World Tour
July – September 2011
Questionnaire & Photography: Steve Bateman

Having been bowled over by Grouplove’s 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 band’s 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, here’s Grouplove’s 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 you’re onstage – as you all look like you’re 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 she’d come off stage being like “What just happened?” with zero recollection of the last 45 minutes. It’s definitely rare that I feel the full effect of time onstage. Normally it’s nearing the end of the set when I finally realize what’s going on. It’s 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 isn’t 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?
“It’s 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 he’d be hunched over the computer for hours trying new things other times he’d simply let the song stand as is.”

3.What’s 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 people’s back catalogues, such as “Gold Coast”, which Christian wrote in Brooklyn years ago. Others were those that were written in Greece, such as “Don’t Say Oh Well” or written in LA in the early stages of the band, such as “Tongue Tied” and “Love Will Save Your Soul”. I’m not sure what’s 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 Ryan’s 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 people’s reactions to their new material. What are your thoughts on this?

“That’s 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 you’ve got that, you don’t really have to test them live, you just have to go with your gut.”

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 can’t 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 it’s an exciting time for music.”

8.What’s 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 we’ve seen a couple covers and we love them! It’s 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. It’s 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 Brighton’s Great Escape, how would you say these important and influential music events contrast and compare?

“Well, even though we’ve been to both I’ve found its impossible to really soak it all in. There’s such madness going on around you that you just kinda power through it and do what you’ve set out to do. Our SXSW experience was so much fun and equally so much work. I don’t 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. There’s a certain vibrancy and funkiness to it that is infectious. In terms of setting, Great Escape is the complete opposite, it’s English and it’s 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 it’s 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 didn’t 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?
“I’m 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 “Wouldn’t 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 “Don’t 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. It’s 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 I’m down.”

A very special thanks to Andrew and to Berger Management, for all of their time and help.

“I’m giving up on looking back”

wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looeir musicm the 3rd album?