Hometown: Los Angeles
Members: Christian Zucconi (vocals/guitars), Hannah Hooper (vocals/keyboards), Andrew Wessen (guitars), Sean Gadd (bass), Ryan Rabin (drums)
Album: Never Trust a Happy Song
For Fans Of: Givers, Wolf Gang, Viva Brother
The men and woman of Grouplove just want to have fun. While preparing to record a private session for Paste’s film crew at the DeLuna Fest in Pensacola Beach, Fla., they looked longingly at the water as we walked down the beach. They cracked jokes at each other’s expense, offered me a glob of sunscreen and expressed an immediate desire to go swimming.
That desire proves overwhelming as they decide to leave the safety of the sand and play acoustically in the water. Not the part of the shore where the tide would graze the bottom of their feet, but in the ocean. The crew filmed as the Los Angeles-based band sang and danced, splashing about like it was their first time on the beach.
“It’s important that we give like a million percent in shows,” singer Hannah Hooper says as we sit in the shade underneath the pier, “regardless if there are five people or five hundred.”
They certainly gave everything they had in the gulf. If they weren’t already exhausted, they certainly are by the time we huddled together on a few complimentary towels from their hotel, but it’s a blissful relaxation after another adventure together. The vibe is a lot like the summer of 2009 when Hannah Hooper and her newfound friend, singer/guitarist Christian Zucconi, were at an artists’ residency on the island of Crete. They barely knew each other but Hooper had “[fallen] madly in love with him; in a totally not creepy way.” Zucconi and Hooper ended up meeting the rest of the band, who were also on Crete for various reasons, because the couple had the best shower at the campsite.
Guitarist Andrew Wessen previously knew drummer Ryan Rabin, but bassist Sean Gadd was a complete stranger to them all. Bonding happened quickly and naturally and by the time they left the island, they had written “Don’t Say Oh Well” (which appears on the EP) on the night of a lunar eclipse. The bonds they forged remained strong even after the five dispersed back to their own lives before reuniting in Los Angeles to record the EP.
“We never thought we were going to start a band,” Rabin revealed, brushing sand off of himself. “We recorded in my home studio and then parted ways again.”
As the sun begins its descent and our patch of shade begins to disappear, we discuss whether having their hit “Colours” appear on the soundtrack for the FIFA 12 video game was a big deal to them.
“Whaaaaat?!” Gadd jokes like he hadn’t yet heard the news before Rabin says it wasn’t a make-or-break moment for the band. Zucconi, who’s been relatively quiet, notes that their rise had been slow burning and it had been a lot of work, including European and American tour dates opening for Florence + The Machine the with two back-to-back sold-out shows at the Wiltern in L.A. Since then, people have started to take notice of the twentysomethings in a big way.
They take their leave to shower and change out of their salt-water-battered clothes before the evening’s set. It’s the final day of the festival, and they’re the final act to play the Grooveshark stage, far from the main stage, where headliners Mutemath have canceled. Still, a large crowd has gathered a half-hour early.
Over the course of an hour-long set Zucconi transforms from the introverted young man underneath the pier to an energetic frontman with a knack for theatrics and his bandmates follow suit. The energy is raw, and the crowd is compelled to sing and dance along as frantically as musicians on stage. When Rabin jumps from his drum set after the last song and crawls into the crowd, there’s no turning back. Fans won’t let him rejoin his mates, take a bow and curtsy. He’s only released when the other musicians go around to the barricade and meet with fans and sign autographs. Their manager tries to round them up to load their van, but the band is more interested in giving fans Sharpie “GROUP” tattoos like the ones inside all their forearms.
The conference room where dinner is being served to the festival’s musicians is nearly dead as most of the bands have already left town, but I join the band for what feels like a family meal. The topic is first concert experiences, and Wessen talks about seeing The Smashing Pumpkins as a pre-teen and being offered pot for the first time. Everyone agrees that the early 1990s were such an influential time, though they were almost too young to fully appreciate the music of the era. None of them can imagine what the landscape of the industry would be if bubblegum pop didn’t takeover the airwaves after grunge died along with Kurt Cobain.
But Zucconi can’t see it the other way around either. “I can’t imagine [Kurt Cobain] tweeting how much he hates things right now,” he reveals between bites, “That’s what’s so mystical about it; we’ll never know. Maybe it’s good to die a legend.”
Silence takes over the table, and I think about Cobain smoking on the beach somewhere playing Angry Birds. It’s finally broken by Hooper, who has a very different idea for her own band. “We want to grey together.”
And the Grouplove family looks to have every opportunity to grow old. Their album Never Trust a Happy Song showcases tightly knit musicians, a fact that’s only underscored by their camaraderie as they head to the hotel Jacuzzi to drink beers and just spend time together. The band name and lyrics about togetherness are more than just words; they’re an expression of how they live their lives.