Grouplove talk new album Big Mess, becoming parents
'Big Mess' is out now
On first listen, Grouplove’s third and latest album, Big Mess, out now, sounds exactly like the sunny indie pop that listeners have come to expect from the five-piece. But it’s much deeper, and darker, than that. Founding members — as well as romantic partners and brand new parents — Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi say the collection’s 11 songs were born from the group’s anxieties, both immediate (the house the couple came home to in Silver Lake, California once tour ended was in shambles) and looming in the distance (the current U.S. political situation, which Hooper describes as having “gone to s—“).
Here, the pair take EW behind the scenes of trusting their subconscious, touring with a new baby, and why there are plenty bands who should GTFO of music.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You wrote this album in 2014 while on your first break from touring in over six years. How long after you got home did you start writing?
HANNAH HOOPER: We had this whole idea of relaxing, getting back in touch with our family and friends, and getting our life together – when we got home our house looked like a bunch of hoarders lived there, there was shit everywhere — but instead of doing any of the stuff we planned [Christian Zucconi] and I got pregnant and started writing songs! [Laughs.]
Did anything in particular kick off the creative process?
HOOPER: A lot of it was that the world just felt like a scary place. American politics had gone to s— and we were frustrated and inspired and didn’t really want to deal with the reality of our day to day. Creativity is what we turn to.
Those feelings about the world made it onto Big Mess. There are sunny chords and music, but the lyrics are often very dark; it makes for an interesting listening experience.
CHRISTIAN ZUCCONI: As much as we wrote these songs in this chaos to help ourselves get through it, we hope the listener can find some solace as well. I hope we can momentarily suspect the crap they’re going through. When I used to listen to Nirvana, my stomach would drop. I would feel so alleviated of pain in that moment. That’s why I started writing music, to do that.
Fatherhood also appears thematically. “Enlighten Me” is this wonderful sort of meditation from a man who is about to become a father, as you were.
ZUCCONI: That song came out of left field. It was the first song that I wrote after getting off the road that I was excited by.
HOOPER: We had this night where we had been writing together for a while, and he just put down the guitar and went into this little side room where we have this keyboard. I opened the door to check on him a while later and when I peaked in, he was just lost. I could tell he was just in it. “I don’t feel my life is real,” is a line in the song and he was trying to be more present. “I want to be awake,” that’s the feeling. When he played that song for me and the guys, that’s when we realized we were ready to record.
Tell me about the name Big Mess.
ZUCCONI: It’s this super chaotic way of living that we all seem to thrive on. Hannah and I don’t know how to relax. We’re constantly creating chaos around us — like renovating our house, or having a baby in the first two months of being off the road. We flourish in that. And we wanted to honor our lifestyle with our album title.
Hannah, you’ve always painted the album covers. What inspired this one?
HOOPER: I painted it in Seattle when we were recording with [producer] Phil Ek up there. We were working on the song “Traumatized,” which is my favorite on the record, and I had all this paint out. I was working on all these different pieces, and I had this idea of what I wanted for a cover. And then I drew this six-fingered hand and it was this play piece sitting between all these fancy “I went to art school” pieces next to it and I was just like, “Dude this is our album. This is the big mess.” It’s the piece that I didn’t even know I was making.
Speaking of Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes), this is the first time Grouplove has worked with a producer. What went into that decision?
ZUCCONI: We wanted to step outside our comfort zone, and we wanted to get our of L.A. Phil’s records sound so beautiful and lush and amazing. I’ve been listening to his records my whole life, so I didn’t know if he would be like, “Screw off, I don’t like you guys!”
What was the atmosphere like in his studio?
ZUCCONI: It was nice to spend more time on guitar sounds. We made a whole thing about Tone Questing — we really ran with it. We bought tunics and swords and chalices and made him wear a cape. [Laughs.] Whoever was in the hot seat had to wear this green tunic with a hood, and I played this medieval song on my phone every 10 minutes to annoy everyone.
You’re back on tour. What’s it like to have a baby in tow?
HOOPER: The best thing is getting off stage and having someone I am so looking forward to seeing there. She’s just rad. Christian and I, not to get too abstract, but after creating so much art together, we have now created a human being. There’s this little, beautiful girl, full of so much laughter, who is starting to stand up and look like herself, whoever that is. It’s trippy.
After so many years together, what’s one thing you still wish people knew about this band?
HOOPER: We’re super hands on. Everything you see has come from us. Our merch? We design it. We do our stage design, we dress ourselves, and we write our songs. I know that seems obvious, but it’s actually rare for a band these days. When I meet a group that’s like, “This dude wrote all of our songs,” I’m like, “Why are you in this business?”