Grouplove

Just after playing a rain-shortened set at Prospect Park Bandshell in Brooklyn, Grouplove sat down with QRO. ...
Grouplove : Q&A

Grouplove : Q&A

Just after playing a rain-shortened set at Prospect Park Bandshell (QRO venue review) in Brooklyn, Grouplove sat down with QRO.  Singer/guitarist Christian Zucconi, guitarist Andrew Wessen, drummer Ryan Rubin, and bassist Sean Gadd (singer/keyboardist Hannah Hooper was off working on the art for the new album) talked about playing in the rain (and/or acoustic), their extensive touring in recent years, the upcoming album Spreading Rumors, new single “Ways To Go”, their great music videos for “Ways” & more, their journey from Crete to L.A., getting censored like The Doors, how Guns n’ Roses is their biggest musical influence, Sean’s hat, Christian’s hair, Andrew’s mini-me, and much more…

 

 

QRO: Great show at Prospect Park, despite the weather.  Did it kill you to not be able to do your encore?

All: Yes!

Christian Zucconi: It was strange.  It was very weird.  We got home after the show, and it felt really weird.  I was nauseous; just didn’t feel normal.  ‘Cause that’s never happened before, not finishing off a show.  Sort of blue balls…

QRO: [laughs] Was it especially tough, because you still had “Colours” (QRO review) and “Tongue Tied”, the two singles, to play, and I’m sure the fans were all wanting to hear…

CZ: I’m sure, yeah.  We were gonna play this new song, too.

Ryan Rubin: We were actually most excited for this other, new song, that we’d just figured out – well, not ‘figured out’, but, you know, when you’re playing new songs.  Worked it out at soundcheck, “Oh, that sounded great!  We’re gonna do it, first song of the encore!”  And then we didn’t get to do it…

QRO: That’s “Shark Attack”?

RR: Yeah.

CZ: It would have been the first time we played “Shark Attack” [live in front of an audience].

QRO: What do you do when you’re playing outside and the weather isn’t so favorable?

CZ: Kind of just take it as it comes.  Normally just get through it and experience it, turn it to a positive kind of experience.  [At Prospect Park,] I think it was for everyone.

Sean GaddRR: Sean got a lot of blowy rain…

Sean Gadd: It was like a Guns n’ Roses music video…

CZ: You looked kind of epic, though.

Andrew Wessen: [laughs] Were you the woman?

SG: Yeah…

QRO: Why just these few dates this summer?  Is it to test live new material?

CZ: I think we’ve been so busy, for so long, that we didn’t take any time off between our last tour and recording.  A lot of the big festivals, we’re gonna do next summer, so we’re just kinda spending more of a quiet summer, having two or three weeks off, before we start up again for the next two or three years.  A little downtime, as needed.

 

QRO: How has making Spreading Rumors compared with making Never Trust a Happy Song?

AW: We all lived together, for the first time.

CZ: And we were like a band for two years.

RR: The first album was done in my apartment in downtown L.A.  And this time, we went into a proper studio, and tracked a lot of things live, and we got to experiment a lot more and write songs in the studio, on the fly.  We’d been touring for so long, I think we are a better band than we were in the beginning, ‘cause we’d been planning together for the past three or four years now, so I think naturally it’s just a little more progressed, musically, and sound-wise, we just try to push ourselves.

AW: The first record, we played six or seven shows before went into the studio for the record.

QRO: If you were touring so much, when did you write the songs?  You said you wrote some of them in the studio…

CZ: “Ways To Go” was written in the studio, just on the fly.  A bunch of ‘em were just written on the road, kind of just messing around, after a show, or in back of the bus.  Some songs we’ve had for a few years that we didn’t get to touch on the first record; it’s always been in the back of our minds to bring out again.

The great thing about the band is that we’ve got so many songs; it’s kind of hard to choose what we’re gonna focus on.  Even on this record, we did twenty-one songs; there were five or six, ones that we love, that we didn’t even record at all.

The great thing about the band is that we’ve got so many songs; it’s kind of hard to choose what we’re gonna focus on.

QRO: After all of the success with Happy Song, do you feel there’s any extra pressure to avoid the ‘sophomore jinx’?

AW: I would if we didn’t honestly have so much creativity in this band, so much material already, going in.  I legitimately think we were all just so excited to go into the studio; I think we took like ten days off, after our last tour, went straight in.  Just ‘cause we just couldn’t wait – we had so many ideas brewing, so much excitement.

RR: So much carried over from the first album, too, that we didn’t get to.

AW: Maybe that comes from some bands, they come in ‘fresh’, with literally nothing, and they have to write that second record, but we had so much to bring in, just ideas and stuff.  I was actually just – I remember being really excited; I’m excited now for people to hear it.  I think what made it on the record is so strong.  We recorded 23, and we finally picked the ones – it was like, ‘Wow…’  It was really exciting – I think we’re excited, more than anything.

QRO: Do you know what you’re gonna do with the other songs?

Ryan RubinRR: Do them eventually…

CZ: They’ll get out there…

QRO: You did have some killer singles off of Happy Song; really made an impression – what is the process for picking a single?  Like how did you pick “Ways To Go”?

CZ: I don’t know.  Sometimes it just jumps out at you.

AW: I don’t know what constitutes a ‘single’ – there are singles out from other artists that are slow ballads…

CZ: We were debating; we were going between a few.  I think “Ways To Go”, we knew were releasing the summer, and it just felt really good as a ‘summer song’.  On the album-wise, it just had that a summer feel to it more than the other ones we were leaning towards, so I think that maybe tipped that in its favor.

RR: People got really excited, too, at the label and stuff.

QRO: How did you hook up with Atlantic/Canvasback?

RR: They were actually the first people to reach out to us, back in 2010.

 

Grouplove’s video for “Ways To Go”:

QRO: You also have had some great videos, both off of Happy Song and now with “Ways To Go” – where did the ideas for them come from?  Is that more the director or is that you guys?

CZ: It’s usually the director.  We’ve been so busy, we haven’t had too much time to control that aspect, too.

AW: Also, with videos, we like people to interpret them, interpret the songs with the video the same way they interpret song lyrics or just vibe.  It’s fun for us to see what other people make of it, and if it’s different or similar to what our visions were.  Also, like the five of us have such diverse taste in the band, I think we could never agree on one vision for anything.

So I think it’s cool to have ten people submit these treatments for your song, and see what they feel or hear when they listen to it.  And we just pick the one that we think is the coolest, I guess…

QRO: Was it hard to cast for ‘young Kim Jong Un’?

AW: It wasn’t supposed to be specifically him – it just happened.  We just saw a ton of different kids of different ethnicities, and he was just the cutest and best dancer.  And we just thought he popped off-screen, and his dance moves were so amazing…

QRO: Ah – so were you more looking for a ‘young Psy’?…

RR: [laughs] It was close…

AW: It was meant to be a dictator, but a utopian dictator that turns good.  It just happened that this kid happened to be the one we saw, and then everything else sort of fell around him.

Grouplove’s video for “Tongue Tied”:

QRO: Do you know that, on MTV at least, that they bleep out, or you can’t hear Hannah saying “high” on “Tongue Tied”?

CZ: No way! [laughs]

RR: Well, we’ve come a long way since The Doors…

CZ: TV is very interesting – they don’t bleep out “skeeve” in a Macklemore song, but…  It’s very interesting, how it works.

AW: So strange…

CZ: Can’t say, “high,” but can say “skeeve”?…

SG: We’ll withdraw the video… [laughs]

Grouplove - Luis Ruiz

 

Grouplove playing “Slow” live at Terminal 5 in New York, NY on November 2nd, 2012:

QRO: Two of you met here in New York, and the rest of you in Crete…

CZ: Hannah, she and I met in New York before any ideas of ever being a band ever came into play.  She’s a painter; she’s never been in a band or ever wanna be a musician.

We met, and she got invited to this art residency, kind of randomly, from a stranger at the time who happened to be Andrew’s older brother, who’s starting an experimental, first-year artist commune.  ‘Cause he had been out there before, and had befriended someone in Venice, from California, who had some dilapidated property over there, in this old town, and thought it would be this cool breeding ground for artists.  So they invested kind of together, went out there, and he invited Hannah to paint at the residency.  We had just met, and she asked if I could come, and he said, ‘Yeah, as long as he’s like a cool dude, kind of an artist kind of guy…’

Sean was there, visiting his friend who ran into – such a random, crazy story.  Ryan and Andrew were people who knew each other from L.A.  Ryan was studying abroad, and had just finished at the time we were all there, and it was a really short flight, so he came out.  We all kind of just met, in this really old, beautiful, run-down town in the mountains, and just passed the guitar around, started jamming together, just kind of fell in love with each other.

QRO: But you record in Los Angeles…

CZ: Yeah – and then you cut to a year later, we all kept in touch, Sean came to visit Hannah & I in New York.  It was his first time in New York; it was real exciting for us to be back together, so we had to go out to L.A., hang out with everybody again, and get the group back together.

So I think it’s cool to have ten people submit these treatments for your song, and see what they feel or hear when they listen to it.

QRO: ‘Get the band back together’…

RR: Well, it was never a ‘band’…

CZ: It was just friends; ‘get the friendship back together’…

QRO: But do you consider Los Angeles the band’s ‘hometown’?

RR: Yeah, now…

QRO: Have you ever played Crete, or even Greece, as a band?

AW: Not as Grouplove, but we all played a festival at the commune at the end of the whole thing – it was a celebration; they put it together, a show.  We all played separately.

Grouplove playing “Naked Kids” live at Terminal 5 in New York, NY on November 2nd, 2012:

QRO: You all have had success relatively quickly – how do you ‘keep it real,’ or have you gone all ‘rock star’?

[all laugh]

AW: You saw us walking in…

CZ: Sean’s gone all rock star…

SG: I’ve changed a lot…

AW: Well, the Guns n’ Roses thing, anyway…

I don’t feel we get burnt out on each other; we just get exhausted. We’ll go off tour for a couple of days, and then you wanna go back out again.

CZ: We actually hired the rain & the wind [at Prospect Park].

RR: It was a wind machine.

AW: Giant rain, wind machine.

CZ: It does feel good when that wind starts blowing.

AW: It was amazing, actually!

CZ: Clothes blow, your hair – yeah…

RR: It’s how Beyoncé feels…

QRO: All you longhairs – the hair can look really cool…

RR: D’oh…

AW: Hah-hah…

CZ: Remember that one show?  We did this tour with Young the Giant, and they all had these fans set up for their show, and we got to use them sometimes.  There was one blowing at me or Sean the whole time, and our hair was just going…

AW: It looked like you were in a shampoo commercial.

QRO: You toured a lot last year – how do you fight ‘tour burnout’?

SG: Sleeping…

CZ: Try to get over it and get through it.

SG: Just sleep in the van, I guess.

AW: I don’t know, I don’t think we ever feel – it’s always nice to get home in your own bed, after a long tour, but after a few days, you kind of miss it again.  Because it’s a really fortunate job that we have, to do what we love.  I guess it’s just enjoyable to be with each other – I don’t feel we get burnt out on each other; we just get exhausted.  We’ll go off tour for a couple of days, and then you wanna go back out again.

CZ: With the shows, if it’s a long day, or if you’re up really early doing radio and stuff, it can be tough during the day, and then the show happens at night, and you’re like, ‘Oh – this is why we’re all here…’  It brings everyone back together.

QRO: I last saw you guys at Terminal 5 (QRO venue review) – right after Hurricane Sandy!…

CZ: We cannot catch a break!… [laughs]

QRO: Were you at all nervous when you graduated from opening tours to headlining tours at big places, or the longer sets?

RR: Honestly, from the beginning though, from 100, 200 cap rooms, all the way to Terminal 5 – I don’t know how big that is – we haven’t skipped one size.  Every town, we tour relentlessly for three years – there was the 200 cap, then the 500, then the 800, then the 1200…  We didn’t go zero to hero.  By the time we got to Terminal 5, it felt like we were meant to be at Terminal 5.

CZ: The opening tour with Young the Giant was great for us, to get into those rooms, to just get comfortable with ‘em, so when the time came for our tour…

Grouplove playing “Colours” – with confetti – at Terminal 5 in New York, NY on November 2nd, 2012:

QRO: When did you start doing the confetti at your shows – or was that just Terminal 5?

RR: That was just L.A. and New York.

CZ: That was a lot of confetti.  I think they put too much in.

RR: I think they packed in too much – ‘cause it didn’t stop going…

CZ: It created a moment, though…

RR: The cleaning crews were probably – there was that moment where they were probably just looking at each other, ‘Oh no…’

CZ: ‘Is Guns n’ Roses here?…’

[Guns n’ Roses] are by far & large our biggest musical inspiration…

AW: It was our Guns n’ Roses moment.

CZ: They’re by far & large our biggest musical inspiration…

QRO: Sean, is that why you’ve got the hat?…

SG: It’s all Guns n’ Roses…

CZ: That’s all actually their clothes – we all actually hunt on eBay.  We just couldn’t ours shipped in time.

AW: Skinny Axl Rose, though…

CZ: Halloween, we dress as fat Axl Rose – Andrew goes as Lana Del Rey…

Grouplove playing “Cruel and Beautiful World” acoustic at Terminal 5 in New York, NY on November 2nd, 2012:

QRO: Also at that show, you did “Cruel and Beautiful World” acoustic – when did you start doing that?

AW: I think it was that tour, we started it.

CZ: We never put it in the set, ‘cause it felt like – it was two years before that – it was such a high-energy set, it kind of didn’t fit; it didn’t really fit.  We came up with this idea to do it off-mike, just in the encore, and that worked – finally found a home for it.  Really nice the way it went over.

QRO: Were you at all nervous, the first time you did it, that it was too quiet?

CZ: That tour was usually pretty cool.  Only once or twice did it get rowdy and people would shout out.

It’s kind of cool, though – it really brings the whole room together. Even if it’s this one guy yelling, and then everyone’s yelling at him…

RR: One night, that one guy would was just like, “U! S! A!”  And it’s weird for us, because then the crowd gets angry, “Shut the fuck up!”

CZ: It’s kind of cool, though – it really brings the whole room together.  Even if it’s this one guy yelling, and then everyone’s yelling at him…

RR: We tried to do it last night – ‘cause I thought they were shutting us down because it was dangerous on stage, with the water.

CZ: The power…

RR: I didn’t realize it was the wind, and they had to get the crowd out.  So that’s why we went back on stage, and we were like, “No, we’re gonna do this acoustic for you.”  And then the dude from the venue was like, “We’re DONE!  We are DONE!”

“Okay, never mind…”

Grouplove playing “Itchin’ On a Photograph” live on Conan:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySTVfBm2-ZE

QRO: And where did you get the cutouts of yourselves that were knocked over when you played Conan?

CZ: That was just an idea Hannah came up with.  We just had them made somewhere.

RR: There are just websites that do those things.  You just order them somewhere.

Andrew WessenAW: We had to order in bulk, though – we have like 500 of them…

CZ: It’s funny, too, though, because we thought we’d all get them life-size, to our height.  They’re super-expensive to individualize ‘em, so we just had to get them at four feet, all of them.

AW: Just scary little ‘Mini-Me’s…

My dad still has one in the entranceway, that I keep trying to hide or put in the garage, but he puts it – and it just scares the shit out of me, every time I walk through the door.  Just me standing there, with a guitar, creeping in the corner of the hallway…

QRO: Beforehand, did you have to get the show’s okay that you could put those up and knock them down?

CZ: Yeah…

We wanted to put some cardboard cutouts of Conan, Letterman, and Leno all in there and shit, but they definitely said no.

QRO: They wouldn’t want the four-foot Conan – that’s not right…

Grouplove playing “Chloe” live at Terminal 5 in New York, NY on November 2nd, 2012:

Sean, do you ever take off that hat?…

SG: I took it off last night, during one of my Guns n’ Roses moments.

Christian ZucconiAW: His pillow is actually cut so that his hat can sit in it.

He actually has a pillow sponsor.

CZ: Funny, though – Duff McKagan was the one who told you about it…

SG: Yep…

QRO: And Christian, do you ever stick with one hair color?…

CZ: Lately, no.  Once you start, you can’t stop.  Unless you just go back to your normal color.

Hannah kind of designs my hair color – she doesn’t paint anymore.

QRO: So that’s her thing she can do, on the road…

CZ: Keeps her sharp, when she gets to painting.  Ready to go…

Grouplove playing “Tongue Tied” live at Terminal 5 in New York, NY on November 2nd, 2012:

-words: Ted Chase
-photos (side): Luis Ruiz

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