When the opportunity came to speak with Grouplove, the first question that popped into my mind was ‘Where have those guys been?’
Incidentally, after asking around my friendship group, it appears to be a question that pops into most people's minds.
Indeed it’s been a little while between stumps for the LA based quintet. Their last record, Spreading Rumours, came out in 2013 and their last visit to Australia was in 2014 for Splendour in the Grass.
Nevertheless, while it seems all quiet on the Grouplove front, bassist Daniel Gleason informed me that the band have continued to work away behind the scenes.
‘We took a couple years off to write and record and it kind of feels like now just getting shot out of a cannon cause there is so much pent up energy,’ Gleason said.
The band is about to release their third studio album, Big Mess. The band gave themselves over a year to write the record, a fact that Gleason feels underpins a special tangency within the album, especially considering Grouplove wrote Spreading Rumours, their second record, in just two weeks.
‘We had the time to figure out who we were and what feels honest,’ Gleason said, ‘Allowing ourselves the time to score where we’re at as people and artists is really good. All these changes were happening and all for the better and we had to create something that reflected that.’
With all that time, the band wrote about 40-50 songs for the record. From there they culled it down to 18 and then ultimately chose the final 11.
‘Once we got down to figuring out which were the real contenders and then we worried about making sure it flowed well thematically,’ Gleason said, ‘But over the year of writing we weren’t focused in one direction or by barriers.’
‘We were in this place that we wanted to put something out there that was positive and help people forget about whatever issues they have for an hour.’
Ryan Rabin, Grouplove’s drummer, produced Big Mess and has been the band’s producer for their entire discography. Certainly having that type of consistency and in-depth knowledge about a band helped in the Grouplove production process.
‘Ryan has a really good understanding of what a Grouplove song and record should sound like,’ Gleason explained.
‘Grouplove is 5 different people who have very different tastes but come together to create it what it is and Ryan is such an important part of that. He has a really good ear for making songs sound exciting and making people pay attention.’
Of course in addition to writing the record, the band also added a member…kinda.
In 2015, lead songwriters and happy couple Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi had their first child together, Willa. One would usually think that bringing a child into a band would change the dynamic, but Gleason assures me this couldn’t be further from the truth.
‘There’s a new member of our family so it’s different, but the dynamic hasn’t changed in anyway,’ Gleason said, ‘We’re still the same 5 people who love and respect each other and enjoy creating art together.’
‘There happens to be this new amazing child around and she brings so much light and happiness. It also gives weight to the whole thing, there are bigger reasons to do this. This seems to matter more now.’
Willa has very much integrated into the Grouplove lifestyle in what, for Gleason at least, has appeared to be a seamless transition for the couple.
‘They’re really good at organising it and they make sure they have plenty of hands-on time with [Willa],’ Gleason said, ‘Willa is actually out on with us on tour and we have a nanny out with us as well. They’re still very very serious artists and that will never change.’
In addition to a pregnancy and a new record, Grouplove have also been involved in several soundtracking projects for various TV shows and films, including Girls, The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns and Tim Burton flick, Frankenweenie. For this humble writer, their original theme song for the closing credits of Netflix hit cartoon dramedy, Bojack Horseman, attracted my particular attention.
‘It’s cool to have the association cause the show is brilliant and seems to have this cult following and it’s actually turning people onto our music in a weird way,’ Gleason said, ‘People who never heard of us before are gravitating to us in new ways.’
As part of the experience of writing songs about an alcoholic, depressed, washed-up 90’s sitcom star who happens to be a horse, Gleason explained that writing scores for television and film has opened up exciting creative pathways for the band.
‘Film and music have such a natural relationship. Music can enhance moments and visuals can enhance music,’ Gleason said.
‘It’s fun to collaborate in that way, especially if you’re writing for a scene. That was a new thing for us and that’s what we did for The Fault in Our Stars. They asked us to write for a particular scene and we were trying to convey an emotion that the director wanted. But it turned out great and we’re proud to be apart of that film.’
In promotion of the new record, Grouplove are currently on a world tour, which just recently came to Australia and will see them return for Falls Festival over the NYE period.
On the tour, Grouplove will donate 1 dollar of every ticket sold to CharityWater, an organisation dedicated to building clean water wells in Africa.
‘Our manager Nikki heard the CEO of Charity:Water on a podcast he listens to and we were looking for organisations to support and ways to give back’ Gleason explained, ‘It’s $10,000 for one well, so hopefully we can make that target and give a positive contribution indirectly through our music.’
From building wells, to having babies and starring in Netflix cult hits, it seems Grouplove have really been everywhere. Whether you know it or not.
Big Mess is out September 9th
Grouplove will be touring Australia with Falls Festival
Alex Capper, once affectionally called by Ross & John of 3AW as the '7 foot fucker', loves the Essendon Football Club, stalking reddit and dabbing. He thinks he can speak French, but he can't.