“We’re Just Oxygen Swimming”: A Conversation with Hannah Hooper of Grouplove

Grouplove © Jimmy Fontaine
Grouplove © Jimmy Fontaine
Equal parts hoopla and hardcore, Grouplove’s self-funded surprise album ‘This Is This’ radiates a youthful rebellion and an unapologetic wholeness.
Stream: ‘This Is This’ – Grouplove

We made the album that we’ve kind of been advised not to make in a lot of ways for our entire career. We always knew we were going to make an album like this sometime, but we didn’t know it was going to turn out so honest.

Beloved alt-rock, indie pop legends, Grouplove is smashing their face in cake to celebrate an achievement of an album, This Is This, released March 12th. It’s the album the band has been wanting to make their entire career. Self-funded, self-produced and a surprise to their label and their fans, Grouplove shrugged off all external pressures. This Is This is straight from the source.

This is This - Grouplove
This Is This – Grouplove

It’s not over-thought. It’s a reaction to the boiling point. An outpouring of all the pent up tension from the past year, the nine tracks on the record feature exorcistic vocal performances from Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi, electric percussion and overdriven guitars. Tracks like “Primetime,” “This Is The End” and “Shout” are an aggressive, and much needed, nudge out of our pandemic-jaded perspective.

But amid the chaos and commotion is an unexpected contour, the heart of the album. A four-year-old voice memo turned folk ballad, “Oxygen Swimming” is a moment of inhalation and a regaining of balance. A bittersweet struggle, Grouplove communicate the multitudes of what surviving this world feels like. “When you get down to it,” Hooper shares with Atwood, “we are all just oxygen swimming.”

Grouplove © Jimmy Fontaine
Grouplove © Jimmy Fontaine

This is This reflects the nuances, and range of the band’s ten-year journey, but especially highlights Hooper’s growth.

For the first time, we are really hearing her whole voice sung from her whole being and it’s dynamite. “I think I’ve always been a little worried,” Hooper told Atwood, “I’ve always had this more aggressive, louder, full representation of me hidden behind this more feminine side that I’ve been representing in the band for years. And this was the first time I was like, singing as a complete woman, I feel like as a whole person that’s felt really exciting.”

This is This sets the bar as the band enters into a new chapter with open opportunity to continue their career in this powerful vein of unapologetic wholeness. Read on for an intimate conversation with Grouplove’s Hannah Hooper where she breaks down the realities of wearing all the hats, navigating a world that’s relying heavily on technology, and what it took to make the album of Grouplove’s career.

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:: stream/purchase This Is This here ::


This is This - Grouplove

Atwood Magazine: Hi Hannah. How are you doing this morning?

Hannah Hooper: Hi Coco! Uh, I’m recovering from my first Pfizer vaccines.

No way. How are you feeling?

Hannah Hooper: I’m feeling very sore. But it’s okay if there’s like hope, you know what I mean?

When do you get your second dose?

Hannah Hooper: Soon. In three weeks? Yeah… I need everyone to get it. Let’s go back to normal or whatever that is you know.

Agreed. Thank you so much for talking with me this morning. I really appreciate it. How has the last year been for the band creatively?

Hannah Hooper: Oh my gosh. A great question. Well, you know, the pandemic started the day that we were leaving for a world tour. So we definitely started off being on our highest high and then dropping to our lowest low as fast as possible. Our drummer moved in with me and Christian and our daughter, who’s now five, and we all lived together for three months crazy. We wrote a lot of music. We wrote a lot of music.

What did those three crazy months teach you?

Hannah Hooper: I learned how to wear two hats, which is an exciting thing for me. Being a great mom and an artist at the same time, which I never thought was possible. I always sort of separated them and you can do it at the same time. I think this year for everyone has been pretty intense and we couldn’t find relief from it either. Like everyone around us was becoming like master bakers and getting six packs. And we need to go record some music. And so that’s really how This is This came to be.

I read in your interview with Euphoria Magazine that you wrote and recorded This is This in nine days?

Hannah Hooper: Well, we didn’t write it in nine days, but we recorded it in nine days. Which for us, after recording Healer over two years, was pretty exciting that we went in just us. We didn’t tell anyone. We actually didn’t even know we were. We had some songs, you know what I mean? Some brand new and some that were older that we were holding onto. And we wanted to see what would happen with just us in the studio. Not telling anyone, not having any pressure on anything. And we wrote an album. We didn’t realize it was going to be an album, but that’s what it turned into.

That's so cool. I want to talk a little bit more about that. The “having no pressure” piece of this. What does that no pressure do for your artistically?

Hannah Hooper: I mean, first of all, without, you know, touring really insight, there’s this element that you’re just making art for art’s sake, which is really what art is about at the end of the day. You know, you’re writing. There [is typically] just this immediacy of like making art, putting it out, touring, promoting it, and like, where’s the single, what’s going to be the radio song. When you’re on a major label, that pressure that goes along with it. And although our band doesn’t really focus on that too much, I think we really realized that it has always been an element that we tried to ignore and has been a part of the package. This was a self-funded album. Our fans didn’t know that we were giving a lot of money to charity and any money we were keeping for ourselves we were putting towards this album. It gave us just the freedom to be exactly who we are right now. And like, for me personally, I got to find my voice without, you know, worrying. I think I’ve always been a little worried. I’ve always had this more aggressive, louder sort of like full representation of me hidden behind this more feminine side that I’ve been representing in the band for years. And this was the first time I was like, singing as a complete woman, I feel like as a whole person that’s felt really exciting.

Grouplove © Jimmy Fontaine
Grouplove © Jimmy Fontaine

That is so incredible. As I was listening to the album it felt like a wake-up call. Like all of the intrusive thoughts that I've been having in quarantine and like these manic feelings it's like, you guys were inside of that in a way makes this such an important album. It’s so of the moment in a way that I’m not hearing from other artists.

Hannah Hooper: I’ve got a beaming smile over here. So glad, like for real, that it really hits there.

You’ve mentioned that this is an album you've been trying to make your entire career and now you've done it. So now that it’s out there and you’ve achieved that, how does it feel?

Hannah Hooper: I mean it’s honestly really exciting. It’s also sort of terrifying because then there’s nothing to really complain about. We made the album that we’ve kind of been advised not to make in a lot of ways for our entire career. We always knew we were going to make an album like this sometime, but we didn’t know it was going to turn out so honest. It was just such a cathartic experience. And that is why we are artists, you know. It’s funny because there’s so much pressure on bands that have had a little success to keep writing in a certain way. Coming to music as a painter, you never want to repeat yourself, you always want to be growing. So this album is just a step. We have an even bigger challenge for the next album. But I see it as an opportunity to dig in deeper. Let’s figure out who we are in a year from now. It’s the beginning for us, which is fun.

It's super cool too, that the content of the album, the lyrics and the music, gives permission to open ourselves up again. I think everyone is craving right now. And you guys literally had to give yourself the permission to create this album the way that you wanted to create it.

Hannah Hooper: I’ve been hearing this from a lot of other artists and a lot of just friends that aren’t artists, but it’s crazy to me. What is wrong with all of us we’ve been doing? How much time have we been wasting, hiding pieces of ourselves. It’s exhausting. It’s so nice to just be like, you know, this: the highs, the lows, the darkness, the light. All of this is me. This is me right here.

Grouplove © Jimmy Fontaine
Grouplove © Jimmy Fontaine

So kind of what we are discussing right here is that there is art and then there is industry. Navigating the industry with artistic integrity isn’t always easy. Is time what made this album possible?

Hannah Hooper: I think it’s that it has taken to get us to this point [that made this album possible]. It took all the experiences to make this album. This is the least crafted, most free, and most youthful album we’ve written in a lot of ways valid. There’s no frills and there’s no hiding. We were just in our bass player’s studio without all the things that we normally were associating to being signed to major label, which is like being in a crazy studio, working with a producer. All those things are really exciting and can teach you a lot. But really what we’re all trying to get to is: who am I? No one can show you that, but yourself. Whatever it took to get here, it’s just exciting to be here.

And is that kind of what the phrase This is This means to you? Like, it's just, it is what it is.

Hannah Hooper: Yeah. It’s exactly what it is. There’s no, there’s nothing, you know, there’s no secret message. It’s exactly what it is. It’s five best friends in a room making music. That’s honest.

So I really want to talk about the laughter at the end of “Deadline”. Is there a story there?

Hannah Hooper: You know, it’s one of those moments where we knew we got it. I knew I wanted to scream there, but it was just like, when we got there, I realized it was like a really funny moment. And the lyrics came together, we were just laughing. Yeah. I love it.

“Oxygen Swimming” is such a beautiful mid-album high. I love the laid back beat. It brought back memories of Beatles songs for me in a really cool way.

Hannah Hooper: Oh, I love that.

I also think it really captures that youthful sound you were talking about.

Hannah Hooper: So that was definitely like a secret song. Christian and I just had it on a voice memo. It was the first night after I had given birth and stopped breastfeeding and smoked weed again, and we wrote that song that night. So it was probably like four years ago. When we brought it to the band, we just made it something really special. But it honestly was sort of this journal entry, like going back to what I was feeling like. After giving birth to Willa, I was scared that I would never be able to wear both hats, be an artist and be a mother. I felt overwhelmed by responsibility. It’s funny to me that the song came out this really sweet, like country ballad, in a way. It’s like looking back and it all comes down to just how simple life really is. When you get down to it, we’re just oxygen swimming.

I want to talk more about the mother/artist dynamic. What has it been like being a mother and an artist in the same space with your daughter? Has she been a big inspiration?

Hannah Hooper: Yeah. She actually sings on the album at the end of “This is The End”. Having her around has been amazing because all we are trying to do is get back to where she is in life. She’s always creating, she’s always dressing up. She plays the drums. She’s constantly making up songs. Her melodies, I’m like, I’m gonna borrow that. She’s always laughing. Life is just so fun for her and so exciting. And so during this time that’s been so scary and full of the unknown, she’s really been a delight for us, you know? We feel so lucky just to have her around. You know we could be writing all day, and Willa can just be a part of it. I love having her see both of her parents doing what they love, you know, living our dream and just seeing that that is a reality.

That's such a beautiful thing. So was “Shake Your Ass” inspired by the TikTok dance craze?

Hannah Hooper: You know, we were talking about this. It kind of is. It’s sort of like when I talk about it, I’m like, am I asking a question? Like, should we shake that ass? It’s like mocking the whole shake your ass thing, but also saying shake that ass. But then the mother in me is like, is this okay? That we’re just like prostituting ourselves on the internet? Or is it awesome? We’re having fun and I need to be like taking it less seriously. I’m pleased with that idea. It’s crazy the cameras are always on and people are shaking their ass.

How have the virtual performances with Moment House been going?

Hannah Hooper: Well, we’ve only done one. We did the first one last Thursday and we played This is This back to back the day before it was released. We wanted to give our fans a treat. These songs were meant to play live. So it was the easiest show for us to put together ever. It just really felt good. Like I would close my eyes and I could almost feel an audience. So that was like a psychedelic fantasy. I sort of needed that night.

Why and how are you planning to use Moment House as a platform for these performances?

Hannah Hooper: I think Moment House is going to slowly evolve into something really, really unique. We’re going to use it as an opportunity to showcase different ways of playing songs. We’re going to play well, all the albums front to back, we’re going to do acoustic shows and I’m also going to do a bunch of installation art. And then I’m also trying to figure out how to break the fourth wall, because I’ve seen so many live streams and no one’s really engaging with the viewer. And I really want to figure out how to make it feel more like a moment where people are more involved. And but also, we see you, even though we’re separated by the screen.

Do you feel like this time and like these different methods of connecting with your fans has brought you closer to them?

Hannah Hooper: I mean, it’s beautiful when you’re on stage, but obviously you’re like above and looking down and there’s like all these things about being on stage that separate you from your fan base. So, when the pandemic started, we started doing like Instagram live sessions. We were inviting people to chat with us face to face, text to face, and we were, you know, DMing people. Now we have this phone number or engagement path. Like I know everyone. I mean, I’ve always known our really, really like close group love family. Like that fan base has been with us since the beginning. But now it’s really extended into a much larger group of people and it’s been the craziest thing. Many of our fans are amazing artists, like visual artists or singer songwriters or whatever. I step back sometimes and I just feel so lucky for the fact that we’re doing what we do. Because any of them could be where we are. I genuinely feel that.

Thank you so much, Hannah!

Hannah Hooper: Thank you!

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:: stream/purchase This Is This here ::

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This is This - Grouplove

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