THE MASTERFUL CHANCE-TAKING OF GROUPLOVE

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Words / Su Ertekin-Taner

Photos / Hayley Rippy, Brantley Gutierrez

The first thing that I notice when I’m thrust into the “Introductions” tab of the GROUPLOVE  fanbase Discord server is Taleah, a recent inductee into the online community. As per “Introductions” tab expectations, Taleah pitches her GROUPLOVE affinity. She’s been a “GL listener” (she’s got an intimacy with the band that only acronym users have) since she discovered their song “Let Me In” in the soundtrack of coming-of-age film The Fault in our Stars (2014). “Let Me In” felt like an ode to her brother, a cancer survivor, who had taken his life the year before the movie’s release.

Founded in December 2022, the server is chockablock with stories of longtime GROUPLOVE fans—some boast GROUPLOVE love since the band’s late aughts start— along with listeners on an indie music stint. Though strangers, they all fit snugly into this corner of the internet. While I’m strictly here on business, having discovered the server in the online ether during pre-interview research, the community wraps me in its intimacy and commitment to indie. For a girl in her 20s, newly online in the ‘10s, I feel like I’ve caught the tail end of the GROUPLOVE wave.

There’s a logic to their e-gathering, too. Members feed GROUPLOVE ticketing information, tour set lists, meet-up information, and recent music release hype into separate channels.

So, when lead vocalist and keyboard Hannah Hooper of GROUPLOVE tells me she’s on the Discord server, I’m primed though surprised – mostly because she’s not shy about having breached the boundaries of parasocial fervor. I’m on a Zoom call with Hooper and vocalist / life counterpart / guitarist Christian Zucconi an hour before their Rock and Roll You Won’t Save Me tour soundcheck to talk about their new single “Chances” and recently announced deluxe album—not Discord. So, I’m confused on why our conversation has arrived here, at Discord, until Hooper explains that Discord is a part of why they are launching I Want It All Right Now Deluxe. Hooper tells me, “[Discord] is such an insight on what songs people want to hear and they want—everyone wants more music.”

“Chances” and the rest of I Want It All Right Now Deluxe is for the impatient fans, those betting on GROUPLOVE and announcing their pre-GROUPLOVE-popularity fondness for the indie band in the public Discord, and—though Hooper recounts her Discord immersion experience fondly—for the non-Discord GROUPLOVE representatives too. GROUPLOVE doesn’t want to withhold their cached music, but lengthen their discography, add to the sonic landscape of I Want It All Right Now. Christian says, “We were just like, ‘You know what? This demo version is so good. Let’s just put this out. Let’s not treat everything so preciously.”

For a band whose career has run the gamut from stable to dicey, the new release-now-think later impetus behind I Want It All Right Now Deluxe is not the chanciest decision in the indie band’s history. The band formed on a whim in 2009 (read: accidental meetup on a Greece trip). Hooper, a painter at the time, invited Zucconi, a post-hardcore band boy, to an artist residency in Crete. Hooper had caught Zucconi’s band ALOKE at a stumble in its career, so Zucconi hardly hesitated at the idea of hopping a plane and going far, far away. Hooper and Zucconi met their now-bandmates guitarist Andrew Wessen, drum kit Ryan Rabin, and bassist Sean Gadd in the artist commune. A year later, the band was touring with Florence the Machine and recognized by Nylon as one of the ten “Best New Bands in 2010.” It all reads fictional, a prelude to the band’s theme of masterful chance-taking.

Post “Tongue Tied,” 2014 music festival scene domination, Fault in Our Stars soundtrack fame, and junior album “Big Mess” release, the band underwent another risky but generative sequence of adventures – shakiness of archetypal indie band lifestyle irrespective. In the first two years of the pandemic, Hooper and Zucconi left both their LA residence for Atlanta and their record label, Canvasback/Atlantic, on gut feelings. Both moves were part of the band’s quest to rediscover their sound and resist the formulaic nature of hit song-making. So, I Want It All Right Now’s deluxe tracks, written after the Atlanta move, feels like a chronicling of GROUPLOVE’s risk-taking tendencies, with “Chances,” characteristically written in a single afternoon, as its thesis statement.

GROUPLOVE’s deluxe tracks are sonically risk-taking too. “Can You Feel My Love” is an experimental, mellow ballad centered by Zucconi’s vocals. The song’s eponymous chorus, sung on a slow bass beat, speaks to the pain of trying to be the perfect father and partner. “I just remember the first time I heard it, it felt like the sun was rising inside of me. I was just like, oh my god, like this man loves so big. It was just like it’s so beautiful to hear. I cannot wait to play that song live and like for people to hear that,” Hooper says. Though “House” has the characteristic GROUPLOVE bounce and Hooper’s insistent vocals, the band tests out a new fragmented song structure—Zucconi’s softer verses balancing Hooper’s belted chorus, “Whose house is this anyways?”

Despite these new GROUPLOVE sounds, the album retains its wholeness. In true GROUPLOVE form, the whole I Want It All Right Now album is a narrative. Hooper defines the first part of the album—the non-deluxe tracks—as “resistance pop.” While she’s referring to these tracks’ strong beats and belted life treatises, Hooper also defines her self-labeled genre as one that resists difficult self-growth. “You have to let the pain in to grow,” she says, adding, “And I feel like the first half of our album is resisting the growth, resisting feeling the pain or the anxiety, or making a change or taking a chance.” She ascribes much of the discomfort with self-growth to the band’s previous L.A. life which demanded musical perfection and prompted comparison: “A lot of the songs [on I Want It All Right Now] were written when we were still living in LA. I feel like there’s just a discomfort there.”

The band’s move to Atlanta and liberation from L.A.’s toxic milieu colors the lyrics of much of the second half of the album, the deluxe tracks. With their detachment from L.A. came a detachment from the idea of musical perfection or even relationship perfection. The deluxe tracks broach the subject of flaw, as GROUPLOVE inquires what it means to be an imperfect father, partner, musician, creator, child. Hooper likes to refer to the band’s detachment from the expectation of perfection as freedom from “the man.” Though Hooper’s frequent references to “the man” might conjure an image of a corporate, tie-wearing boss versed in business jargon, the GROUPLOVE vocalist tells me that “the man” is a metaphor for the obsession with the right path.

A couple days after GROUPLOVE announced the release of the I Want It All deluxe tracks “Chances,” “Can You Feel My Love,” “Fire,” “House,” “Fishbowl,” and “All (Live),” I returned to the GROUPLOVE Discord. The fan hub is, unsurprisingly, afire: one fan’s transmission of the deluxe album announcement is the most liked post in months. The community is ready to navigate the new sonic currents of the tracks, joining GROUPLOVE as the band evolves, craving changes and taking chances. And why not? GROUPLOVE has always preached community—group love, so to speak. For Taleah and the rest of GROUPLOVE’s fans, a communal acceptance of change and chance-taking is as salient as ever. 

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