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“It’s to release that tension we’ve all been holding.” – Hannah Hooper of GROUPLOVE on the pandemic, parenthood and their new album This Is This.
Hannah Hooper, lead vocals of GROUPLOVE, seems pretty relaxed for someone who dropped a bomb a week ago.
The bomb in question is titled This Is This: an explosive LP of alt-rock headbangers that was released on the 12th March – with the only warning being the release of a single, Deadline, a day earlier. Despite the lack of fanfare, the band had apparently been sitting on the album for a while:
Well, we recorded it in October so [it’s been] a little bit – you do the math. We self-funded it and we recorded it at our bass-player’s studio in Atlanta. We honestly didn’t know it was gonna be an album until we finished recording the nine songs and we were like: “We have an amazing album here!”
During the pandemic, most people “accidentally” baked too much bread or forgot their masks before shopping – whereas GROUPLOVE seemed to have “accidentally” made an entire album. I asked how exactly that came about.
It had been like six months since we’d all seen each other, since the pandemic started, and we were just itching to record some music, you know? And when we got into the studio… we didn’t have a producer, and a really dear friend of ours was engineering it, and we just started recording everything. Predominantly live, because we wanted this album to have a “live” feel – I think that’s what we’re all missing right now – and it was a really fast experience. Healer took two years to make, and we recorded this in nine days.
Healer was GROUPLOVE’s previous studio effort, released just shy of a year ago – just before the pandemic began in earnest and forced the band to cancel their upcoming tour. A gut-wrenching case of bad luck, one that has been echoed by musicians worldwide. Hooper, however – with a digital background of blue skies and pink clouds – seems to have accepted it for what it was, now a year removed from it.
I mean, yeah, it was definitely a come-down from a very high high.
It goes without saying that the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have been a unitedly terrible time for people across the globe, and many have turned to music in an attempt to express the feelings of isolation and loneliness that have become all-too-familiar. And in their ten-year tenure in the industry, GROUPLOVE has never shied away from heavier subject matter. But This Is This avoids the darkness – perhaps intentionally?
I think that independently, when we write, our songs can be pretty heavy. But when we get together in a room there is friendship, there’s humour, there’s a sense of relief that we’re all together. So I think that that all comes in inevitably. But there is still an angst and a rebelliousness that we’ve found while recording this album, and it’s just refreshing for us.
Hopefully people are listening, and they’re headbanging, and they’re jumping around, and they’re getting it out. Instead of that slow bedroom-pop that seemed to be trending, I was like “I want to hear music that I can get physically get aggressive with.”
If it was the goal, then GROUPLOVE have achieved that in spades. This Is This has intense guitar-shredding, punchy drum beats and instantly memorable lyrics. It’s hard to stop yourself from bobbing your head along to tracks like Primetime or Just What You Want, and Hooper’s more than aware of it. She has been speaking with fans online all morning, and the common thread has been people appreciating that frenetic energy, even from the confines of their homes. Hooper herself has been braving the pandemic with her partner (and co-vocalist) Christian Zucconi, plus their five-year-old daughter. With the pressure of being confined to the house, I ask if lockdown has been more of a Healer or a Big Mess – an enquiry well on its way to winning “Most Cheesy Question of the Day”.
I think it’s been a bit of both. We were definitely in a place where we were ready to tour Healer, so I think adjusting to the fact that we were gonna be parents and artists in the same three rooms was a tough time. It’s kind of been an interesting learning experience though, where I can feel I can wear multiple “hats” in one day now. I thought I could only be a musician or only be a mother or a wife, and I’ve found that I can really do all of that at once. It’s been a rough time, but we’ve found the light where we can.
I think that’s a sentiment well-reflected in the album’s name: This Is This, a title distinct from the album’s sophomore track This Is The End. The title almost seems more hopeful.
That’s the direction we’re heading, towards hope. We all know what it’s like to feel bummed out and it’s only up to us to get out of that state of mind. For us, this album helped us clear out some cobwebs, and clear out some pain. Songs like Scratch are aggressive but in a humorous way. It’s to release that tension we’ve all been holding.
Even having released that tension, Hooper and the band aren’t losing momentum. Even if GROUPLOVE can’t tour conventionally, they are still making plans for unique and interesting ways to move forward. She explains the group’s plans for more creative and visual outputs, collaborating with other artists and fans as much as they can, and a return to her own roots as a performance artist. Even from home, Hooper and Zucconi are always working on music. Their daughter, Willa, has been learning the drums and joining her parents for sessions regularly. I worry for Benjamin Homola, GROUPLOVE’s drummer, as it sounds like he’s got some competition.
GROUPLOVE will be performing monthly live streams on momenthouse.com, with unique setlists every show. This Is This is out now on all platforms.