Grouplove talks Haight love, the Seesaw Tour, and spreading rumors

Pub date September 10, 2013

Grouplove’s existence is a strong argument for fate. In 2009, Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi met on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Feeling an instant connection, Hooper invited Zucconi to an artist residency in Greece on the island of Crete, which she was heading to just a few days later, and he said yes. At this residency, in a remote mountain village, the pair formed a fast friendship with three other musicians. Within the year, Grouplove was formed.

Two years after that, the band exploded into the music scene with its cheekily titled, megacatchy album Never Trust a Happy Song. Touring constantly since its inception, Grouplove is still going at full sprint, with its second album, Spreading Rumors, coming out Sept. 17, accompanied by the ambitious Seesaw Tour, in which the band will spend two nights in every city at intimate venues, playing one electric and one acoustic show.

I caught up with Hooper during one of her rare moments of semi-downtime (if that’s what you call standing on a busy street corner waiting for Zucconi) to chat about hometown shows, Haight Street, and (group)love:
SF Bay Guardian I saw you play in San Francisco almost exactly two years ago to a nearly empty Bimbo’s, and it was an absolutely amazing show. There was this incredible energy and because there was a sparse audience, it felt truly special to be there. Now you’re playing to much bigger audiences and selling out two nights in a row in SF. How do you feel about this change in dynamics?
Hannah Hooper It’s really exciting! It’s kind of surreal in a lot of ways. When we get to play a show we’re excited no matter what, so the scale of it blows our minds. With the Seesaw Tour, we’re kind of underplaying and getting to actually see our fans again. And we’re playing the Independent, which is one of the first venues we played in SF.

We personally love playing any size, but there’s a level of intimacy that’s hard to capture [in a bigger venue]. It’s a very special thing. As a fan, I love to see high-energy bands in small venues. That’s what we want to do before we gear up to do a bigger tour.
SFBG How did you come up with the idea for the Seesaw Tour? Why this format?
HH We were talking about bands. I love the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I’m a big fan, but I’ve never had the opportunity to get close to them. I’m always in the back behind like thousands of people. I had this vision of how cool it would be to see them play one night electric and one night acoustic.
It will be a challenge for us because we’re definitively an electric band.
SFBG Grouplove has a very vigorous touring schedule. How do you keep from getting burned-out?
HH That’s a good question! We stopped to record our album that’s about to come out, which is really the first time we’ve stopped touring in three years. But recording is not that different from touring — we still are living in tight quarters and spending all our time together.

If you stay in motion you don’t notice how exhausted you are. Even when you’ve traveled halfway around the world and you’re like, “are we going to be able to do this?” When you get up on stage, you just respond to the audience. It’s a back and forth. When you see people there screaming your name, you just have to bring it. It’s so fulfilling to give all that you have every time you get on stage. We just get into a trance friendship mode.
SFBG Do you all really love each other as much as your name and your live show suggests?
HH We do! We really love each other. We have this ability to share this crazy experience together; we’re vulnerable and we’re funny together; we’re stronger together than we are separate. It really works.

There was a freedom when we first got together because we didn’t know each other. We all got to be exactly who we are. We met at a really special time and our friendship really shows that. We write a lot of songs on the road and we genuinely go out together…You have to want to make it work. This is our dream, this is what we want to do. It’s an outlook that we all quietly agreed to have.
SFBG There is a unique pressure associated with sophomore albums. Have you felt a need to prove that you’re not a one hit wonder with this record?
HH Coming from a painter background I didn’t really realize the “pressure of the second album.” We had this catalogue of songs we had written on the road and we basically drew straws to see which songs made the album. We’re really lucky. We make a point never to combine fear of success with making artwork and writing songs. There’s nothing you can do — you can’t predict whether people will like the songs. All you can really do is be genuine.
SFBG What does the title of the album Spreading Rumors mean?
HH We’re kind of bringing it back to the way that people used to talk about bands and spread the word before the Internet. Despite all of the Internet attention we got for [2011 single] “Tongue Tied,” people were also telling their friends about us and our live shows. The rumor that keeps spreading…we really are this crazy bunch of wild animals let loose.
SFBG Since you’re playing two nights in a row here, you’ll have some time to spend in the city. Any special SF plans?
HH Well, my brother, sister, mom, and dad live here. I grew up in Upper Haight. I really miss SF. I just like walking down Haight Street. Thrift stores in SF are the best. I can’t tell you how much I love San Francisco.

[Playing here is] like playing a hometown show which is always secretly the most nerve-wracking. It’s always funny to see people you’ve known your whole life in the audience. You really get a sense of how far we’ve come. I’ll probably get emotional up there.
SFBG Anything else you feel that people need to know about Grouplove? Any parting words?
HH [I’ve learned] through all this touring and meeting all these bands that everyone has their own flavor. We have love, heart, honesty, and passion. Our goal is to have people see that there’s no bullshit up there [on stage] and leave feeling happy. We’re not trying to be cool or sexy. We want to inspire kids to not to care what they look like or whether they’re cool and just be themselves.
With the Rubens
Sat/14, 9pm, $20
628 Divisadero, SF
(415) 771-1421

Grouplove (acoustic)
Sun/15, 9pm, $22
777 Valencia, SF
(415) 551-5157