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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

The Muse: An Interview with Student Musician Jesse Harper of Kipp Clifford


The Muse is a creative publication that aims to share the interests, talents, and research of students on campus. The following represents the opinion of the student writer and does not represent the views of Loyola University Maryland, the Greyhound, or Loyola University’s Department of Communication.


Kipp Clifford is an independent duo of musicians based outside of Philadelphia. The band’s intimate and emotive sound has been explored across three singles released over the past two years. Their latest song, “determiner,” is an inventive and stirring blend of soft acoustic folk with a more fragmented electronic synthesizer sound, that cathartically reflects upon the melancholy of nostalgia and the understanding of one’s own maturation. 

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing band member and current Loyola student, Jesse Harper. 


Chakars: To start, could you please introduce yourself and Kipp Clifford? 

Harper: I am Jesse Harper. I’m a first-year at Loyola and I am an undecided major currently but I have a meeting with my advisor tomorrow so I’ll have to know by then. Kipp Clifford is a song-writing duo comprised of my brother Christian and I. We discovered that we both really enjoy writing with each other, and we just kept doing it, and I don’t really see us ever stopping that. 


C: I love that in your Spotify bio, it says something like “Two people who love making music and they hope you love it too.”

H: Yes, honestly I should have said that exactly. You can copy and paste that if you want. *laughs* I think Christian wrote that.


C: So, what different roles do you and your brother, Christian, play in the band? 

H: We both do sort of everything, but we definitely do the heavy lifting on different ends. We both write. Some songs we write together, 50/50, or we’ll bring a song to the other person. Every song does pass through the other person, but we try not to tally contributions because sometimes that doesn’t serve the song well. If you’re just trying to be like “Well, I didn’t write any of these lyrics so I need to change something” but sometimes the song is as good as it was when the first person spilled it out of them. Also being open to whatever the other person’s input is is also really important to us. 

Recording-wise we usually both record various parts. Usually, I’m the one singing, [but] in the most recent song we put out, “determiner,” that is Christian on the lead vocals, and then I’m in backing vocals. He does the heavy lifting on the production end. He is going to a school called Azusa Pacific University in Los Angeles for music composition and he has way more skill on the production end, so I’m usually sitting next to him and interjecting here and there and being like “Can we do this?” And then he’ll be like “That doesn’t make any sense” or he’ll try and translate what I’m trying to communicate. I’ve learned a lot from just sitting next to him. 


C: That transitions nicely into my next question. Has coming to Loyola and being distanced physically from your brother affected your creative process for Kipp Clifford now that you can’t quite sit next to him directly? 

H: It has definitely affected it. Distance is an obstacle, I would say. We’re always sending voice memos or lyrics back and forth, but it’s made us way more aware that the time when we are in the same place and can work on stuff physically together is so much more valuable. So [in those moments] we’re like “We have to use this time, we have to do something,” but not in, like, a pressuring way or like an obligation, but we really appreciate that time more. It also serves as a deadline. 

The first song we put out, [“footprints,”] we recorded the night before Christian had to leave for college, back when I was in high school. So we were like “We have to record it tonight” and that’s the whole reason we even put out the first song, and then it was the same thing with “love paradox,” our second song. We recorded that in LA when I was out visiting him and I had to leave for my flight thirty minutes later from when we were recording it. We were like “We have to do this now! There’s no other choice!” *laughs*

So if anything [the distance] has been an obstacle because there’s less time to be together but also it gives us deadlines. We’ll have like this week where we’re home for Thanksgiving, and we know we have to do something then. We do our best [distantly], but I’m excited for this summer when we can both be home and we can work on our music together. 


C: From my understanding, you and your brother have been practicing and creating music since you were children. Have you been collaborating for a long time, since before the beginning of Kipp Clifford?

H: We have been very musically involved for our whole lives. Always playing instruments and I was in a lot of choral groups growing up, but we never really collaborated much. At most I’d maybe have him play like a song from “Les Mis” and I’d sing to it, but rarely would we play together.  

Then in the Summer of 2022, we both independently started writing by ourselves and then very early on after that, we were like “Can I show you this?” or “Can I show you that?” We were encouraging each other and giving constructive feedback, and then that kind of turned into writing together. The first song that I ever wrote was “love paradox” and I remember showing him that. In December of 2021, I had written just the main refrain and then I came back to it in the summer and I saw that he was writing more, and I had started playing guitar more. 

Then there was a catalyst moment where we were driving home from the airport and we listened to “Blouse” by Clairo when it came out and we were like “We should start writing music!” That kind of sparked the interest to start doing that and then we just wrote a ton over that summer. That’s really when we started collaborating, so like two years ago. 


C: So you both play a role in the songwriting process. When writing songs, what sparks the initial inspiration for a piece? 

H: It’s definitely different every time and different for both of us. I would say Christian is way more inclined to write diaristically or confessionally about his own life, pulling personal experience, sort of parsing through an event, processing it while also kind of turning it into a concept. Though he’s always taking out some level of reality, it’s not always a 100% factual account of what’s happened in his life. There’s definitely songs he’s written that aren’t that way as well, whereas most of the songs I write are totally fictional. I don’t necessarily think about a personal experience, or rather I think of a fictional scenario or character that’s narrating it. 

With something like “determiner,” which I’m going to keep using as an example, the singles we have been releasing so far have been a build-up to one of the projects we’re planning and “determiner” was sort of there to fill in what we felt was a gap, both thematically, and lyrically, but also sonically. We had our more stripped songs and our more processed or produced songs, and then also thematically [in this project] we felt like there was this arc and then it just kind of jumped and we were like “We need something here.” I was rewatching all of Miyazaki’s movies, and I had just watched “My Neighbor Totoro” again, which I’ve seen so many times. I’m sure you know the scene where they’re in the backyard and they’re dancing around the saplings and then the trees shoot up to become huge, but then the next morning they’re saplings again. I was just really struck by that imagery, so I remember telling him “We should write a song about that,” and then I went to go rock climbing with [my friend,] Kellen, and then on the car ride back he sent me a voice memo and the whole song was written. So Christian wrote that, prompted by my “We should write using plant growth imagery” and you can definitely hear that in the song. 

That’s one of my favorite stories regarding the origin of a song. Sometimes there’s a specific story to go along but sometimes it’s really just like, “Hey, I think this would be a cool concept,” or you could just write a lyric and build off of that, or you could write chords or melodies and then you come onto lyrics later. That’s often how we’ll write together. I’ll write chords and a melody and then he’ll come in with a verse or a chorus and then we’ll build it up together. Those songs that I feel like are our best, or like our favorite songs, are the ones that feel the most like we had an equal hand in. 


C: You began to get into this a little bit, but the three singles Kipp Clifford has released over the last two years, “footprints,” “love paradox,” and “determiner,” have consistently had a very acoustic, intimate, and folk-like essence to them. But in the case of your most recent release, you incorporate synthesizers and more electronic moments into the song. Could you speak some to the process of blending these two styles? Did you approach “determiner” already knowing that you wanted to blend these sounds?

H: Yes. 100%. Spot on. It partly has been that, because there’s been big gaps between our releases, we’re gaining more skills [between them.] Adding more elements to a song can be a bigger undertaking, but we feel more prepared to do that [now.] A big reason the other songs ended up being so stripped back, on one instrument, is that we write most of our songs on one instrument so that ends up sort of being the nature of those more folk-derived sounds. We definitely tried to keep some folk or acoustic elements in “determiner,”  trying to kind of blend that as it acts as a bridge for those sorts of songs. There’s flute in there and acoustic guitar, but also those synthesizers and the drums. There are a lot more elements and it definitely was a divergence from what we had previously released.

We were also realizing that we have kind of a backlog of music right now for quite a few projects we have planned for the next few years and so we wanted to introduce that “Hey, there’s other sounds that you’ll hear from us, and while you will definitely hear more of the same, don’t only expect one thing.”


C: I’m excited to hear them. So, I was introduced to you in a photography class. The announcement of “determiner” came along with a cryptic promotional video. It was really cool. Do you have any other interesting plans to incorporate visual elements into Kipp Clifford’s work? 

H: For sure. I think we really realized that you can add a lot to the way people interact with a song when you give it a visual identity too. We, for now, are probably going to stick with dipping our toes into it, doing more promotional elements or putting more effort into the cover art and things like that. We are definitely inspired by a lot of artists who have really effectively integrated their visual components, like Ethel Cain is a big one. She has such a distinct visual element that also influences her actual music as well, and they go so well hand in hand. We’re obviously not doing what she’s doing but she is someone who does it so well and seeing other artists do that a lot has been cool. We have ideas for things we would like to do in the future, but for now just hopefully doing more than just the cover. 


C: You’ve talked about Clairo, Ethel Cain, and Miyazaki, but what other artists and works have influenced you and your music?

H: So many. I was talking to Chris and we were like “What would be set as our main influences?” And we had the same answers independently which made me feel solid with that. I would say the big ones would be Alex G, Adrianne Lenker, Caroline Polachek, and Andy Shauf. There’s really been so many people. Other bands like Hovvdy are super cool, we’ve always looked to them. Daniel Johnston was someone we would listen to a lot. Also who we grew up on – I remember listening to a lot of John Denver together as kids. Our parents were really into him. I would leave it at those, but honestly so many people. 


C: Thank you, and I have one last question. I believe you have performed live in the past, do you have any plans to perform in Baltimore anytime soon?

H: I would love to say that we would do it sometime soon. We have performed once in the past and we definitely want to more, especially this summer, and then as much as we can after too. This summer probably more in the Philly area, just because that’s where we’re primarily based, but we have a lot of conversations about doing stuff where we’re both going to school, so for him Los Angeles and then hopefully Baltimore as well. So, yes, but not soon. But yes! 


C: Thank you so much! Thank you for talking to me today.

H: Thank you so much for having me!


You can find Kipp Clifford on all streaming platforms. Make sure to check them out!

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