The Poetic Narrative Behind Bambi: Drawing Parallels from Hippo Campus’ Earlier Work

“The timing’s poor I know it’s never right.”

On September 28, 2018, the timing was not poor for the indie sensation, Hippo Campus. The band releases their second studio album titled ‘Bambi’. It is not titled after the famous cartoon character, nor does the entire album have anything to do with fables and our inner animals. Speaking to Billboard, frontman Jake Luppen explains that the word ‘Bambi’ refers to his aunt whose house has been a prominent contributor during the band’s songwriting process. The album shows the outcome of this process with a much deeper look into the poetic narrative of what it feels like to come-of-age at twenty-something years old.

The album begins with a trippy opening that feels like an early interlude. The song is called ‘Mistakes’ which debates the argument on whether past mistakes should be put to bed or taken as a complete sign to correct ourselves, to grow up. It’s easier said than done, however, and the band acknowledges this hurdle through the second song. The aptly titled ‘Anxious’ addresses the issue that comes to mind with wanting to be a better version of ourselves. We worry a lot and we become unsure of almost everything. The band captures this feeling by writing, “This head won’t quiet down for a single thought.” It consumes the human brain, creating a conflict and the desire to scream it out. The band continues this very notion in the bridge of the song.

“Tried screaming but I won’t believe it. I’ll tell them what they want to hear then. Just give me a week or two to find it. Then maybe we’ll get back to the place we started.”

We can see how this bridge circles around the debate of how we, and society, often treats anxiety. It represents our refusal to acknowledge it as a serious issue and would immediately accept it as a form of feeling, mood, or laziness trait that we tell people. Our mind convinces us to use those words in order to smooth things out during conversations with peers.

The topic of anxiety in Bambi is not new since it has been introduced in the band’s 2017 EP ‘Warm Glow.’ This extended playlist was released with an opening song called ‘Baseball’. The song itself has been interpreted by many as having a literal link to the game of baseball. The sport requires the batter to hit 4 bases and in this song, each base represents the stage of growing up. When the batter hits a home-run, he or she hits the peak of coming-of-age. However, there is a set of lyrics in the pre-chorus that carries out the climax of the song.

“Seems like the chakra’s playing hopscotch, anxiety growing.”

Chakras are often simplified as some form of energy in our body which are supposed to stay aligned in order to be at peace. The fact that the chakras are playing hopscotch, a game of jumping from one chalk-drawn square to another, means that we have a problem with staying at ease. The explicit mention of ‘anxiety’ also makes it more conspicuous as to what the climax is about. Going back to the song ‘Anxious’ in Bambi, we can hear the words, “I’ve been here before,” in the chorus. It gives us an indication that the song also wants to capture the very nature of anxiety growing, a topic discussed in the pre-chorus of Baseball.

‘Anxious’ and ‘Baseball’ are not the only two songs which support the idea of similar topics. Songs like ‘Bambi’ and ‘Think it Over’ works like a complementary narrative to the song ‘Warm Glow’ from the 2017 EP. Bambi is about living with mental illness, specifically depression and anxiety, and the burdening thoughts that come with it.

“I-I-I-I haven’t been much myself and I feel like my friends are being put through this hell I’m feeling. I think that I’m living, if you could call it living. So brash and unforgiving. Ruled by the vibe I’m bringing, serving myself.”

Think it Over feels like an external response that offers a very helpful encouragement to the situation in Bambi. It calms the listeners down by repeatedly reminding them that they’ve got time. Giving some time to figure things out may calm us down or at least worth a try. These simple words of wisdom, combined with identifying the issue in Bambi, feels like an expanding narration of Warm Glow. The song Warm Glow is a considerable anthem for coming-of-age which deals with transitioning to personhood and finding serenity. It moves from one moment to another, closing a harsh chapter of one’s life to make some room for a better one. The chorus makes this interpretation clear as it presents the idea that a much more positive future exists for people who are struggling.

“Arm’s length, shoulders wide. Looking for a fight. Peace sign, getting by. People, we’ll be alright.”

Call it a quote for adulthood or a mantra for stress-relief, the lyrics to Warm Glow is essentially a rough narrative about getting closure from a downfall. Bambi and Think it Over collectively work as a specific plot point which leads to a need for this kind of closure. Thus, the two songs work as a prequel to Warm Glow and complement the very idea about figuring out life by deepening the topic even further.

However, there is a distinct difference within the narrative of Bambi that gives it more edge over Warm Glow. Warm Glow was intended to be released as a compilation of songs that didn’t make the cut in the band’s 2016 album, ‘Landmark’. This cuts the narrative of the album short, and thus, only utilizes a general coming-of-age plot as a storytelling device. With Bambi being released as an album a year later, the band has more space for narrative deepening. Lyrics like, “Who can say you’re the one and never doubt it?” in the song ‘Doubt’ and, “But I let it fall and break, so why even try? Why even try to mend?” in the song ‘Why Even Try’ represents the discussion on being romantically anxious. We often doubt ourselves on our clear understanding of building a connection. All of these confusions makes it even more obvious that the album is about discovering yourself in a relationship. It is still in the spirit of coming-of-age, but it focuses more on growing up as a partner and coming to terms with the potential of a failing relationship.

All in all, Bambi works tremendously if we think of it as an extension of Warm Glow. The album showcases how much growing up the band has done in the past year, and it’s not just apparent in the songwriting. The lyrics would be meaningless without the much mature and experimental sound that wraps up the whole album as a progressive voice for thought-provoking young adult struggles. It enters our ear and loops itself into the brain, creating a worm-ful of thoughts about coming-of-age. In this age of identity crisis and the constant pressure to grow up as early as possible, Hippo Campus’s Bambi is just what the confused generation needs. Putting it on loop with Warm Glow and you’ll get an honest yet transcendent listening experience.

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