I spoke with Christian Zucconi – lead vocalist and guitarist – of Grouplove. Read what he had to say about their debut album, time spent in Greece, and his thoughts on the indie music scene in Brooklyn, where you can catch them playing next weekend as part of Northside Festival (INFO: Cantora presents: Grouplove, Walk the Moon 12am, Doors at 11:30pm, $5, 21+; buy tickets here)
The self-titled EP, which was re-released at the beginning of the year with new album art, seems to barely contain Grouplove’s energetic song writing. What is the current status on your debut album? Does it have a name and release date yet?
CZ: It has a name. I don’t know if we can give out the name just yet. The release date is September, the first week of September. It’s been mixed… We’re really happy and proud of it. We can’t wait until it comes out. We’ll be playing a lot of the songs from the upcoming album at our next shows. People will be able to see in Brooklyn [at Northside], so that’s cool.
[UPDATE via Spinner.com: The album will be titled “Never Trust a Happy Song” and will be released September 13th via Canvasback Music/Atlantic. Track list: 1. Itchin’ on a Photograph 2. Tongue Tied 3. Lovely Cup 4. Colours 5. Slow 6. Naked Kids 7. Spun 8. Betty’s a Bombshell 9. Chloe 10. Love Will Save Your Soul 11. Cruel and Beautiful World 12. Close Your Eyes and Count to Ten]
Hannah’s artwork is pretty amazing. What’s the status on the album cover?
CZ: It is pretty amazing. She did [the album art] again. We’re really happy with that as well. She only had like – we’ve been so busy – a week in a half between tours to go home and paint the album cover. So she was under some pressure. It came out really nice [and goes well] with the title. …She doesn’t have the time she used to have… so she was psyched to get in the studio and do it.
I heard that the EP was recorded for fun, and then the wonderful decision to create a band was made. How was the recording process different, since this time you went into it as a well-formed band?
CZ: It was different only in the sense that we were signed and it was more of a job. It was the same because we approached it as friends. That’s what we started off as. We did it the same way. Ryan produced it, [as well as] the EP. It was just us in there. There weren’t any new faces. We just had time, having a lot of material to work from. We went through it and recorded it. It was very similar. We get the same feeling listening to that, or listening to the album now as we did listening to the EP for the first time. We were like, “Wow, this is really cool.” I’m really happy playing with everyone. The sound that comes from it is new to everyone. It’s just great.
You guys seem to be blowing up, having toured the US, Europe, playing with the likes of Florence and the Machine and Foster the People. Can fans expect more touring once the album is out?
CZ: Yeah, we’re going to be touring for a long time. Forever. There will be plenty of opportunities for people to come see us live. And it’s all about the live show. I mean, the record is amazing, but to see it… live with everyone together on stage is the way to experience it.
How did the idea for your latest video “Itching on a Photograph” come to be?
CZ: Well, it kind of came with the director, Jordan Bahat – he’s a friend of ours from LA. He also did the “Colours” video. He came down to SXSW with us this year to film behind the scenes kind of stuff. He’s been putting together a little documentary about it. Coming with us, he saw the whole motel vibe that we always have when we’re on tour – dirty, kind of sketchy rooms we’re always staying in across this country. He picked that as the scene and wanted to recreate us in a motel room, which he filmed a lot of interviews in. We wanted to do more of a performance video after the “Colours” video, which is more narrative and role-playing. We did like 12 shows [while we were at SXSW] so he wanted to get that live performance aspect of it in a motel room. So, that’s how it came to be.
How many pillows did you guys go through?
CZ: A lot! Yeah, that was crazy. That was nuts. And it’s actually funny… the young couple who’s seen in it a few times, we met them in Texas, where we had one of our first tours. They saw us at SXSW again and the girl made all of these nice homemade T-shirts. The first time she saw us she made them [too]. We just hit it off. We flew those two to LA to film the video, because Jordan was talking about a young couple [for the video] and we knew them. She actually proposed to her boyfriend on film with Jordan at one of our shows. Grouplove has played a big role in their lives. It was really cool to bring them out to film the video.
So the EP was recorded in a basement, and the album in Ryan’s apartment. How important is it for you guys to be considered ‘indie,’ recording the music yourselves?
CZ: It just naturally goes that way. We don’t all get around and demand certain things. That’s just how we do it and it yields really great results. The label in particular – they’re really cool people. They never questioned that. They just let us do our stuff, saying that they believed in us, which is what you want from people you’re working with to do. If down the line we want to bring in other people, who knows. For now, this works really well. So, we’re sticking with what works.
What difficulties did you face going this route?
CZ: None at all. We had about a month to do it. We just had each other. Everyone had a really good time doing it, which is why we do it to begin with, because it’s fun and we’re all friends. We had no difficulties. The only difficult thing is what songs to choose from, because we have so many, which we’re really lucky to have. We already want to start the second one. We’re always recording anyway. If we’re not in a studio recording for an album we’re recording just to record.
You guys are playing Northside Music Festival in Brooklyn next weekend. Currently from LA, but originally from New York, what are your thoughts on the effects and impact that Brooklyn has on the indie music scene?
CZ: I think Brooklyn is bigger than Manhattan, in terms of great new music being made. So many bands from Brooklyn are doing really well right now. I think they’re ahead of the game. They’re awesome. Great bands. Great city. I miss it! I like to come home now and visit and put on some shows then hit the road again and come back.
I think we all know the story of how the band came to be by now. How does your and Hannah’s relationship affect the band?
CZ: It doesn’t really affect the band. I mean, we all kind of met [at the same time]. Hannah and I had just met [too] so it’s kind of part of our story, the two of us. Everyone’s used to us. All of us get along really well. Hannah’s super creative. She affects the band in terms of her visual representation of what she wants to do at shows – backdrops, artwork, T-shirts, stickers. Plus, she’s just wonderful to have in the band for me. I’ve been in many other bands in my life and we never had a female. So to work with Hannah and to sing with her… is just fun for me… We’re doing well, which is always [good]. It just helps the overall vibe of everything.
What was your initial reaction when Hannah asked you to go to Greece for her art residency?
CZ: I was super floored. I was super excited about it. I was playing in my old band in Brooklyn. We didn’t really have anything going on that summer. I was at a point in my life where I needed someone like that to get out of town. It was the perfect moment to do it. I said yes. I knew it would be good. I had this gut feeling. It was an awesome way to meet someone for the first time. It was really nice to be surprised, because it got really good when we met everyone else. The story moves on from there. It’s just been a wonderful surprise.
Tell me more about the experience in Greece.
CZ: It’s just fun to meet new people, especially in a musical background. We all met around a fire pit passing guitars around in a weird garden in this 2,000-year-old town. We just hit it off through music, playing each other’s songs. I was playing songs, Sean got the guitar and he played songs, Andrew played songs, Ryan was singing along and playing percussion. Hannah actually wasn’t singing. She was never in a band before and she’d never planned on being in one, but she could sing. She would just be drawing us… It was a really beautiful place to meet. Especially not having pasts, and coming into these relationships fresh. It was really nice. Different. It’s not that often that that happens. It was a cool way to do it. And then to keep in touch and hang out a year later – still not ever thinking about being in a band together – was really cool too. And then to make a recording on the fly just turned out to what it is without planning it. It’s a real unique thing for people to go through. So it’s been really lucky, I’d say.
What’s your favorite song to perform live?
CZ: It changes all the time, because I love them all. “Gold Coast” is always a great song to play live. “Itching on a Photograph,” our new single, is great. One of the songs from the album called “Spun” – Andrew actually sings it. He brought it to the table and I play electric and like two guitar solos. I usually don’t do that too often with this band so that’s a lot of fun. They’re all really fun to play. That’s why we’re constantly smiling and dancing on stage. We’re not faking it (laughter). It’s real! But yeah, they all have their little magic. They’re all cool too because none of them really sound the same. They each bring a different emotion. At least for me, each song covers different emotional ground than the last one. So by the end of it you’ve covered the bases and you feel good.
Do you guys pretty much have a set set-list, or is it on a show-by-show basis?
CZ: It’s a little bit of both. We want to represent songs from the album that we’re really happy with. We also want to play songs from the EP that people know. When we have more time to practice – because we’ve been so busy – we’ll get to play all of the songs [from the album] and we can choose between twenty instead of choosing between I think thirteen right now. We just haven’t had time to rehearse.
How often do you get on each other’s nerves when on the road?
CZ: Maybe once every two days (laughter). But it lasts for like five minutes and it’s not very heavy at all. We’re actually a happy band.
Who packs the most for tour?
CZ: Andrew. He has a huge suitcase. He brings enough underwear and socks so he never has to wash them, so he’s really packing big. We’re usually off for like five weeks or so. It’s kind of crazy he even has that much underwear.
Grouplove consists of: Christian Zucconi (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Hannah Hooper (Vocals), Andrew Wessen (Guitar), Ryan Rabin (Drums) and Sean Gadd (Bass)
Photo from TimbreTantrum.com