Each week, Spotify’s Under Cover podcast features artists who record covers of songs and discuss their decision to do so. The covers artists choose are typically big hits—from Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” to Johnny Cash’s famous cover of Nine Inch Nail’s “Hurt.” So it was a surprise when indie rock band Hippo Campus decided to cover a song that had spent the last three decades virtually unknown.
Donnie and Joe Emerson—two teenage brothers living on a farm in Fruitland, Washington—recorded their album Dreamin’ Wild in their home studio in 1979. After being discovered in an antique shop in 2008, Dreamin’ Wild was re-released in 2012. With groovy coos of “baby, ooh” over subtle guitar, the song “Baby” has since gained a cult following (an Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti cover didn’t hurt.)
According to Hippo Campus, they first discovered the song in a Tim & Eric film. “I listened to it so frequently after that point,” said Zach Sutton. “It just became one of my favorite songs ever.” Because Sutton and Nathan Stocker spent years in a cover band, the decision to record one was unlikely—rarely have they performed them live. “We played 80s classic rock covers, so I think Zach and I had been a bit traumatized,” said Stocker.
The band recorded “Baby” at Spotify Studios in New York. Lead singer Jake Luppen only did a few takes of his vocals. “I think it was the second or third take,” he said. “Which is rare. Typically I like to go into tracking vocals and be very nitpick-y with it. But for this particular song, it felt best to keep it loose and vibe-y.”