Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Lupin Shares New Song 'KO Kid' Off Debut Solo Album 'Lupin'


His solo album comes out this Friday.

Lupin Shares New Song 'KO Kid' Off Debut Solo Album 'Lupin'

Today, Lupin offers "KO Kid," the final exciting cut shared before the release of his self-titled solo debut this Friday. "KO Kid" is a sonic fever dream bolstered by a thunderously sluggish beat and Jake Luppen's trademark falsetto, coyly dipping in and out of the proceedings. The production from longtime Luppen collaborator BJ Burton somehow manages to be both understated and bold, replete with keys from Frank Ocean keyboardist Buddy Ross and drums from JT Bates, whose most recent credit includes the new Taylor Swift album. The song is accompanied by a fittingly surreal claymation acid trip that perfectly conveys the anxious energy of the song, directed by Karla Mellett. Of the song, Luppen explains:

"I had the KO Kid guitar progression for a long time before I eventually worked it into a finished track," says Luppen. "I was having a really difficult time trying to write a melody over it, so one day I decided to just improvise the vocals for the verses, which is why the melody feels more off the cuff than the other songs. The lyrics allude to the night I told my girlfriend at the time about my attraction to a non-binary friend. I've spent most of my life repressing my attraction to people that didn't identify as women, so I wrote the idea of the KO KID-character as a way to fight those inhibitive and self-imposed judgments."

Although Luppen rose to prominence as a vocalist and guitarist in St. Paul's beloved indie outfit Hippo Campus, the songs of his debut solo album Lupin feel like meeting him for the first time. He puts it succinctly: "With this record I wanted to get to the point, and say how things were, as opposed to dancing around them."

Last month, Luppen dropped two brand new songs and videos -- both directed by frequent Bon Iver collaborator Aaron Anderson -- giving fans a more in-depth look at the complexities of the album. Both tracks deal with some heavy emotional liftings and reveal a new depth to Luppen not only as a usician but a songwriter.

The double single preceded announce-track "May," a funk-driven, colossal pop gem with crashing drums that digs even deeper into Luppen's well-documented pop sensibilities. The song is perfectly complimented by producer BJ Burton's (Bon Iver, Low, Charli XCX) own sonic palette, along with the video directed by Adult Swim creative director Adam Fuchs.

Lupin has a dynamic brightness. Inspired as much by Charli XCX's Pop 2 as it is Tears for Fears, '80s new wave, and Prince, the genre-bending record holds true to a desire to make '80s music filtered through modern technology. Featuring synth and programming contributions from Jim-E Stack and Buddy Ross, Lupin weaves together fragmented drum loops, swooning falsetto, tangles of synths, and sharp guitar-lines, the final product is an off-kilter pop-sheen, one Luppen said was guided more by intuition and feeling than anything else.

For Luppen, the process of making the record was one of self-discovery and a path to confidence, learning who he could be - and had always been - as both an artist and simply a person. In the past, he always took a vaguer route to songwriting, eschewing the personal in favor of broader, shared experiences of his bandmates. Striking out as a solo artist allowed him the space to do the opposite. Instead of hiding behind bigger words or looser ideas, here Luppen finds the bravery to write about his life - a serious break-up, a health scare, sexual exploration, and discovering his own personhood - with incisive specificity.

Written mainly in breaks during a sprawl of 112 shows for Hippo Campus' Bambi from 2018-2019, Lupin was an unexpected path to confidence. It also offered an escape from the grind of endless touring and a way for Luppen to process major and stressful life events directly through songwriting. Like "Lazy," one of the first major break-throughs of the record, which deals with depression destroying self-image and struggling to build a new support system in the wake of a break-up.

Working alongside producer BJ Burton (Bon Iver, Low, Charli XCX), the two spent intensive sessions collecting material, coalescing as many layers felt true to serve the songs. That feels particularly apparent on the chaotic, penultimate "Gloomy," a wild mish-mash of delicate banjo samples atop giant explosions and flubby Juno synths reflective of Luppen's internal turmoil at the time. Or the glitching, loping "KO Kid," loose, off-the-cuff feel, an improvised vocal melody unfurling over a long-held guitar line.

For Luppen, the learning curve of producing his own record, of being singularly at the helm of his sound for the first time felt vulnerable -- as did writing so explicitly about his struggles. In making the record, he reconciled that it was OK to be himself, to be weird, to make mistakes and enjoy the parts of himself he didn't usually get 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."

Listen to "KO Kid" here:

Photo Credit: Muriel Margaret

Related Articles View More Music Stories

Buy at the Theatre Shop

T-Shirts, Mugs, Phone Cases & More

From This Author Sarah Jae Leiber