It was September of 2016 when LA indie-pop dreamers Grouplove dropped their third studio album, Big Mess. A reflection of both the world around them and their immediate private life, the band launched the album into the universe the only way they knew how: by hitting the road and hitting it hard. It’s only now, nearly 18 months later, that the band’s world tour is coming to an end with a run of festivals and headlining dates Down Under. And although that might be a seemingly standard cycle for a record release, Grouplove are restless as they put Big Mess to bed.
“We’ve grown a lot in the last six months,” explains Christian Zucconi, who plays guitar and shares lead vocal duties with his real-life partner, keyboardist Hannah Hopper. “We’ve had so much fun touring Big Mess, and it’s still a record that we’re really proud of. Having said that, I feel like we’re ready to start anew again. We’re in this new creative space – I mean, that last record was written before our daughter was even born. We’re ready to move on, and that means we’ll hopefully be recording soon. It’s all a part of the process, man – no matter what direction you take, you’re always gonna find yourself in a new place.”
We’re ready to move on, and that means we’ll hopefully be recording soon.
The daughter in question is Willa, born to Zucconi and Hopper not long after work on Big Mess was finished. With their trusty nanny in tow, Grouplove admirably took on the work-family balance when touring started. However, it wasn’t long before the tipping point came and the band had to cancel a series of gigs at the start of 2017 – including a return to Australia – on account of Hopper suffering damage to her vocal cords. “It was just too much,” says Zucconi. “Between having the baby and going on this really ambitious touring schedule, she just couldn’t take it. We’ve learned from that now. We know how to do things a little smarter than we used to. It was probably the only lowlight of our entire tour in support of Big Mess. At the same time, we’ve come back from it better than we’ve ever been as a live band.”
In the meantime, Zucconi and Hopper have been watching Willa grow up. Now almost three years old, her dad is, of course, keenly observant of her behaviour and the way she responds to her surroundings. “She’s such a music fan,” he says lovingly. “She knows all the Grouplove songs now, too. She immediately pricks up when she hears our voices, just because she knows them so well. ‘That’s daddy!’ she’ll start yelling. ‘That’s mommy!’ It could even just be a voice memo off our phone that we were singing an idea into and she’ll still know. We wrote Big Mess while Hannah was pregnant, so she’s literally been surrounded by music the entire time she’s been in our lives.”
That’s set to continue well into the rest of Willa’s life, as Grouplove are preparing to start recording their fourth studio album as soon as they’re off the road. The excitement in Zucconi’s voice picks up considerably when talk turns to the as-yet-untitled LP. He uses descriptors like “raw,” “aggressive” and “volatile” – which is certainly not the kind of descriptors one would use to describe the band’s happy-go-lucky anthems of their past. Still, to paraphrase the old saying: New year, new Grouplove.
“This is the record we’ve wanted to make since we were like 13 years old,” Zucconi enthuses. “Hannah has this whole new voice – she’s nailing this guttural range, really going in on it. She sounds like Courtney Love! She’s never been able to really express herself like she does on this record, and it’s so inspiring to see. I already know how much people are gonna freak out over it.”
Zucconi goes on to note that the album will also serve as an equal and opposite reaction of sorts to the kind of bands that can, at your most generous, be described as inoffensive. “I think, in today’s climate, a lot of these bands that are supposedly alternative don’t sound alternative,” he says. “Some of the stuff that’s in the rock charts never would have passed as rock before. We wanna bring it back – we wanna make a record that’s gonna wake everyone up.”
Zucconi promises at least one new song will be played on the band’s Australian tour, as well as songs from across their discography. With an Australian label, Dew Process, picking up the first Grouplove EP before any other international distributor, the connection we have as a nation to Grouplove runs deep. For Zucconi, however, it runs even deeper.
“When I was a kid, I did a project on Australia,” he says. “We all had to pick a country to do a report on, and I picked Australia. I became obsessed with it. For it to be one of the first places we got any kind of support couldn’t have been more surreal. Every time we’ve come over has been incredible. I still think the best set we’ve ever played was when we did Splendour a couple of years ago. It was a dream come true, to come so far and have people as far as the eye can see singing. You were the first to lift us up – it means the world to us that you’ve kept us up.”
Grouplove are playing the Metro Theatre next Thursday February 15.