Grouplove and Australia have a certain shared affinity in a way that few other overseas acts have managed in recent years. Their 2016 single ‘Welcome To Your Life’ and subsequent album Big Mess reaffirmed our love for the LA five-piece, but just when they were preparing to tour the album down under last summer disaster struck.
Foundation member and key vocalist Hannah Hooper suffered damage to her vocal chords after almost six months of non-stop touring, including a fleeting visit to Australia earlier in the year, and under strict doctor’s orders she was instructed to rest. The tour was off.
Now, with not only the album but another EP Little Mess and recent standalone single ‘Remember That Night’ under their belts, Grouplove have announced that they’re back to make amends for the tour they missed. They’ll be back early in 2018 for a run of headline shows and festival dates including Mountain Sounds and Party In The Paddock.
We caught up with co-founding member Christian Zucconi to chat about the challenges Grouplove faced after cancelling their last tour, new music that could be road tested at upcoming shows, and their love of the quintessential Australian shoey.
Your new Australian tour has just been announced. How excited are you to finally bring the Big Mess album in full to Aussie audiences?
CZ: You have no idea man; we can’t believe we haven’t played the album over there yet. It feels like it’s been out for a while and we can’t wait to come back. We usually have the best shows of our career in Australia so we’re excited for another run.
How difficult was having to pull out of the tour at the last minute last year, and how was the recovery period for Hannah?
CZ: It was tough man, it was pretty heartbreaking. There’s nothing worse than cancelling shows, especially in your favourite places in the world to go to. So it was definitely a hit, and it took us some time. The thing is there’s nothing you can do. It’s frustrating when people don’t understand that there was nothing we could do, just wait for her to heal and get better. We’ve blocked that painful memory out of our minds and we’re playing shows again and it’s been the most fun we’ve ever had. We just keep growing as musicians and humans, and we’re going to come back to Australia in a much more enlightened place, let’s just say that.
At the time you guys mentioned it was Hannah’s vocal chords that had suffered some damage. Have you guys put in any measures or restrictions now for more effective management of Hannah’s voice so this doesn’t happen again?
CZ: Yeah we try not to do a certain amount of shows in a row, but I think what happened and what led to that was we did way too much with our tour schedule. When Big Mess came out and we had a baby on the bus, we bit off a little more than we could chew. We’ve learnt from it now, not to do too much anymore. At that point we had toured for almost five or six months straight, and the tour had just been in Australia shortly before that as well when ‘Welcome To Your Life’ came out. So we were just going way too hard, especially with the baby and losing too much sleep. We’ve definitely learned a lot. When those things happen you just have to make the best out of the situation.
Is Hannah fully recovered now?
CZ: Thanks for your concern but she’s all good now, which is great. Everything is good. Good to go.
What have you been up to since Hannah recovered?
CZ: We’ve been doing this Imagine Dragons arena tour; something we’ve never done before. We’ll play before them in front of 20,000 people who don’t really know our music, which is weird but awesome. It makes you a better band when you have to play outside your comfort zone. When you’re always doing your own shows it’s easier and you don’t have to work as hard. We put everything on stage every night, and now we’re really trying to win over a room full of people who don’t want to see us. When you do it every night it’s awesome, seeing people getting engaged is awesome, so it’s a totally new experience for us. We’ve also been working in the studio, working on stuff, and recorded a couple of new songs that we’re demoing out. The plan after this tour is over is to write a bunch more because we’re kind of in the zone right now. We’re going to - especially in Australia, we’re going to test and play some of these new songs for you guys and see how they feel life. To get a bit more road-testing on them before we go into the studio, which will be a lot of fun.
Do you typically road-test demos in that way or are most new songs you play live generally almost finished?
CZ: We usually get wrapped up in the studio game and get caught in this dark hole where you play the songs, or you go to the studio and figure out the chords to play for everyone. But a lot of times when you start playing these demos live you have a whole new relationship with the song and it sounds different to you because there’s the energy of the crowd. You become more hyper aware of the song and what parts feel too short or too long. When you’re actually playing things and you want to make changes to the recording but you can’t because it’s already done, that experience has changed us. Whether it is wanting to extend a jam at the end or shorten the intro, so it’s exciting to change up your process and get to know the songs a little bit better before you lay them down and have them recorded forever. We want to really make sure we’re taking the ones we want to do, and that they’re perfect before we record them.
‘Remember That Night’ came out recently too, and we’ve been vibing it, but it’s a bit of a departure in sound from Big Mess. Is this sound reflective of how all the music you’ve been writing recently sounds?
CZ: No, not at all. That song in itself a bit of an anomaly. We actually have this song called ‘Seagulls’ that we’re going to be playing for you guys, which is completely the opposite of that song. Our process is so weird and we just like writing good songs, so we don’t really care where they stand when compared with our other stuff. We just worry about liking the song and if it feels good to play, and if it feels honest. I know some people love it and some people think it’s totally different, but I think that’s good. It’s good to stay on your toes and not even be certain of what you’re doing. If we knew too much, or if we were too focussed on it, the music would lose its appeal. That’s what’s exciting about this band; we don’t know what we’re doing, like ever. We love flying by the seat of our pants.
If you weren’t already an Aussie fan favourite, covering ‘Bullshit’ by the Dune Rats on Like A Version definitely took you over the edge. How did you decide to do such a classic Aussie song?
CZ: We loved the original song and we had a really fun time the last time we had done Like A Version doing a song by Cage The Elephant. With all the covers we do we like to put them in the Grouplove washing machine, change it up completely, and keep some of what’s there but also write a whole new song around it. It comes together so fast too, we don’t really have time to think about it. All of a sudden you’re doing the melody. We don’t labour over whether it’s the right song to do or not, it’s just such a good song. It came out of nowhere and it was super fun doing it. We also got a good response from the band [Dune Rats] and they were into it. I love doing that kind of stuff and I love doing that show, and I hope we will do it again.
Where did the inspiration come from for doing a shoey during the performance?
CZ: It was the best, and it was planned that morning. We saw those guys [Dunies] doing shoeys in their videos so we thought it would be funny to do. We didn’t tell anyone that we were doing it so all the reactions were real. That tradition now has continued for Dan [Gleason], and a few times since then we’ve surprised him on stage and he’s always had to do a shoey. He’s even done the one with someone else’s shoe from the audience, which is pretty disgusting, but he’s done that a couple of times too. That reminds me, we’re going to have to start doing that again when we get back to Australia.
You can catch Grouplove on their Australian headline tour or at Mountain Sounds or Party In The Paddock.
Grouplove 2018 Australian Tour
Friday, 9th February
The Triffid, Brisbane
Tickets: Secret Sounds
Tuesday, 13th February
Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne
Tickets: Secret Sounds
Thursday, 15th February
Metro Theatre, Sydney
Tickets: Secret Sounds