It’s impossible to be unhappy while listening to Grouplove. The Californian pop-rockers exude a sunny disposition and an endless cheeriness that is matched by bounding energy and the kind of hooks that require roughly ten seconds to learn and the rest of the month to get out of your head.
They had a stellar 2013 by any measure: their second album, Spreading Rumours, dropped in September, and its lead single, the rollicking ‘Ways To Go’, cracked a top five position in the US alternative chart. The band also played dozens of headlining shows and festivals both in the US and abroad. It was a lot to take in – and vocalist and keyboardist Hannah Hooper has taken none of the success for granted.
“I think the biggest highlight of the year for me was recording the album,” she says. “We had so much fun making it, and we’re amazingly better friends after touring it. We’re better songwriters, we’re better performers… there’s just something so exciting about being a band that’s developing still. I keep hearing about the ‘sophomore slump’ when it comes to writing your second album, and I’m so lucky that we never had that. We got to avoid that altogether and just enjoy the ride.”
Spreading Rumours pushes out the band’s sound from all angles, delivering their most wigged-out, rocking moments as well as their most restrained and atmospheric. When it comes to songs she enjoys playing most from the album, Hooper points to the riff-heavy ‘Borderlines And Aliens’ as well as the track ‘Bitin’ The Bullet’. “I get to bust out this hardcore rap verse in it!” she says excitedly of the latter. “Everyone in the crowd always seems to be entertained by the weird red-headed girl rapping. It’s totally my moment!”
Although Hooper is quick to choose her favourite songs to play live, she is somewhat more reluctant to select a favourite to record. She says the album, which was produced by drummer Ryan Rabin and features songwriting contributions from all five band members, brought together tracks that were all unique in how they were written and recorded. “Every single song on this album has its own identity and came to us from its own little adventure,” Hooper explains. “Each song had such a different writing process – and, even though it’s a bit of a cop-out answer, they were all so much fun to make.”
Aside from ensuring that everyone at a Grouplove show has the best night of their lives, the band also likes to make a point of keeping the crowd involved every step of the way. That, of course, means introducing them to songs they may not know all that well, or indeed not at all. Hooper says the group is adamant to stick out in that regard, where they get just as much of a reaction out of a song from their self-titled EP or a non-single as they would a popular number like the chart-topping ‘Tongue Tied’ or the infectious ‘Itchin’ On A Photograph’.
“I won’t name any bands, but we’ve done tours with some bands who only like playing their singles because that’s what people know,” she says. “The great part is getting people on board with the songs that they don’t know from the radio. That’s so much fun to me – to see someone in the audience visibly being like, ‘I don’t know this track,’ and then totally getting into it and jumping around by the end of the song. Hopefully, it means they’ll go and get the rest of the album, then.”
The Big Day Out marks Grouplove’s third time here, following appearances at the 2011 Splendour In The Grass festival and the 2011/2 Falls Festival. Hooper is one of the more prominent women on this year’s BDO lineup, though she doesn’t see herself as a standard-bearer.
“I guess I don’t really look at things that way,” she says after a pause. “I’m kind of used to being the only girl. On the last tour we did, there were like 50 guys backstage, and I didn’t even realise until the end that me and the cook were the only women. It’s crazy. But I don’t feel like there’s a fight for women to be featured and noticed. I definitely feel the need to represent women and girls in a cool, positive way – we’re smart and we’re badass. There’s a difference between pop girls and rock girls, I feel. I’m definitely a rock girl. I like to represent that.”
Not only is Hooper in love with Australia, she gushes about getting to tour with acts like Arcade Fire and CSS; the latter of whom will join Grouplove at their headlining shows in Sydney and Melbourne. “I can’t believe it,” she says. “In the middle of January, to be in the most beautiful place in the world, playing with my favourite bands in the world… it’s just going to be a crazy experience. And not to bring a guy into this, but I hear Eddie Vedder is an accomplished painter now – so I’mma try to talk to him about painting!”
Grouplove play at Big Day Out 2014 at Sydney Showground on Sunday January 26. Their sideshow is at the Metro Theatre on Saturday January 25 with CSS. Spreading Rumours is out now through Canvasback/Atlantic.