July September 2011
Questionnaire & Photography: Steve Bateman
Having been bowled over by Grouploves exuberant live show
and jubilant songs as part of the Emerge NME Radar Tour earlier this
year a quintet where every member is a songwriter and four of
them sing as well! I was quick to invest in their self-titled EP and
am now greatly looking forward to the release of the bands debut
album in September, Never Trust A Happy Song, a title chosen to show
that there is a little more to the songs than just pure happiness.
Opting to add the word love to their previous moniker Group,
as this name alone would have proven to be both uncopyrightable and
ungoogleable, the band are now seemingly never off tour and Andrew has
very thoughtfully completed a Questionnaire for me whilst travelling
on the road. But just before reading it, heres Grouploves
official bio to fill you in on everything you need to know about their
formation a collective in the truest sense of the word, as they
even have matching branded tattoos
Hannah Hooper met Christian Zucconi late one evening on the
lower east side of Manhattan. They had both been living in New York
for years and had never crossed paths before. But from that night forward
the two could hardly be pulled apart. Soon after their connection Hooper
was invited to an art residency in Greece on the island of Crete and
Hooper insists "without any hesitation" she invited Zucconi
to join her on this journey. "Seriously, we had only known one
another for a few days but are both so inspired and alive when we are
together that going to Greece seemed like a magical and natural thing
to do" recalls Zucconi.
On Crete, in a small remote mountain village, Hooper and Zucconi met
the members of their future band "GROUPLOVE" a year before
it was officially formed. Sean Gadd, a natural songwriter and guitar
player, born and bred in London instantly bonded with the two eccentric
New Yorkers. Their relationship became apparent through the music they
were making day in and day out. Andrew Wessen, a pro surfer and musician
from Los Angeles and his childhood friend Ryan Rabin, an accomplished
drummer and producer, were also at the residency and quickly joined
in with the musical trio. These five musicians make up the members of
what we now know as GROUPLOVE.
Like all good things, the summer and the residency came to an end and
the five friends scattered back to their homes all over the globe. With
Sean in London, Christian and Hannah in Brooklyn and Ryan and Andrew
in Los Angeles GROUPLOVE was faced with the challenge of what to do
now. "We all understood how rare it is for five strangers to feel
as close as family and create passionate music together. We couldn't
just return to Brooklyn and let the music we all made fade into a memory
of that summer we had in Greece," explains Zucconi. Everyone pulled
their funds together and Sean, Christian and Hannah made their way to
Ryan Rabin's studio in LA to record their album. "We seriously
had the best time of our lives doing that record", says Zucconi.
And the result is an incredibly special album where soaring harmonies
coupled with sweeping anthems lead you through their powerful journey.
Like the members of GROUPLOVE, their music is diverse in influence and
style but bonded together by an undeniably creative kinship.
Their experience back together and recording together was so potent
that Hooper and Zucconi packed up their lives in Brooklyn and moved
to LA to live and play their music. "We never could have dreamt
this up" says Zucconi, "but at the same time we're not at
all surprised - GROUPLOVE is meant to be. Our story a testament to fate,
and our music is something we are ready to share."
Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking
forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans
1.My first encounter with Grouplove was witnessing one of your fantastic
Emerge NME Radar Tour live gigs! So to begin with, I wondered if you
lose track of time when youre onstage as you all look like
youre enjoying yourselves so much and also, how long does
it take you to recover after showtime?
I guess we lose track of much more than time, really. Hannah used
to go into blackout mode and shed come off stage being like What
just happened? with zero recollection of the last 45 minutes.
Its definitely rare that I feel the full effect of time onstage.
Normally its nearing the end of the set when I finally realize
whats going on. Its the sudden realization that we are really
sweaty, the crowd is riled up (hopefully) and there are likely few minor
injuries to account for. After the show there isnt a set ritual,
but normally a few minutes of quiet amidst the chaos is nice.
2.When writing and recording music, do you like to work on multiple
song ideas or do you prefer to finish one song at a time, and do you
have an ideal studio set-up / number of multi-tracks?
Its really a case by case basis. Some songs were done in
one day with painless live tracking. Others were built a bit more in
the studio as various ideas were explored and tested. Ryan (our drummer)
is our producer as well and has an incredibly creative mind. Sometimes
hed be hunched over the computer for hours trying new things other
times hed simply let the song stand as is.
3.Whats the oldest song in your back catalogue + have you ever
stitched any tracks together from different parts of other
songs to create something new?
Some songs were taken from peoples back catalogues, such
as Gold Coast, which Christian wrote in Brooklyn years ago.
Others were those that were written in Greece, such as Dont
Say Oh Well or written in LA in the early stages of the band,
such as Tongue Tied and Love Will Save Your Soul.
Im not sure whats been stitched or not.
4.You have described Grouplove as a true mixing of personalities
and styles that can only come naturally when people from such different
backgrounds create something together. But how prepared were you
before going into the studio to record your debut album and was this
a democratic process / did you share similar ideas to your producer?
It was a very natural process for us because it was recorded the
same way we had done the EP, with Ryan as producer. We got into a nice
routine of going to our jam spot and rehearsing the songs, then heading
down to Ryans apartment in downtown Los Angeles to record them.
The only stressful part was picking the songs for the record because
each member of the band is a songwriter with a number of great tracks
to choose from. We were adamant that Ryan produce the full length as
well because he did such an amazing job with the EP and his production
skills speak for themselves. We are such a tight and self-sufficient
unit, with Ryan producing and Hannah doing all of the artwork, that
it was the only way to go in our minds.
5.When working with Coldplay, Brian Eno famously used his Oblique
Strategies cards, whereby he would give each member of the band
a random card and ask them to interpret its instruction musically as
they jammed, without letting the other members know what their card
says. Although Eno has admitted: Of course, the chances of you
getting a great piece of music are quite remote, the chances of you
getting a seed for something are quite strong. Do you think this
is an interesting idea?
Ya, I guess it is.
6.On a similar note, prior to making Accelerate, R.E.M. played special
rehearsal shows in front of audiences to gauge peoples
reactions to their new material. What are your thoughts on this?
Thats a great idea. We have been playing most of the songs
off the album live already so we have already been able to gauge the
reactions ourselves. On the other hand, we are picking songs that we
feel have strong melodies and hooks, and when youve got that,
you dont really have to test them live, you just have to go with
7.Are there any artists / groups whose new albums, interviews and tours
you always really look forward to, who you feel are reliable and consistent?
If you asked anyone in the band this question you would get a
different response. Radiohead is one of those bands that you cant
wait to see what they do next. Sigur Rós as well. There are a
lot of established bands out there still killing it at what they do
and there are many still coming up as well. I think its an exciting
time for music.
8.Whats the most amount of plays that your songs have had on
Facebook or MySpace in 1 day, and have you ever watched any Grouplove
cover versions on YouTube?
Hmmm not sure really. Maybe 1500? Maybe more not sure
(maybe less ha ha). Ya weve seen a couple covers and we love them!
Its strange but totally flattering.
9.Of all your tracks, are there any that are more complex to play
live, which perhaps require greater concentration than others do?
For me its Close Your Eyes and Count To Ten. The song just has
a lot to it. Its the combination of three part harmonies whilst
playing a somewhat tricky guitar line that makes me concentrate more
than most songs.
10.Having performed at both SXSW and Brightons Great Escape, how
would you say these important and influential music events contrast
Well, even though weve been to both Ive found its
impossible to really soak it all in. Theres such madness going
on around you that you just kinda power through it and do what youve
set out to do. Our SXSW experience was so much fun and equally so much
work. I dont think any amount of advice or preparation can truly
prepare you for the insanity there. Austin is an amazing town, especially
during that crazy week. Theres a certain vibrancy and funkiness
to it that is infectious. In terms of setting, Great Escape is the complete
opposite, its English and its this incredibly beautiful
coastal town of Brighton with a very San Francisco vibe to it. I think
both do an incredible job at doing with they set out to do, namely showcasing
new artists and they should both be commended for that.
11.What are your feelings on 360 Deals that see labels
take a cut of artists' touring and merchandise revenue which
has been endorsed by the likes of Jay-Z and Madonna and did you
have a preference between being on a major or indie label?
I think the idea of a 360 Deal was a natural evolution
in the industry because the record companies were no longer generating
enough revenue from their album sales and had to look at what avenues
were still capable of making money. Obviously its not ideal for
the artists. Regardless, I can sit back objectively and understand what
a record label still has to offer an upcoming artist, which is a lot,
and also see what the artist still offers to the label in terms of profit.
There is still a viable relationship there, it has just changed and
evolved. For us, we were most interested in the people because we wanted
a strong relationship with those we would be working with every day.
We met some amazing people in that period and likewise some that we
didnt connect with at all. It was evident from our first meeting
with those at Canvasback/Atlantic that there was something special there.
We clicked from the very first moment and I think we all knew early
on that it was right.
12.I really enjoyed reading the story of how Grouplove serendipitously
met, but from all of your favourite acts, do you have a favourite tale
of how a band formed?
Im not really sure how any of the bands I love formed to
be honest. I guess I love the story of Ray Manzareck meeting Jim Morrisson
on the beach in Venice, California and how Jim sang him Moonlight
Drive on the spot. I lived in Venice for 5 years and have spent
a great deal of time on that very beach, so its fun to think of it going
down right there.
13.As your music has a summery feelgood vibe, from all of your cherished
songs, what would be your perfect playlist to listen to whilst watching
the sun set?
1. Beach Boys Wouldnt It Be Nice
2. Superhumanoids Malta
3. Family Of The Year Stairs
4. Black Flamingo Black Heart
5. Foster The People Broken Jaw
6. Mini Mansions The Room Outside
7. We Barbarians Headspace
8. Beatles Here Comes The Sun
9. The Franks Ray Gunn Radio
10 Milo Greene Dont You Give Up On Me
11. Icona Pop Manners (CAPTAIN CUTS remix)
14.Both David Bowie and The Cure have famously made a trilogy of
albums, so I was curious to know if you see a connection between your
EP and LP (sonically + lyrically), that could possibly link them to
another record in the future, or would you prefer each of your releases
to be classed as separate entities?
I think the connection between the LP and EP comes from the desire
to make every song a distinct entity. We were never trying to make a
record with a sound but instead chose songs that we thought
would stand out next to the others. Its really a record that embodies
the fact that the band is made of five individuals who are very different
but also very unified.
15.Lastly, this is a long-running question for fun, which would you
choose out of chips (french fries) or cream buns (pastries)?
Definitely FRIES!! Literally my favorite food on the planet. Breakfast,
lunch or dinner Im down.
A very special thanks to Andrew and to Berger Management, for all of
their time and help.