Music Critic Aimee Sargeant chats with Hannah Hooper from Grouplove about the band’s newest album and how the group have adapted to the pandemic
I sat down to talk to Hannah Hooper from Grouplove after the group’s new album was recently released on the 12th of March. We talked about the pandemic, social media and the album This Is This.
Firstly, congratulations on the release of the album! I have been listening to it and typing my review up for it this morning. But how have you been during the past year? It has been a rough ride for the whole arts industry.
There have been peaks and valleys, that’s for sure. It’s been a time of a lot of self-reflection, it’s been a hard time for the world. I’ve been feeling that, and we’ve been doing what we can to draw attention to different causes that we feel need to be heard right now. And also, we have been writing music to take care of ourselves.
Like self-care almost?
Oh my god, I mean we realised that we had to redefine self-care during this time because I realised for me that it wasn’t exercising and green juice, it was actually screaming into a microphone.
I mean, that is a good way of self-care.
Yeah, that’s my reality. It’s that, that is my form of self-care.
Do you think the pandemic affected you as a band? Did it inspire you to create this album and new material?
It really made us realise that we don’t need so many people involved in creating an album because we just did this ourselves. We went to our bass player’s studio in Atlanta and we worked normally with a producer and we had our friend engineer it. We just went in and there was nobody who knew we were making this album, no-one at the label. There was no outside pressure and I think that is how we’re going to write from now on. Because we wrote exactly how we wanted to, and we recorded it exactly how we wanted to. That was just us, as a band with no frills, and I really feel like I found my voice during this time.
That is good to hear. Sometimes if different producers want a different outcome of a song, then it takes away from what the artist wants.
Yeah, because you know we write our own music but when you bring it into a producer, sometimes they’ll be like ‘ooo sing it a little more delicately’ or ‘be more feminine.’ And for me, my voice is naturally raspy and I’m a wild woman. I think that I finally got to showcase that just with the support of the boys in the band and us all writing together. I really got to find that and who I am as a whole, rather than little pieces of me. So, it’s been nice.
That is nice. So, did you start working on the album last year?
This album has songs, like ‘Primetime’ which we have been playing and opening up our sets with for two years. And we were just like, this is a wild song, and we want to record this one day. And ‘Oxygen Swimming’ which was sort of the mellow track in the middle of the album, Christian and I wrote that right after I gave birth to our daughter. And it’s been around for five years. Other songs came during the pandemic. So, every song kind of has its own journey, but I would say this is a collection of songs we’ve been wanting to put together.
That makes sense. It is nice to hear that obviously ‘Oxygen Swimming’ was for when you gave birth to your daughter. That is quite sweet. What do you think your favourite song is from the album?
That’s a good question. I feel like each song sort of represents a different growth for me and for the band. But I think that the most personal song is definitely ‘Shout’ which closes the album. That was the song I was pretty scared of releasing just because it’s darker than I am used to sharing. Like a darker side of myself. But that is what I have been tapping into to be an artist, for me I really want to share all of myself to feel complete. And so, there is obviously in all of us darkness and to release that, by singing that and then putting it out in the world, I feel actually better. I almost got rid of something that has been weighing on me, and so there is something I love about that song. I also love ‘Just What You Want’ which follows ‘Oxygen Swimming,’ we did that with this bad ass girl Dani Miller. She sings the second verse and she’s in the band Surfbot, she’s amazing. So, that was really fun to collaborate with another woman.
Yeah, especially since you both have really distinct voices as well. So, it is quite cool to hear them together.
Yeah, no, I love it! I think it’s going to be the first of many collabs.
Yeah, hopefully. Why did you decide to release ‘Deadline’ as the debut single of the album?
I think it’s the most different from the other songs, in a way. And probably the most ‘poppy’ in those classical senses of ‘popiness.’ So, for us what we want to do is bring as many people into the album so that then they’ll listen. So, we didn’t want to start with a song that might isolate our fan base in a certain way. And this way I think it’s given the opportunity to listen to ‘Deadline’ and then sort of digest the album. It has been a pretty amazing reading. Because we have this phone number that all our fans can write to us on and then we will respond to them, and reading their responses, we have not had feedback like this ever from an album we’ve put out. The response has been overwhelming, it’s really been exciting.
From your other albums, this one has a different feel to it which I quite like. It feels more personal to you.
Yeah, it is more personal. It feels like a live. Any mistakes we made in the live room, because we recorded the album predominantly live, we were like, let’s keep that, that’s cool. I like when voices crack and when a guitar goes out of tune. It shows we’re human and I think that if anything else during this time, we have realised how human we are.
Definitely. I like ‘Deadline’ though, it is a good debut release. You premiered it on The Late Late Show with James Corden, how was that experience?
I mean normally you’re in the studio and you go onto their stage. You know what I mean? There’s an energy there and you’re prepared with your hair and makeup and you’ve brought some new clothes and whatever. For this, we were like, oh shit, we haven’t gone shopping in like a year. My friend came down and did make up for us, we drove to Kentucky because we found a studio we could record in – I mean it was a wild adventure. It almost felt like we were doing an installation piece or something. We were like, okay? Here we go. It was fun, it was nice to have something to do. It’s nice to have people wanting to hear the music and to share it, and to get out of the redundancy of the everyday that has been the last year.
Definitely like escapism, especially since the arts industry went really quiet all of a sudden. And to have a pick me up of something coming out, and something on TV. It is nice to have that again.
Right, it is. It feels nice because we’re a Grouplove family. Our fans. It’s nice to be back in touch and have something that allows everyone to be connecting, talking about the songs and we’re doing this monthly livestream through Moment House. It’s called ‘This Is This Moment.’ We’re doing a different show every month. It’s just nice to be giving something to people right now, to distract and to get lost in. Because we’re all hoping the end is near, but, is it?
Yeah, nobody really knows yet. Do you think there was any particular type of inspiration from other artists when creating the album? Or would you say that this album is purely you?
I think that there is always inspiration, whether it’s accidental or not. I have actually only been listening to The Lion King and the Home Alone soundtracks, as that’s all our daughter will let us listen to. But I grew up listening to Nirvana, Hole and Alice in Chains, Soundgarden. So, you know that need to headbang and rock and shake my body, that comes from the music that I grew up on. I myself actually am trying to get myself acquainted with this new phase of Bedroom Pop, where everyone is just like super chill and I’m like, how do you get your emotions out by only listening to that? We put this album out so people could freak out and we have so much shit penned up in us right now. You can’t go for a run and get that out, you need to blast music and get pissed off and break things. You know? We’re encouraging that.
I agree with that. Bedroom Pop and Lofi beats, you cannot really take things out on it, it is not the same vibe.
I think that mixed with the amount that people are on Instagram and social media, everyone is going to go crazy. We all really need to become emotional again and really try to find a way to connect to art and ourselves, and to each other in a more honest and almost, ugly way. We don’t need to put the filter on and do a little dance. We need to be like ‘WHAT IS HAPPENING?!’ You know what I mean? Like ‘WAKE UP!’ It’s crazy.
Especially with all the political things going on at the moment, I think it is important for everyone to get their emotions out there. And music is a way of actually doing that.
Yeah, make it a conversation, it’s not just a post and then it disappears. We’re dealing with some pretty heavy topics and people need to talk about them. This is the time.
Talking about social media, do you think that a social media presence is beneficial during these current circumstances? With the music industry?
I have a push and a pull thing with social media, I appreciate it. I love that I can jump on a live and talk about things that are going on, things that are going on with our band and help people feel okay at this time. We have a lot of fans that are alone right now and they have been alone for months and months, they’re not with their families or in a dorm. So connecting with people and being able to do it on that level feels significant, it feels like we’re doing something. But my fear is that people are lost in the algorithm. They are looking at workouts, watching people do makeup tutorials, they’re watching people kiss, and they’re watching just shit. No-one is living their lives, and then ten hours have gone by and you’re lying on your bed, alone. You have made no real connection with anyone, and that terrifies me because I have been in that loophole too. From like, woah I’ve just brought two tank tops and some skin lotion? What am I doing? It’s crazy. The internet has got anything, and like anything there is a need for balance and people need to have a time where we say that’s enough. I’ve done my part, I’ve connected with some friends or fans or whatever and now I need to turn my phone off.
Yeah, it is good to have a separation between the two I think. As you said, you just get lost in everything else that is going on in the world. Do you think that the way you are going to perform in the future is going to alter?
I hope not. I miss standing, hugging fans and crowd surfing and sharing a joint with strangers. I’ve missed all that stuff, you know what I mean? The Grouplove family is all over the world, I do feel like we will continue doing this livestream when we tour again. So, people can have a monthly thing whether we’re on the bus singing acoustically. Or when we’re doing a sound check we want to film that and stream it for people who are in England or Australia. Wherever people are, they can be part of the experience in an intimate way. I think that that’s something we never really thought about before this time.
It has definitely brought a new aspect to concerts and gigs.
They are weird to watch on the TV though.
Yeah, they are, as it is not the same as being in a crowd and feeling the energy from everyone. It definitely feels weird.
At the moment, we’re trying to work out how to break the fourth wall when we’re filming. I’ve watched a lot of livestreams and no one really talks. They just go onto the next song. So, I’m trying to go up to the camera and be like ‘What’s up?’, ‘How you doing?’ It might be obnoxious and I’ll regret it, but since we’re doing the monthly, we’re using the opportunity to try things.
That is a good idea. Following on from the questions about touring, how did it feel to become the first US band to be certified ‘climate positive’ by the UN for your efforts to reduce your carbon footprint whilst touring?
It’s really awesome. We feel it’s our responsibility, especially as a band. We get on a lot of planes, go around in buses. It’s our responsibility to take care of this planet and lead by example in anything we do. And so, whether that’s just us lowering our carbon imprint by not using water bottles and by planting a tree every time we step on a plane or however it is. It’s a beautiful thing to just know that you are making an effort not to fuck this planet up even more. Because global warming is real, I don’t know why people don’t think it’s real but it is very real.
It is pretty awesome. I was reading different things about it and to be the first US band is very cool. What do you think in the future your plans are after the release of this album?
I have been trying to scheme a rooftop concert like The Beatles did, but I really just want to play live because that’s part of Grouplove’s magic. We love recording and writing but then we love taking it to the stage, and this is our second album in a year that we haven’t really been able to tour. That’s why we’re doing the livestream which is fun. We’re trying to change the way we use social media and trying to engage with our fanbase more. We’re hearing rumours of touring and things in September which is crazy. I’m not trying to get my hopes up but you guys with Reading and Leeds. It’s up and running.
Yeah, apparently after June everything will be opening up which is very good but scares me slightly.
Yeah, has this time made you like a germaphobe and paranoid?
Yeah definitely. Before it was a simple ‘let’s just go to Leeds or go into a crowd of people’ but now I am not sure if I like that idea.
Yeah, it’s weird that we even think about that now. That’s going to be interesting, like we’re living through a pandemic. A global pandemic. Whenever I talk about it, it’s like lets turn this strange sci-fi movie off and get back to life. But it’s not turning off.
It just feels like everywhere is living in this continuing state of ‘we don’t know what’s happening.’ It’ll be fine, we will get there.
Yeah, it’s a wild time! There is no denying that, and what’s crazy is that we’re the lucky ones. When I read about just all the people who have passed away, all the unemployment rates. It’s infuriating and it’s frightening. So, there is lots of damage that has been done from this pandemic that we need to repair now. That’s going to definitely be an important thing to talk about.
I agree, I think that music has definitely helped people get through the pandemic, without music or the arts, there is only so much you can sit at a desk and work. You need that distinction of home.
I hear that. And to also know that other people are going through it with you. Music helps me be like ‘oh, you’re falling apart? Cool. Me too.’
It is relatable. Moving on from that though, to happier things anyway. For somebody who is being introduced to Grouplove as a band, where would you recommend they start?
I mean, I would say start from This Is This and go backwards. Start from where we are because this album is perfect for right now and I always like the most current thing because it is representative of who we are. It’s taken me ten years to get to this album, so we’re all really proud of it. We’ve worked our butts off to get to a place where we could be this open. So, for someone who wants to get to know us, get to know us at the fullest and then go back. That’s getting younger and younger which is kinda cool. Like the Benjamin Button experience. So, you will go back and get to ‘Tongue Tied.’
Which is one of the best places to end up. Are there any final things you would like to say?
I would just say that this album, play it loud. This is loud, this is love, it was ours and now this is yours. This Is This.
This Is This is available now via Atlantic Recording Corporation
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