.”
“May,” the album’s first single is a shimmering, 80s synth pop banger, centered around glistening synth arpeggios, skittering and thumping beats, an infectious hook and Luppen’s achingly tender falsetto delivery. Sonically speaking, the song brings Prince, Gordon Voidwell and Cut Copy to mind as it’s a hook-driven, pop confection built around earnest (yet kaleidoscopic) songwriting.
The recently released video for “May” is a rotoscoped, animated visual made by Adam Fuchs. While capturing and evoking the song’s shimmering, kaleidoscopic vibe, the video feels like a hallucinogenic fever dream.