Grouplove: New Album Chat w/ LA’s Beautiful Mess

“‘Traumatized’ is actually my favourite song on the album,” declares Hannah Hooper, vocalist and keyboardist for LA’s Grouplove – set to release their third album, Big Mess, on September 9th via Canvasback Music/Atlantic Records.

“Everyone has their favourite song, which is the sign of a good album, rather than it be one hit and skip, skip, skip… ‘Traumatized’ for me is just so raw, and it just shows that we can write a really great song.”

As the opening lyrics would suggest – A girl so beautiful sleeps on the couch/There’s a little baby in her blouse/She is my only one true love in the world/’Cause she’s my fuckin’ girl! – ‘Traumatized’ depicts all the emotions of new parenthood for Hooper and husband Christian Zucconi (vocals/guitar).

“Lyrically, it’s no frills. It’s not pulling any punches, you know,” adds Daniel Gleason, who replaced Sean Gadd on bass in 2013.

“We welcomed a baby girl into our life and honestly, collectively as a family, this band all welcomed her,” explains Hooper, “‘cause she’s gonna be on tour with us forever now.”

Perhaps baby Willa’s first trip was to Seattle, where the band stayed for two months while they recorded half the new album with acclaimed producer, Phil Ek, “There’s so much nostalgia for us there, we all associate Seattle with like the greatest music ever, the greatest scenes, the weather,” says Hooper. “There’s a whole vibe there, Nirvana, which is just the most obvious but being there was just so inspiring and a kind of dream come true, which was a beautiful thing, when you’re in a band like ours, that you can go places and live there for a while and have that… like live that fantasy, you know what I mean, live in your dream world.”

“You’re fortunate to kind of check some things off the bucket list as you’re going along,” agrees Gleason, adding that London is one of those things. “Coming here just to play music is an unbelievable thing that we are afforded in our lives, but Seattle is one of those. You know, I grew up listening to bands from there and reading about it and always wanted to go there, and to be able to go there and spend two months to just focus on making a record is…”

“Crazy,” finishes Hooper.

“It’s incredible. He did a bunch of records that we were inspired by – Built to Spill, Fleet Foxes, Modest Mouse, bunch of bands from the Pacific North-West,” Gleason continues. “It was good to get away, kind of away from normal distractions and roommates and you know, whatever else, and just kind of only focus on creating music, and then we took maybe only like a week in between and then came down to LA and did the second half of it with Ryan.”

Grouplove drummer, Ryan Rabin (aka Captain Cuts) has been producing the band – completed by Andrew Wessen (guitar/vocals) – since day one, and was heavily involved in the inception of the songs that he went on to produce for Big Mess, “A lot of the stuff we did with Phil was very much written previously you know, like demoed out by Han and Christian, and obviously the vision is realised by the band, but the stuff we recorded with Ryan was like, very much would not have been possible as a song, necessarily, without him in a lot of those instances.

“It was a really good easy process, we ended up with 17/18 songs, and that’s out of 40 that were probably written, so we were really able to take the time, there was no deadline,” says Gleason. “It felt like there was no pressure other than we want to make a good record, for ourselves and for what we hope that fans would like to hear.”

‘It gets done, when it gets done’ is a mantra that has always worked for the band, who focus on creating, rather than getting drawn into the commercial process. Consequently, there was no such thing as ‘that difficult third album’… “I think our band has never thought of trying to make it, which has been liberating since the first day,” explains Hooper. “We really just made music as friends and so the pressure of the third album didn’t come to us.

“We’ve been so lucky and that process has worked for us since the beginning, which is just make good music, have a good time doing it and the moment that stops working, let’s not do the band. We’re not like ‘this has to work, we have to write hits’, you know. I think when there’s an honesty behind your work, there’s a natural, I guess there’s a natural success.”

“Success in a different way,” adds Gleason. “Not like commercial but fulfilling success, self-fulfilling.”

Big Mess is Grouplove’s first long-player since 2013’s Spreading Rumours, and the imminent arrival of little Willa Payne Zucconi only amplified this relaxed, yet prolific, approach to making music. While album number two saw the band moving into a house together straight after tour, and getting straight back into writing, the Big Mess journey was way more liberating, “This album we kinda got to go back to our houses, got to know ourselves off the road a little bit and just write ‘cause we’re artists, and not for an album, for a purpose, to like ‘create a hit’ or something like that,” explains Hooper. “Just go get in touch with that soul, and you know… artistry and that is how Big Mess came to be. It’s really the best songs.”

“Yeah, I think allowing yourself a new perspective to realise how you’ve grown, and changed as a person and the things that have changed around you, like taking a step back and having that perspective has informed the songs in what feels like a different way than previously,” adds Gleason.

‘Welcome To Your Life’ is the first single and opening track on the album, and the lyrics could not be more fitting – We’re back in business/You’re such a big mess/And I love you – making a statement of intent from the outset, whilst also acknowledging the crazy world this new life has been brought into.

“To welcome someone into this world you kinda take a different look at it, like in the verses of ‘Welcome To Your Life’ there’s an ugliness to this world that’s scary, like do I wanna bring a child up in this? This is like a very machine orientated world, war orientated, politically driven, scary place, in a lot of ways,” states Hooper. “But then the choruses are these big like ‘this can be your fantasy’, you can live however you want, this world can be where your dreams come true, so we were fighting the optimist and the pessimist I think, in that perspective.”

Big Mess also marks the transition into a more settled lifestyle for the band, albeit one where they’re still taking risks musically, “We’ve really gone from being… trying to be artists when we left New York to being artists,” explains Hooper, “Accepting that, and just being like, not fighting anymore not being scared of it […] it’s a beautiful, kind of peaceful thing for me.”

“The first few years can be very, it’s so surreal in a way, and you’re kinda constantly concerned like, what if this goes away and that can inform the way you create,” explains Gleason, “and it feels like now there’s just a freeness to it all.”

This year also saw Hooper get into meditation, “It’s like been a transformative, as far as a spiritual thing, it’s been for our lifestyle, a game changer for me. It’s made me, I used to kind of have… being in society and being so public made me uncomfortable and now I feel like, I dunno, I’m not like meditating on that, it’s just the freedom of meditation that’s made me… better.”

Now the risks they take can be more exciting, “We’re always trying new things; you never want to be comfortable as an artist. I think the moment you’ve found… when people are like ‘what’s your process’, and they know their process… we do not have a process and I think that is a freedom that gives us the ability to keep growing.”

Creative expression extends to artwork for Hooper, who has always designed the band’s covers, “My art is directly inspired by the music, it’s kind of one feeds the other, it’s really weird… Christian will say, ‘you sing when you paint and you paint when you sing’.” And she has a chaotic approach to both, “I’m really excited about our new album cover, it’s a new direction for me, I’ve always done, I always think of it as ‘messy representational’ and now I’m doing just like ‘abstraction’, abstract things, which I’m really enjoying. But I think I got really into looking at Rauschenberg stuff and Boski over the last year, which got me back into it, which was nice, I love going back to artists.”

Grouplove are due to set off on a massive world tour this September, kicking off in the Netherlands on the 21st, and returning to London for a show at Camden’s Electric Ballroom on the 27th. One dollar for every ticket sold will be donated to charity: water to help fund water projects like drilled wells, spring protections, and BioSand filters that help provide clean water to communities around the world.

“You get to a point where you’re doing alright and you don’t have to live pay cheque to pay cheque, and you want to find ways to help other people with their needs,” explains Gleason. “We wouldn’t be able to do that if fans didn’t listen to this band and tell people about the music and come to the shows and all of that, you know.”

“We’re making direct contributions,” says Hooper, with Gleason adding that it was important for them to know that the funds would make it into the right hands. “Staying constantly involved keeps you aware of what you’re doing you know, portion of ticket sales, I mean you literally don’t have to do anything to help the world become better.”

Big Mess is due for release on September 9th via Canvasback Music/Atlantic Records.

Preorder the album HERE and receive instant grat downloads.

Grouplove - Big Mess

Big Mess World Tour Dates:

21 – Amsterdam Paradiso – Netherlands
22 – Hamburg Reeperbahn Fest – Germany
23 – Cologne Luxor – Germany
24 – Paris Les Etoiles – France
26 – Manchester Academy 3 – United Kingdom
27 – London Electric Ballroom – United Kingdom

05 – Las Vegas, NV – Brooklyn Bowl
06 – Oakland, CA – Fox Theater
07 – Los Angeles, CA – Hollywood Palladium
10 – Vancouver, BC – Commodore Ballroom
13 – Portland, OR – Roseland Theatre
14 – Seattle, WA – The Crocodile Café
17 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Complex – Grand Room
18 – Denver, CO – Ogden Theatre
21 – Kansas City, MO – Uptown Theatre
22 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue
23 – Madison, WI – Orpheum Theater
25 – Indianapolis, IN – Egyptian Room at Old National Centre
27 – Columbus, OH – Express Live!
29 – Royal Oak, MI – Royal Oak Music Theatre
30 – Toronto, ON – Danforth Music Hall
31 – Montréal, QC – Corona Theatre

01 – Philadelphia, PA – The Fillmore
03 – Boston, MA – House of Blues
05 – New York, NY – Hammerstein Ballroom
09 – Washington, DC – Echostage
10 – Norfolk, VA – The Norva
12 – Nashville, TN – Cannery Ballroom
13 – New Orleans, LA – House of Blues
15 – Dallas, TX – House of Blues
16 – Houston, TX – House of Blues
18 – Austin, TX – Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater

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Words: Sarah Hardy
Photos: Michael Robert Williams