Wouldn’t we all just love to adopt Grouplove as bona fide Australians? It seems like only yesterday that the American indie rockers were here playing a massive headlining tour (as well as a killer set at Splendour In The Grass), and they’ve already announced they’ll be back over New Years for Falls Festival.
The lead single from their forthcoming third album is Welcome To Your Life, and it’s a track that’s been as close as we’ve gotten to a winter anthem – getting huge radio airtime and becoming the biggest singalong at every Grouplove show.
Speaking of their third album, it’s finally out this week and it’s called Big Mess. It’s also their most mature record to date, both in the way that Grouplove are really making the most of their abilities and through the diversity of tracks on it.
We caught up with singer Hannah Hooper to chat about popping a shoey live on triple j, why the band loves Australia so much and how you never truly know a song until you’ve played it live.
Music Feeds: Phil Ek is an absolute legend. What was it like getting to work with him on this album?
Hannah Hooper: For me personally; it was so exciting. I’ve never done music outside of this band so my only experience is working with Ryan who’s also our drummer – which has been amazing but also I always love the challenge of something new. So working with Phil; first of all we worked out of Seattle whereas we normally do everything out of LA. That was epic; Seattle is an amazing place and kind of a headquarters for grunge music, and where a lot of my favourite bands came to be. It was cool, it reaffirmed that our band can just write great songs and doesn’t really need a producer to shape them. He really just worked with us sonically.
MF: Do you think that as a result your process, the final result was much different?
HH: I do and I don’t. I don’t because we write all our own music, but his songs were different in that Phil Ek doesn’t bring in all these contemporary sounds into the studio it’s just our own instruments. He has this ability to create an insane, beautiful sound. We call him a tone master. But this album, to me it’s the best album Grouplove has written. The songs are a lot stronger, we’ve mature together as a band. I think that’s what is going to separate this from other albums, but not the fact that we worked with Phil.
MF: It feels like Welcome To Your Life has been out for so long now, have you been happy with how that single has been received ahead of the album release?
HH: Yeah, it’s been amazing. Christian (Zucconi) and I are actually in a totally new world because we just had a baby, so we haven’t really been focussing on how that song’s been doing. But people have been singing it whenever we’ve been playing it at festivals. I rarely listen to the radio because we aren’t as lucky and don’t have a station as amazing as triple j to listen to, and we’ve actually heard it on the radio. It feels like you’re in a movie when you hear your song on the radio; you’re like ‘what the fuck!’ So it is really a dream come true. Once you’ve written the music it’s out of your hands what happens to it.
MF: Big Mess seems like quite a balanced record; you guys combine up-beat party anthems with more chilled stuff also thrown in. How vital was it for you that this record be written as a whole, cohesive piece of work?
HH: I always look at everything as a full body of work. I know this is the age of the single but everything for me, from album art to the songwriting process to where we record the song is all important. Our band stays true to that, we’re just five really good friends writing music, so everything that’s involved; it’s not just about crushing out a single. This is the first time the band’s been off in around six years, so it actually gave us time to write. I’m actually surprised that Christian and I weren’t completely burnt out, and collectively with the band as well as privately we wrote forty songs. Some of those songs ended up on the album, so we wanted to pick our strongest songs as well as have a nice ebb & flow. So you can feel the vibes of the chance we’re going through. We discuss so many different topics on the album but it really is a full circle for me.
MF: Welcome To Your Life has been huge in Australia and you’ll be back here at the end of the year even though it feels like you only just left. What do you like about Australian audiences?
HH: There’s something magical about Australia. First of all is that the radio doesn’t hang on singles as long as the States. People just really seem to love music there, you really get a sense that people know a lot of songs and it’s not just a single-based country. The fact that the audiences just brings it, there’s so much give and take between you and them. There’s so much energy, whether it’s a festival or a show – everyone is just so awesome. Honestly our band would probably live in Australia if we could; I don’t know why we shouldn’t. Maybe we should.
MF: You guys did that Like A Version of Dune Rats ‘Bullshit.’ Was that suggested to you guys or did you come up with that yourselves?
HH: We have our ear to the ground; we have friends that live in Sydney and Melbourne. People have been talking about the Dune Rats; their songs are rad but their stage presence has so much energy. Even though we play a different style, their audiences also seem to have such an amazing time – so we looked them up. Basically, once I saw a shoey I knew it was going to happen. That song, Bullshit, is also so catchy.
MF: Every band seems to feel differently on this, but do you guys find touring is a good way to road test new songs?
HH: Being on the road is probably the best time to have an audience. So people can tell you if they’re liking it or not. You could write a song, record it and know how to play it; but really you don’t learn how to play it properly until you’ve played it live a bunch. There’s a certain you that comes out every time you play the song; you become more the person that wrote the song, you remember why you wrote it and the meaning changes. I remember Colours, the very first single we ever put out – it transformed so much over the years, and that really is what happens when you play a song live. People connect with the song and it grows, and that’s really the most beautiful thing about touring. It makes playing music not redundant – and it makes it new every time.