As people around the world search for ways to express and release all of their pent up feelings of anxiety and frustration following a year that saw the majority of the planet placed in lockdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, American alternative rock band Grouplove give us all permission to let go, and allow our emotions to run free, with the release of their incredibly powerful new studio album, This Is This.
Launched almost 12 months to the day since the quintet dropped their previous record Healer, the albums unexpected release came as somewhat of a surprise to both fans and the band, who despite having a diary filled to capacity with promotional appearances and tour dates scheduled to take place throughout the course of the year, had to cancel their plans and retreat to their homes in a bid to help prevent and stop the virus from spreading.
Feeling the after effects of having their lives placed on pause, and fuelled by all the upheaval and hardships of the year that was 2020, the group – made up of Hannah Hooper, Chris Zucconi, Andrew Wessen, Daniel Gleason and Benjamin Homola – sought refugee in the recording studio, finding comfort and solace in making music with no external pressure or outside parties influencing their work.
Relishing in their new found creative freedom, the band struck gold, ripping up the rulebook and starting a fresh to produce some of the most powerful and profound music of their career so far…
“It’s primetime baby!”
“Working on new music definitely kept us focused.” Christian Zucconi, the bands singer and guitarist, admits as we speak via Zoom from our respective homes – us in the U.K., and Christian in Atlanta, Georgia USA. “I think having a project and a routine to stick to, as well as a goal to work towards helped massively in keeping us on track. It also allowed us to channel all of our disappointment and frustration at having to cancel the majority of our promotion for the Healer album, into something other than just venting about it to each other (laughs).”
Despite having debuted on March 13th 2020, just days before the world was plunged into an enforced lockdown, Grouplove’s fourth studio album Healer was released to widespread critical acclaim – hailed as a “masterpiece” by SPIN and receiving a GRAMMY nomination for Best Recording Package, the record was universally adored by fans and hit #5 on Billboards Alternative Albums Chart it’s first week of release.
Grouplove – Youth (Official Music Video)
“Listen, of course it was disappointing for us to not be able to bring ‘Healer’ to life in the way we wanted to…” Christian concedes. “But you know, we managed to use the situation to our advantage, and we looked at this self-imposed time out as an opportunity to be creative and do something different – and I think we’ve achieved that with ‘This Is This’.”
“I think having a new project to work on, allowed us the opportunity to channel all of our disappointment and frustration into something potentially really special.”Christian on the positives of Grouplove focusing their energies into making new music whilst in lockdown.
As a body of work that serves to empower and give license to people of all ages the emotional emancipation to express their feelings by way of letting loose and throwing caution to the wind, This Is This manages to tap into the current cultural zeitgeist, and liberate all of humankind from the arduous challenges, and emotional woes of everyday life. Experimenting with an eclectic mix of different styles and sonic flavours, the bands new music sounds like unadulterated, blissful freedom… the kind of freedom that the whole world craves right now.
“When we were writing this record, we felt completely free… in fact I’d go as far as to say this is the most ‘free’ we’ve ever felt as a band.” Zucconi admits. “Honestly, I don’t think we’ve felt this kind of excitement or innocence since we were kids – you know how when you were younger and you’d hear a certain song for the first time, and you’d love it so much it kind of made your stomach drop! That’s how we’ve been feeling this past year; it’s like were all 16-years-old again (laughs).”
Having worked together as a musical collective for many years now, the bands undeniable bond and unique shared history affords them the luxury of being able to be completely open and honest with one another, allowing them the liberty to explore each of their creative ideas with complete trust, and zero judgement.
“We’ve not been able to work like this for a really long time.” Zucconi says. “We didn’t even tell anybody we were in the studio during lockdown, which meant we had no-one checking in on us or nobody setting a deadline for us to work to. And I think because of that, we all just kind of came alive as a result of having all of this freedom, with no outside influences coming in and swaying us to go in a certain direction – it was so liberating! I’d say, we honestly haven’t had that kind of setup in over 10 years, since making our first record; so it was really nice to experience that feeling again, at this stage in our careers.”
When a band achieves a certain level of success, and their music unmistakably appears to resonate with an entire section of society, there’s a misconception that overnight they become invincible to the industry, and are afforded the artistic freedom to do as they please, with no questions asked. But in reality, with that success comes expectation, and an unspoken pressure to not stray too far from the style and sound that “made” them…
“There is a pressure that you feel sometimes, like you have to perform a certain kind of way or you have to release a certain type of song because of the things you’ve done in the past; and over time that way of thinking can really start to limit you as an artist. So it was nice to not have those kind of shackles on us this time around, and show people a different side to us.”
Grouplove – This Is The End (Official Music Video)
Listening to Christian speak in detail about the journey the band have been on over the course of the last 12 months, it’s clear to see their decision to come together and regroup in the safety of the studio, has been a truly cathartic experience for each of the members of Grouplove.
“I think we all knew deep down that something needed to change.” Christian laughs as he reflects upon the last year. “But when you’re on the go all the time, it’s hard to kind of have that moment where you all pause for a second and say ‘hey, let’s really take our time here and go back to basics’ – there just isn’t the time when you’re promoting or out on the road touring.”
“This is the first Grouplove record that I don’t have any qualms with! Like I listen back to it, and I’m super happy with what we’ve made, and I don’t feel there’s anything I want to go back and change or make better, which is a really, really nice feeling to have about something you’ve created! Because what usually happens is, you end nitpicking and finding fault with things, wishing you’d done things differently! But I can honestly say, for the first time, I don’t feel that way with this album, which is awesome.”
“There’s a pressure there that you feel sometimes, like you have to perform a certain kind of way or you have to release a certain type of song because of the things you’ve done in the past, and over time that way of thinking can really start to limit you as an artist.”Christian on the challenges of balancing potential future success with staying true to the essence of the band.
“Shout, shout – just let it all out!”
As a band famous for writing some of the most honest, introspective and awe-inspiring lyrics we here at CelebMix have ever heard, part of Grouplove’s appeal is their ability to create genuine moments of real emotion within each of their songs – their lyrics so relatable and relevant they somehow manage to serendipitously strike a chord with millions of listeners around the world.
As we all try our best to manoeuvre our way through such troubled and unprecedented times, we wonder how important was it for the band to convey such messages of hope and reassurance to fans at this time? “It was definitely important for us to put those messages out there.” Christian says empathically. “We always love to write from a place that feels very universal and reflective of the times that we’re living, but equally we don’t ever want to be too specific with the subject matter, because we like for our fans to be able to interoperate the tracks in a way that feels personal to them.”
Explaining the origins and essence of the music featured on This Is This, Zucconi adds: “The heart and soul of these songs came about quite quickly, and I’d say that, for the most part they came from a place somewhere within our subconscious – we did’t really overthink anything, we just allowed ourselves to jam and say whatever it was were felling in that moment. And because of that, I believe we’ve made songs that will really speak to people… which is why I think this new music in-particular, is going to be so much fun to play live! I feel like there are going to be so many cool moments in our shows going forward, where I’ll just be able to hold my mic out and let the crowd take over and sing – I can’t wait for that moment!”
Ever since Covid brought concerts and touring to a screeching halt last spring, the entire live music industry has found itself in an unbearable state of limbo, with promoters, bookers and agents losing their jobs, road crew (ineligible for furlough) facing financial hardships, venues closing down and the majority of artists losing their main source of income – the global concert business as a whole is on its knees.
“The act of live performance is what we live for!” Zucconi says with a genuine sense of passion. “So we miss it (performing live) terribly, and honestly I think we’re a long way off from being able to tour like we did before. But we’re looking at safe ways to get back out there. I think there’s going to be some cool opportunities for maybe 3 bands to team up and go out on the road together – it might be next spring before we can do it properly, but I believe it will happen, and when it does, it will have been worth the wait, I promise!”
In the meantime the band have teamed up with premium digital live platform Moment House to launch This is This Moment, a livestream concert series that will allow fans to purchase a subscription to an exclusive monthly live performance; taking every second Thursday of each month. Every show will feature a completely unique set list, including complete album performances, unreleased music, rarely played fan favourites, surprise cover versions, Q&As, and much more.
“Oh man, the livestreams through Moment House have been so much fun!” Christian admits. “We did a show the day before the album dropped, where we played the record live from start to finish and it was amazing! I think we all had a bit of a moment afterwards because from the very beginning of making This Is This, we’d had this idea that it would be really cool for the fans to hear the record as a whole played live before we released the studio version, so the fact we were able to make that happen, was awesome!”
As well as using their partnership with Moment House as a way to promote their new music, the band also made a surprise, virtual appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden to perform an extra special version of Deadline, the lead single to be lifted off of This Is This. How is Christian adapting to this innovative, new way of sharing and delivering the bands music we wonder? “It’s cool – it’s kinda different to what we’re used to, but it’s just the way things are right now, so we’re just going with it.”
“What makes it all worth while is the fans reaction to what we’re doing – they are freaking out! It feels like they’ve been wanting to hear this sound and style from us for a long time, so it’s great that we’ve been able to make this album for them!”
Grouplove – Deadline (Live on The Late Late Show with James Corden)
“I love you no matter where you are…”
With so much uncertainty in the world, planning for the future is incredibly hard for everybody right now – but for Grouplove, a band who have weathered the storm that was 2020 and found light in the darkest of times, living in the moment is now their number one priority.
“All we want to do now, and moving forward, is to make music that feels like the perfect representation of us as a band.” Christian says as our interview wraps. “And I feel like we have our finger on the right pulse, and we know what we need to do, so we just have to learn to trust our instincts now.”
“The music we’ve made this past year finds us in a really good place – this record is all about truly healing; our last album may have been called ‘Healer’ but I think ‘This Is This’ is the really healing one.”
With a genuine smile, Christian adds: “We all shine when we’re together. We’re happiest and feel at our best when we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing, and what I feel we’re supposed to be doing is making music… together.”