Grouplove finds a new groove in Atlanta

Credit: Tyson Horne

Members of Grouplove talked to the AJC about their new album, "This Is This," and the band's move to Atlanta.

Credit: Tyson Horne

The band crafted new album, ‘This Is This,’ at Little Five Points studio last fall

Over a yellow archway inside Big Trouble studio, the words “This Is This” are drawn in black lettering.

The phrase that Grouplove singer Hannah Hooper intended to write was “This Is the End,” the original title of the band’s surprise album released in mid-March.

But the combination of tiredness and a few margaritas led to the truncated wording and provided the band with a new name for their fifth album, which became their musical savior born during the pandemic.

Grouplove recently relocated to Atlanta and in March released their fifth album, "This Is This." Courtesy of Jimmy Fontaine
Grouplove recently relocated to Atlanta and in March released their fifth album, "This Is This." Courtesy of Jimmy Fontaine

Credit: Jimmy Fontaine

Credit: Jimmy Fontaine

“We just knew we had to make something for ourselves to emotionally be OK — at least that’s what it felt like to me,” said bassist Daniel Gleason. “We needed this, and we didn’t need anyone else involved, and thankfully we had a place we could come make a record, and no one would be checking in on us daily.”

ExploreMic Check: Daniel Gleason of Grouplove excited about the band’s new sound

That place, the charmingly grubby studio tucked into a graffiti-plastered alley in Little Five Points, has been co-owned by Gleason and recording engineer TJ Elias since 2018.

While some fans know that Gleason has resided in Atlanta since 2006, the evolution of Grouplove into a predominantly Atlanta-based outfit is new.

Grouplove, whose hits include "Tongue Tied" and "Deleter," released a surprise album, "This Is This," in March, which they recorded in fall 2020. Courtesy of Jimmy Fontaine
Grouplove, whose hits include "Tongue Tied" and "Deleter," released a surprise album, "This Is This," in March, which they recorded in fall 2020. Courtesy of Jimmy Fontaine

Credit: Jimmy Fontaine

Credit: Jimmy Fontaine

Hooper, who also plays keyboards, and her singer-guitarist husband Christian Zucconi, moved from California with their 5-year-old daughter, Willa, and are relocating to a house in the Atlanta suburbs; drummer Ben Homola recently sold his home in New Orleans and is heading to Atlanta as well. But guitarist Andrew Wessen will remain bi-coastal, zipping to the East Coast when necessary, but otherwise staying near the Pacific Ocean.

“He’s a surfer boy,” Hooper said with a smile.

Since 2011, Grouplove has churned out a flow of colorful alt-pop. Their biggest hit, “Tongue Tied,” from their debut album, was certified triple platinum, and their chart presence continued through the years with “Ways to Go,” “Welcome to Your Life,” and from last year’s “Healer” album, the alt-rocker “Deleter,” which was released the week the coronavirus was officially deemed a pandemic.

The nine songs on “This Is This” were recorded mostly live-to-tape at Big Trouble in October — after a seven-month enforced quarantine separation among the musicians — and the album was self-and-fan-funded by the band since their record label expressed little interest in the songs.

“Some of these songs weren’t brand new, so the label had heard some of the demos, and they were not into it. I think they thought my voice being aggressive was a turnoff, but I think an important part about being an artist is continuing to grow…that’s the only reason we do it. The fact that people respond to it is the gift of it all. But really, we’re doing it to grow and make art. The moment you’re writing to make a hit, to me, I wouldn’t feel like an artist,” Hooper said.

Grouplove is recently relocated to Atlanta and in March released their fifth album, "This Is This." Courtesy of Jimmy Fontaine
Grouplove is recently relocated to Atlanta and in March released their fifth album, "This Is This." Courtesy of Jimmy Fontaine

Credit: Jimmy Fontaine

Credit: Jimmy Fontaine

Added Gleason, as he sat next to Hooper in a studio pocket filled with instruments, “It’s just the sound of us getting into a room. The theme of the album — the title —is a through-line, letting the mistakes shine, letting the process be organic and letting ourselves shine through. Sometimes the mistakes and blemishes are beautiful and they give you character.”

The “This Is This” opening track, “Primetime,” along with “This Is the End” (which features a coda from Willa), appealingly blends ’90s-era grunge with the band’s trademark poppy choruses, while the first single, “Deadline,” is a propulsive bop that occasionally detours into an assertive chant. But then comes “Oxygen Swimming,” a lilting midtempo song with pillow-like harmonies, to cushion the edges.

“We feed off each other,” Gleason said. “Particularly Hannah, where her energy is so giving and joyous and powerful. Christian gets super goofy, which you wouldn’t believe because when you meet him, he’s so Zen.”

“Dan turns into ‘party boy,’” Hooper interjected, prompting oh-yeah-right laughter from Gleason.

The camaraderie and respect between Gleason and Hooper are evident — Zucconi was initially present for the interview but had to dash for an appointment ― and the pair tease each other when asked to share something fans might not know about them: Hooper doesn’t yet have her driver’s license, and Gleason has no idea how to cook.

Gleason also makes sure to point out Hooper’s distinctive artwork sketched among the exposed brick on several studio walls.

The expressive singer created the art for the impending vinyl release of “This Is This,” a collage of “all these experiences we had during the pandemic,” she said.

“There’s something ornate about it. It’s remarkable,” Gleason added.

Grouplove is recently relocated to Atlanta and in March released their fifth album, "This Is This." Courtesy of Jimmy Fontaine
Grouplove is recently relocated to Atlanta and in March released their fifth album, "This Is This." Courtesy of Jimmy Fontaine

Credit: Jimmy Fontaine

Credit: Jimmy Fontaine

While the rest of 2021 — specifically touring — remains murky, even for a band that thrives on a mysterious existence, Grouplove has started playing monthly concerts on the livestream platform Moment House, which they hope to continue even when road life resumes.

“We can do (performances) from the bus, play acoustic songs while we’re driving, give people an intimate look at what we do,” Hooper said.

And next time, the tour bus will be leaving from Atlanta, where Hooper has found an immediate comfort zone — and inspirations.

She and Gleason share deep respect for Atlanta staples OutKast, EarthGang and CeeLo Green — both for musical talents (“Big Boi has this incredible fast delivery, and Andre, I don’t even know how to explain him, which is beautiful,” Gleason said) and individuality (“Unique style, unique personality, unique perspective,” he said of Green).

Hooper envisions touring with EarthGang and meshed merchandise that would proclaim, “EarthLove.”

She’s also become quickly attuned to some of Atlanta’s appealing aspects.

“I’ve been enjoying the seasons; I’m not going to lie. To feel like time is passing in a way that I can feel,” she said. “In L.A., it’s sunny every day, and you’re like, what month is it? Is it Christmas? Here, I love the rain. It’s really inspiring. I love the amount of parks that are here and the food is insane. I can be my freak-ass self here and be accepted exactly how I am, and there’s no performance. This is me. This is us.”

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Check out our video interview with Grouplove on The Music Scene at AJC.com.

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