A beacon of soaring energy and heartfelt empathy, Grouplove’s ‘Healer’ roars with the sort of unrelenting passion we’ve needed to get through the past year, and to find strength throughout this pandemic. Band members Andrew Wessen and Christian Zucconi dove into the depths of their cathartic fourth LP.
Stream: “Deleter” – Grouplove
Grouplove could never have known how much 2020 needed an album like Healer,
nor could they have predicted that their heavily-anticipated fourth album would release exactly the same week that the novel coronavirus shut their industry, their country, and most of the world down. The follow-up to 2016’s widely-praised Big Mess, Healer was never meant to be a “pandemic” record, but that’s what it became – and a year on from its release, it continues to own that special role with grace and dignity. A beacon of soaring energy and heartfelt empathy, Grouplove’s Healer roars with the sort of unrelenting passion we’ve needed to get through the past year, and to find strength throughout this pandemic.
Yeah, I think I know what I’ve always failed to see
That nothin’ in this world comes at you for free
But how you gonna count all your ones and twos?
‘Cause we all need somethin’ to do
Yeah, we just got to turn ourselves
When you found out there’s something so real in me
And that I’ll turn out how I am supposed to be
Yeah, you don’t gotta look at my every move
But we all need somethin’ to do
Yeah, we just got to turn ourselves
Released March 13, 2020 via Atlantic Records / Canvasback music, Healer arrived at the exact precipice of the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 23, Washington governor Jay Inslee issued a statewide stay-at-home order; California followed suit on March 19, and New York’s “On Pause” directive arrived one day later. Maybe it’s kismet that an album named Healer would release right when everyone needed healing the most – when this deadly virus, for which there was no cure, was claiming loved ones’ lives, overflowing our hospitals, and causing widespread turmoil, fear, insecurity, and uncertainty.
It’s difficult to return to that place – March 2020’s mental and emotional states. For many, that pain continues to resonate a full year later, but back in the height of that chaos, there were very few (if any) outlets for relief or solace. Music has long been a vessel of respite, in which we can bury ourselves, and find some kind of catharsis – and for those listening, Healer offered a world of comfort and reassurance.
“During the making of this record we were going through some really uncomfortable and personal stuff,” Grouplove’s Christian Zucconi tells Atwood Magazine. In summer 2019, Zucconi’s wife and Grouplove bandmate Hannah Hooper underwent brain surgery to remove a cavernous malformation. “That shit was scary,” he recalls. “The World has always been a mess, but when your wife and mother of your child might be dying you look at life a little differently.”
There’s a place where I’m runnin’ from
But we don’t know how to get there
Yeah, there’s a place we’re all runnin’ from
But we don’t know how to get there
Yeah, we learned to tap both hands down
We try to see the sands
We try to hear the sounds
And if we can do it
We’re makin’ our hearts pound for infinity
I don’t know about it
No I don’t think I’m comin’ home tonight
I don’t know about it
No I don’t think I’ll ever make it right
– “Places,” Grouplove
Written and recorded in the wake of this and other spaces of deep strife, Healer is as much a product of personal pain and upheaval as it is a source of musical therapy and rejuvenation.
Grouplove channeled their own turmoil into beauty on a record that aches with light, love, warmth, and togetherness.
From the explosive introductory fervor of lead single “Deleter” (“an explosive protest packed with passion and zeal“), to the delicate vocals and soothing acoustics enveloping “Places,” to the passionate disruption driving “Inside Out” and “The Great Unknown,” Grouplove’s first album of the new decade is the most cohesive, dynamic, and expansive collection of their career. Produced by Dave Sitek (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and Malay (Frank Ocean), the record encompasses a wealth of colorful sounds and emotions in its forty-five minute run.
“Through the process, we all basically realized that this record healed us,” Grouplove’s Andrew Wessen tells Atwood Magazine. “Everyone went through some crazy shit… It’s more like the record’s a healer… The record healed us, and maybe the record can heal you. Because we were all going through f*cked up shit, personal shit. the process of making this record is actually what healed us and also brought our band to a level of closeness that is incredible. I’m really grateful – obviously, through that, there was a lot of ups and downs and that’s why the name actually makes more sense to me. It’s having to go through so much of that alone and together, and how this record and the process of making the record healed us as people and healed us as a band.”
Should I reconsider all the side effects
Before I get ahead of myself, ahead of myself?
I know my liver must be mad at me
Because I just neglect my health, neglect my health
They say I do too much
Well, there ain’t much time
I think I’m losin’ touch, missin’ all the good times
Is it your ego? Or is it all that pride?
It must be tough for you, holding that shit inside
Let’s do some shit we won’t remember
We’ll be great pretenders
One more and then I’m goin’ home
They’ll be no worries ’bout tomorrow
Now there’s time to borrow
One more and then I’m goin’ home
– “Ahead of Myself,” Grouplove
Healer came from heavy moments in the band members’ lives, and as such its lyrics are a source considerable insight, substance, and depth.
Between the raw connection rippling through “Ahead of Myself” and the outstretched hands guiding “Hail to the Queen” through to its anthemic crescendos, Grouplove hold nothing back on their fourth LP. The visceral screams on “Burial” prove a breathtaking high point toward the record’s end, followed only by an immersive wall of thick harmonies and soaring guitars that make “This is Everything” the fitting and refreshing conclusion to Healer‘s otherwise unrelenting tension.
It’s Grouplove at their most unapologetic; at their most intimate; and at their most vulnerable. While there’s no single overarching story for this album – it’s an encapsulation of individual and shared pain, of the Trump era’s utter toxicity, of frustration and disillusionment, and more – ultimately, Healer remains true to its name as a record of deep healing: Grouplove’s personal reckoning is a resounding oasis of connection and love, and harnessing our own inner strength and fortitude to see things through and get past whatever obstacles lie in our path – even if our futures are unknown. We will never know what lies ahead, but Healer helps us in the moment.
Grouplove very recently announced the surprise release of their fifth LP, This Is This, out March 12 via Atlantic Records. “We hope this album gives people the permission to fucking scream or headbang or punch walls,” the band shared, teasing the soaring pop song “Deadline” ahead of the full-length album. “It’s important to stay emotional. The whole rainbow is important. If we just live in the light blues, are we really alive? I’m not. I need to feel it all.”
The five-piece of Hannah Hooper, Christian Zucconi, Andrew Wessen, Daniel Gleason, and Benjamin Homola, Grouplove remain a tight-knit band of close friends making music out of love. Now over a decade in, their relationship, just like their music, is stronger than ever – and in conversation with Andrew Wessen, the multi-instrumentalist very nearly says, “There’s something about the group that brings out the love.”
“It’s true,” he says in-between fits of laughter. “I don’t know, we’re a family. Especially at this point, man. It’s been 10 years we’ve spent together, it’s crazy. It’s a long time.”
Grouplove really do bring the love, and this past year, they gave us Healer when we needed it most.
Stream: ‘Healer’ – Grouplove
A CONVERSATION WITH GROUPLOVE
Atwood Magazine: Thank you so much for your time. First of all, I know the past couple of years have been a rollercoaster, so I wanted to ask how you're all doing.
Andrew Wessen: We’re all good! The experiences and all the trials we all went through, and have gone through for 10 years… We’ve been a band for 10 years, it’s crazy, and we’ve all been through a lot together. I think the name can be misleading because it just seems it’s always a joyous, happy… Which it can be largely that, but there’s also so much… Even if you had the most blessed life and everything’s going perfect, it’s still, there’s so many challenges and roadblocks, and instances along the way that just shape who you are and how your experience is, and I think our band has gone through a whole lot, probably more than people know, together, and gone through a lot of hard shit to get where we are. There’s just been a lot of those notes along the way.
Of course! I want to start off by acknowledging that this marks a full decade of Grouplove – congratulations! Reflecting back on the past ten years, how would you say you've grown and evolved as a band?
Andrew Wessen: A lot has changed. We met on the beaches of Crete at a weird mountain village 10 years ago, and that was an unbelievable experience to just meet five people in such a dramatic and dream-like way, and to have it evolved into actually something that had legs and actually provided us all an experience to make art and travel the world, and share our music and art with people all over the planet, and… Obviously, it’s evolved. Sean left the band in 2013 and he was a huge part of all of it. He started the band with us and his basslines still are integral to so many of the songs that people love. And then Dan came in, and Dan just brought a whole new life to the band that was… It just evolved into something really beautiful with Dan and made the last record with him… Or we made the most current record with him, and that’s been… That’s a whole new evolution that’s been incredible and special in its way, in our own way. And then Ryan, our drummer and producer of our first two records, and also integral part of the origin and everything to this band, he left in 2018, I guess it was.
And then we got Ben Homola to replace him, who has also been this incredible breath of fresh air, and all the… You know, I would hate to just sit here and just not acknowledge that we’ve had people leave the band and come into the band, I think it’s something that life just throws things at you and people… It’s hard to keep something together for 10 years. Some people have to go on and do other things and pursue other things. Everything’s been amicable and everything’s been… It’s all love between everybody. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. There were so many hard moments in there of just struggle and personal demons affecting people, and some of it cliche stuff and some of it just, things that no one will ever understand unless they were in the room with us.
But I just want to acknowledge that those two people were a huge part of this band and will always be an important part of this band. And Dan and Ben coming in and just bringing a whole new breath of life into the project. Their efforts also need to be acknowledged ’cause it’s, I’m super proud of this new record. It’s the best record we ever made, and we couldn’t have done it without every single person, obviously without Hannah and Christian, of course, helming the damn thing as well.
They’ve obviously been the anchor of this band from the beginning, the two songwriters and incredible performers, and they kinda bring the best out of everybody, so it’s just crazy. We’ve been all over the world. We’ve met a million people and played so many incredible shows and been so well-received and… Obviously, it wasn’t always that way. In the beginning it was… We had legs early, but a lot of the early shows were… I mean, we never skipped a venue anywhere. We were just always going from 100 to 300 cap to 500 cap to 800 to small theaters, so we met… We see the same people coming back for 10 years, which is incredible.
Yeah, you made the classic hero's journey of bands.
Andrew Wessen: I’m really proud of that, actually. You kinda take it for granted at the time, you don’t fully acknowledge how you’re doing it. Of course, reflection is 20… You get 20/20 vision on it when you look back on it. And it’s cool. I’m really proud that we really did do it that way, and I respect any band in any position, trying to make it or trying to have any success, because it’s… I think even if you have the stratospheric, meteoric rise, it’s not an easy road. And we certainly had some lucky breaks along the way, but also I feel like we earned a lot of what we have now through just being gone pretty much… I think I was home… Two weeks was the longest time I was home in the first five years of the band, at one point. We were doing 280 days out and stuff that.
I think it's really amazing that when I asked you about the band's evolution, you jumped straight to talking about people. Were you always a really close-knit group as a band?
Andrew Wessen: Yeah, the name was fitting in that way. The name came from when we were in Greece. When we all met in Greece, there was a… We were at an artist collective that my brother and a Greek friend of ours started… I’m sure this is all online or whatever now, but if you wanna dig more into that, there was an artist collective in Crete that my brother and this guy started, and that’s where we all met in 2008. And I don’t know. We, Grouplove, we all just formed this instant bond among the backdrop of all these crazy artists who were there, and we just instantly had this collaboration and friendship, and interest in each other’s art and music. And so that informed the rest of it… We went back to LA and we recorded, and everything took off from there. It always was informed by that initial love and appreciation for each other that was really organic. It wasn’t some like Craigslist meeting; it really was a moment of, we didn’t walk into this thing like, “This is a band.”
We just walked into it like an experience of life and came out of it a group of friends who were able to just do what we do and did it out of… Just when we first got together, it was all just, “Let’s hang out and have fun, and just play music!”
All the rest of us had done so much of the… just everything you can to get anyone to care about what you’re doing. And this was the first time we all kind of let our guard down and we were like, “Let’s just make art and whatever happens, happens.” And I think it’s so cool in that way. There wasn’t a desperation or anything to it, it was… It just was a fun expression amongst friends. Yeah, there’s a lot of love still.
When I listen to your latest music, it really feels like a response to the moment, but I'd love to hear from you: Do you feel Grouplove could have made the music you're making now, ten years ago?
Andrew Wessen: I would say no, because everything is… I think that as an artist, Hannah and Christian are the main lyricists of the band, but I think everything is a reflection. You’re absorbing what you see and hear and what you’re told, when you’re talking to people, and you reflect back what you… For instance, when we were making this last record, there’s a song called “Promises”. So “Promises”, that song, one that’s talking about taking our daughters and stuff that, it’s all… You listen to it, it’s a very real-time reflection of basically when we were in El Paso, making most of the record with Dave Sitek. We could literally… We were right on the Mexican border ’cause we were in El Paso, outside by about 40 minutes, and you could literally hear the protesters and the megaphones.
You could hear it all, and people clamoring and everything ’cause they were protesting the detention of migrants, and so that song is literally us being doors open, 5:00 AM, just hearing the world and what was happening, and being so close to the epicenter of that, and just reflecting on that as artists, and that was our own way of protest because what we could do and say on tape could echo all over the world, so… It wasn’t like, “We’re writing this song, a protest song.” It was just like that was just us absorbing the world that we see and hear, and reflecting it back, and putting it on tape, and I think that’s what artists have done since the beginning of time in every medium, and I think that’s… I think that’s why this record definitely couldn’t have been made any other time ’cause it’s weird that way, too. That’s definitely a song that’s just looking at the world we’re living in and shining a light on that and… I don’t know. It’s…
I mean, I’d hate to go too much into the meaning of these things ’cause Christian and… They wrote the lyrics and… Partly with Dave, and they would probably be able to flesh out the deeper meanings of it, but I think that’s… There’s a lot of that in this record. But sure, we’ve grown and evolved as a band. We’re in a place now where we’re more comfortable speaking more frankly on some of these things.
What was the biggest lesson you took away from Big Mess sessions that Grouplove applied when making Healer?
Andrew Wessen: Since Ryan left and wasn’t producing this new record, it did open a new space in which we all agree, “Are we really willing to go there with someone new?” Our production level, just… And we met Dave and it just was an instant connection, we were… And he’s an intimidating figure. He’s an intense person and we went up to his house and it’s kind of this like crazy compound up in the hills in LA, and didn’t know to expect and his reputation precedes him. He’s one of those characters everyone’s like, “Oh, dude, stay… ” Not, “Watch out”, but everyone’s like, “Oh, I hope he likes you guys.” And like, “He runs his artists… He’s a straight-shooter, he’s a no-bullshit kind of guy.” But we just hit it off straight away. From the first meeting, we were like, “Oh, that’s the guy, that’s who we’re gonna do this with.” And he couldn’t have been a cooler… Honestly, making this record changed my life. I’m a completely different person than I was when I started it.
Can you talk about why?
Andrew Wessen: Okay, most people clock in at a certain time, there’s people who will be like “artists,” and they live that art every day, all day. It’s a state of mind in that stage. Music and production and songwriting, he exists in that plane, in that space, 24/7, 365. He’s a real artist. He’s not someone who clocks in at noon, over his fancy lunch, and is leaving the studio by 6:00. I mean, our sessions were 9 PM to noon, or 9 AM every day. We worked all through the night, every day. Every song was, “Let’s talk about what the song means, what are you trying to say?” Everything was to such a deep level, it was so beyond anything that I’ve ever experienced in a studio. And it changed my life because… Music is my life, so seeing how someone works like that and gives themselves completely to the music and to the moment, that taught me how much further you can go. I think about it in my experience with Dave every day of my life, it crosses my mind.
It sounds grueling.
Andrew Wessen: It was insane. I had a complete nervous breakdown about halfway through the second time. We were there two weeks and then we were there another month straight. I had a complete absolute breakdown, and it was not Dave’s fault at all, it was just situational, with… I had family stuff, I had just fallen in love with someone and I couldn’t be with her, and there was just a bunch of crazy shit and I was trapped in the middle of a corn farm in a… Basically, middle of nowhere. And was just… We started building thirty-foot fires every day. And literally I was building the biggest bonfire as I could, just because I was… I don’t even know… I was so deep in this chaotic headspace. But that’s why… Like, “It’s beautiful that someone took me to that place, this late in my creativity in life,” you know what I mean? Not late… I’m not 80, but I’m not an 8-year-old kid in my bedroom. We’ve made a bunch of records, we’ve done a bunch of shit, and we toured a bunch. And for someone to… Took our band and me into a space that was so different and intense and unusual, four albums in, was really, really special.
Besides Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Queen, maybe Pink Floyd, I can't think of many bands who get better and better in time and where the debut isn't the one that they always go back to, you know?
Andrew Wessen: Yeah, I think, I didn’t expect that level, the depths of it… I didn’t know what that experience would be with Dave, but we kinda knew… Like I said, his reputation precedes him and for a reason, I think, for a good reason. There’s just a lot of self-congratulating, you know? In the music business, there’s a lot of… We worked with Malay for one song, and he’s a legend. I mean, he just makes these crazy records, and that was in a time that we really needed it, ’cause Hannah was going through really heavy shit with her brain surgery, it was coming up at this point, and we needed that really positive studio experience. We did that in LA. It was much more just like rolling, “let’s create an amazing song” event and record it… And so it’s like complete apples and oranges. Both of them were so integral to the record and informed the experience so much… I go back in my mind to the days saying so often, it was just like… It’s just rare in life that you’re really pushed and find yourself in a situation that you realize in the moment, “Woah, my entire world is… I’m being pushed into something that’s transformative.” It really is changing me, and I’m watching it happen in real-time. With Dave, the part that was so amazing was every single thing on that record is the very first thing anyone played. I’m saying the very first thing… You had one, maybe two takes. That was it. Every track we thought was like the demo, “Oh, we’re gonna come back and redo this later. Oh yeah… “, he’d be like, “Why are you gonna change that? That’s when you played it when you weren’t thinking.” The only thing… He would be like, “Stop being a musician.” And I love that, ’cause it’s true. Musicians, all we wanna do is, “Oh, I need to rehearse the part and play it perfectly and… ” But if you play… The moment you play it perfectly, it’s just… You play 40 takes, you’ve lost it. Whatever that initial swagger, human feeling you had with it, it’s gone.
So, he helped capture the magic?
Andrew Wessen: And he recognizes that. It’s like the very first thing, the very first idea… Just, that’s it. That’s it. Just let it be, don’t fuck with it. Your first intuition is always right. So, just stuff like that, where it’s just like it’s… We could have made a very over-calculated record. I mean, we’re not that type of band. We’re normally pretty… We can go into a room together and write up… We can write fucking five songs in one sitting. But there’s a way, with the studio, especially with the modern world, where you can do so many takes over again, and there’s a way of over-thinking everything, but it’s cool that someone’s way more just like, “Dude, just fucking trust your gut. Just go for it.” You would just be like, “Thank you… ” He’d be like, “You’re a 15-year-old in the bedroom. Do you literally… ” Like Dan… [chuckle] Dan, I think, redid one bassline, he was like, “It’s too good.” He was like, “It’s too… ” Dan… There was one bass… A bassline Dan tried to go back and do… Dan… Or Dave was like, “Why?” And Dan was like, “Let me just try it.” We A-B’d it and it was just… The original one that’s done like 5:00 AM, high as fuck, whatever, it was just better.
It just has that essence, you can’t… It’s like with Stones’ record, man. You put it on, it just feels good. Do you think those guys were… They probably weren’t sitting there doing 50 takes. They probably just… They got in the room together and they fucking banged it out in real-time. And I think that’s… You get lost in the record process, I think, sometimes so much in the pursuit of perfection, that you forget that, that’s not the point. The point isn’t to be perfect, it’s just to have it and capture an essence that you only have when you throw your head back and forget what you’re doing. You know?
I love it.
Andrew Wessen: Let yourself just go. Let yourself be in the moment. And not hyper-focusing on, “Oh, I gotta get that fucking chord right…”
I love your passion. It was organic: The sessions were organic. I would agree, Healer might be Grouplove's best album yet – but what makes you say that? Why do you think that?
Andrew Wessen: Well, if I didn’t think that the best thing we’re making right now is the best thing, or whatever we made, then that would be pathetic. [chuckle] You know what I mean? It’s like, I don’t want to… It’s artists, when they’re like… They hand you their new record… Or it used be hand you, now they’ll be like, “Listen to my new record… ” Or they talk to other bands, they’re like, “Will you listen to my first record?” I’m like, “Well, that’s kind of odd.” You should wanna be like, “I wanna hear what you just did.” I personally, with friends, I’m like, “Can I just hear what you made in your bedroom?” that’s like the rawest of shit, the most recent. But I think it is. I think it’s where we’re at as a band, we’ve evolved, and it’s incredible. We started playing all this… The ‘Healer’, ’cause we were flying up to Northern California, we played all the ‘Healer’ tracks and we played the whole record, end to end, and we were just blown away, ’cause we hadn’t actually sat in any sort of way, and played it.
Some of it… So much of it was just… 80% of it was just spontaneous stuff, so. I don’t know, it’s just… I feel it’s speaking to the times in a way that we never have or at least, in a more deliberate way. And I just think sonically, the evolution, it feels like this is just wide, lush record… I think it is awesome. I think, for me, really, truthfully, the experiences, both with Dave and Malay… The older I get, the more I self-reflect. It’s those kind of things that, that attaches so much meaning to it. So, for me, the experience of making this record and having the ups and downs, and these life-altering experiences like that informs my listening of it. That makes me…
When I hear these songs, I’m taken to these moments. With “Youth”, I remember the… It’s the… I don’t know what… It used to be the second song, but I think now it got moved to the fifth song or something, on the record. I remember when we finished that, we… The sun was already up, it was like 9:00 in the morning. We hopped in the car and Dave… With Dave, and we drove into El Paso and we went to a fireworks store, and went to a guitar shop, and we came back like 2:00 in the morning, we’d been up for two days, at this point… And I’ll never forget just being in the back of the car and just blasting that song. And that’s an experience that when I hear that, it gives me the chill… I still remember that so vividly. And it’s rare, making records, that you can have these… I can think of a moment, pretty much, with every song, where it’s such a specific, beautiful memory that’s so intense that when I hear the record, it has this weight that none of our records do because… Honestly, because, like I’m saying, you evolve too. Every record was super important. Everything was leading into the next chapter, and it’s allowed us to do what we’ve done for 10 years.
So it’s no… It’s not saying our other records aren’t great, I love all the records ’cause it’s all part of my life, and everyone who’s involved, Sean and Ryan, everyone involved in these records played a huge role. And we meet kids all over the world who, these songs mean so much to them. And so everyone’s part along the way and was integral and so important, and the records themselves are so important, but I obviously feel that this record is Grouplove at its best, for sure.
It's been a long three plus years since you released Big Mess…
Andrew Wessen: That long?
Yeah! At the time, one of our writers described it as “a clear and mature step, complete with uplifting ideals and outlined positivity.” The idea was that Big Mess was almost opposite what the actual record was. It was so full of hope, and it felt very mature for the band at the time. If we can simplify things – and maybe we can't – if Big Mess was full of hope, what do you think Healer is full of?
Andrew Wessen: I don’t know. I feel like that’s a tough one. I’d have to think about that. If you wanted one concise answer, I’m like, “I don’t fucking know, man.” There’s just so much life jammed in there and just experience and expression, and… I don’t know, I’d have to think about it. I’d have to think about what… I’ve never really thought about what’s one over-arching theme that unites the whole record.
Why did the name become Healer?
Andrew Wessen: I mean, it’s just a lot of… Why is the name ‘Healer’? Well, we all, through the process, we all basically realized that this record healed us, is sort of the idea. Everyone went through some crazy shit… Yeah, so it’s more like the record’s a healer. We’re not saying we’re healers. It’s like the record healed us and maybe the record can heal you, is sort of what it was saying. Because we were all going through fucked up shit, personal shit; Hannah with her brain surgery, and this record, the process of making this record is actually what healed us and also brought our band to a level of closeness that is incredible. And I’m really grateful. But obviously, through that, there was a lot of ups and downs and that’s why the name actually makes more sense to me. It’s having to go through so much of that alone and together, and how this record and the process of making the record healed us as people and healed us as a band. So that’s the idea behind the name.
Maybe that's kind of the theme. Just Healer is dead on.
Andrew Wessen: Yeah, that’s… Yeah, maybe it’s self-explanatory.
“Deleter” ushered in the new decade as Healer’s lead single in January, but why introduce the album with this song?
Christian Zucconi: We are fed up with the world around us, and needed to blow off some steam. “Deleter” came out of a four hour jam and woke us up. Honestly I hope it wakes everybody up so we can collectively make a greater change.
Andrew Wessen: It’s kind of multiple reasons, but we wrote that song actually in Northern California at Hannah’s… Hannah’s family has a house out in the woods in Northern California. And we wrote that song about 4:00 AM, just deep and like an eyes rolled back situation… We wrote a whole guitar record that is maybe gonna come out, I don’t know, but that was one of the songs that immediately, we were, “That’s just… ” And most of the lyrics came right away. It’s one of those super immediate ones that we always knew when we had it. We were, “This is really special.” And then we went to Dave, and Dave just elevated this whole other level by bringing in piano and just giving it this, I don’t know what, vibe. I don’t even know what the vibe is, just a fucking barn burner. And we didn’t want to come out like any of this synthy pop band, we wanted to just come out flinging. And we never wavered on that song being the first, the first one; it just always was the song that we were… And we had a lot of pushback from those who shall not be mentioned. There was definitely people who… In the non-creative parts of the camp that had other ideas, but we always as a band knew that, that was the song we all wanted to come out first. Especially because lyrically too, it was a reflection of the times. We thought it was important to address… Yeah. It’s like whatever side you’re on, whatever. It’s just, if you’re making art, you should be reflecting and at least, addressing what is going on in the world, whatever you fucking… However the fuck you feel. And so we thought it was important on those two levels. It was just like, we believed it as artists sonically and we believed in it lyrically, and we felt like if you’re coming out after that long, you can’t just have some wimpy song… Which I don’t think any of the songs on the album are wimpy, but you know what I mean. We felt it had to be a real Tyson uppercut, not like a… Not swinging at the air.
It's explosive. Anybody could listen to the song and you can kind of go on whatever side you want to go on, but it's a rebuke of leadership not living up to their potential, and that kind of makes it both of the moment and timeless. That's amazing.
Andrew Wessen: Yeah, and with “Promises,” I think I actually brought it up once already, but I love the lyrics in that ’cause it’s kind of the same thing, where it’s like, “Nobody’s been keeping their promises, somebody better keep their promises,” the chorus going over and over again, it’s the same thing, where it’s like, however the fuck you feel, it’s calling people out on being fucking phonies, on frauds, on being hypocrites. And that’s believing in a way too, just that sentiment of like the modern world, modernity, the age of information, but the disconnection between people in the age of information, when everyone should be the closest they’ve ever been because everything’s so easy, but everyone’s miles apart. That’s the essence of the song. And to me, obviously, Christian would be more of a person to talk to about the depths of that, as the lyricist. But from what I absorbed in our obviously many deep hangs regarding the song, [chuckle] that’s the two cents on it but…
No, I love it. It's one of those things where... I would expect a band like Cold War Kids to make a song this. I don't want you to take offense to this because I think this just speaks again to the band's growth, but the fact that this is Grouplove, it's, “Whoa. This is the next generation.”
Andrew Wessen: Yes. We’ve been one of those bands where I don’t really know what our sound is. I don’t know when people are, “What’s the new record sounds like?” Well I’m like, “I don’t know what… ” It’s like you’re constantly… When you’re in it, and we’ve been in it for so long, I don’t really know, even looking back 10 years, what is our definitive sonic soundscape. I don’t fucking know. I know we love fucking loud guitars and running around and jumping off shit. And I know who we are live ’cause we’re just like a fucking wild animal. But I think in the studio, we’re still… We’re open to so much. We’re children of the 20th century. We have absorbed so much dope shit, so much good music, that I think there’s a lot of that in this record. There’s just a lot of amazing, cool soundscapes and vibes, and the songs are really well-written, and I think there’s something for everybody.
I think the rock dudes will be like, “Fuck yes, they made a rock record.” And the people who are into the dance synths, they’d be like, “Fuck, there’s insane synth shit in there.” You know what I mean? There’s something for everybody in the record, I think. In a good way. Sometimes a band does that, then you’re like, “No, they should have just stayed the rock band… ” But I feel like there’s really good… The best of the best of what we had of all those sounds on this record, which is really cool.
Literally, there are so many soundscapes just as you go through it. You got big vocal harmonies on “Inside Out,” you got these shimmering synths on “Expectations,” you have “E-I-E-I-O” on “The Great Unknown”…
Andrew Wessen: [chuckle] Yeah. Which is a song about fuckin’, people like farmers, and “Bless the farmer planting the seeds.” It’s about the love of the Earth. That song’s about respect for the farmers, which honestly, people… That came from us sitting down there with Dave and talking to him about people living off the Earth and the connection with the Earth and stuff. And not even in a hippy-dippy way. That’s just being like, “Damn, people actually grow our fucking food and we don’t even acknowledge these people, really.” People can get so high and mighty in the cities. I’m a city slicker, I get it. But you’re so far away from your food source… You know what I mean? You’re so far away from the people who actually feed you. It’s crazy. And it was just a way of being… The plight of those type of people… Talking about the landlord and shit like kicking them off their land, and shit like… So that’s a reflection of major companies coming in and fucking buying up shit, kicking long-term people off their land, the farmers off their land… So in that way, yeah, the structure… There’s so many lyrical moments that are just poignant, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that.
Christian Zucconi: We wrote this song one afternoon in LA. We were admiring these massive beautifully pruned marijuana plants and how much love and care it takes to grow just one. It got us talking about all the unsung heroes in this world – farmers, teachers, restaurant workers, etc. things we have all been apart of or our parents did to raise us. This song is an ode to selflessness and honest work.
This song to me is also... The thing about this song which is really cool to me is that it's catchy, but it's also really critical.
Andrew Wessen: Yeah. Exactly, yeah. I love that song. It’s gonna be a mainstay, I hope. It’s hard as you evolve and… Playing for years, you’re like, “What the fuck is the setlist gonna be?” You still have to play… You don’t have to, but you acknowledge that there’s kids, a lot of the time, the first time seeing you, and they still wanna hear “Tongue Tied”, “Ways to Go”, “Colors”, and “Welcome to Your Life”. They wanna hear all these songs that they’ve had moments in their life to. And then yet, as a band, you wanna evolve and play the songs that to you, in the moment, are the most meaningful. Every band’s gone through that challenge since the beginning of time.
To be honest, I saw Arctic Monkeys one or two years ago, right when their new album had come out, and I was so impressed. They just were, “Fuck everybody else. We're gonna play the new shit, and you can deal.” And that was just, “Yeah, man. Just do you.”
Andrew Wessen: You know what? Yeah. It’s like, “Finally, someone just… ” I definitely think it’s good… It’s hard ’cause Hannah and Christian go so hard in singing, it’s such a visceral performance every night in a no-bullshit, non-scripted way, that I think they would sing 30 songs a night, but I just don’t know if you can actually fucking physically do it. You know what I mean? [laughter] The way they go is like it’s so heavy. I don’t know, Bruce Springsteen, he’s a fucking… He’s a freak of nature, God bless him, that shit’s crazy. When you can play a concert for three and a half hours on, you’re fuckin’… You’re gnarly, dude.
“The night’s so young, let’s set it on fire – we’re just kids,” we hear in “Youth.” “That’s just my youth taking over, that’s just the truth, come over.” Christian, what’s this song about, to you?
Christian Zucconi: We are all young at heart.
“There’s a place we’re all running from, but we don’t know how to get there,” you poetically sing in “Places.” Can you tell me more about this song?
Christian Zucconi: When I knew my wife’s head was gonna get cut open I felt trapped and wasn’t sure if I could be the person I needed to be for my family, my band and myself.
I feel like a lot of Healer’s songs come from a place of not cynicism, but disillusionment. You took off the rose-colored glasses, and suddenly things are a little more complicated than they used to be.
Christian Zucconi: Yeah during the making of this record we were going through some really uncomfortable and personal stuff – Hannah got brain surgery and that shit was scary. The World has always been a mess, but when your wife and mother of your child might be dying you look at life a little differently.
Andrew Wessen: I think there’s… The things we even just talked about, like “Deleter” and farmer a little bit, and definitely “Promises”… I have to have the track list in front of me, I don’t fucking know, but… But there’s that… It’s kind of the experience of life, there’s a balance, there’s also the expectations of the records… Sometimes it’s fucking heavy and world-heavy, but sometimes you just wanna fucking jump around and get on the dance floor, and fucking run… Just knock into some people and fucking flail your arms and do weird shit, I think that’s that type of song. So there’s moments on the record that… And “Everything” is kind of a beautiful song. It’s sort of like being like, “This is everything I wanted,” and… It’s this closing track that’s optimistic.
“This is Everything”?
Andrew Wessen: It’s funny, I think the original lyric was, “This is everything I ever wanted.” And I think we were so screwed up… We were in such a crazy place mentally in the studio that we… The lyric actually just changed unknowingly ’til we had it mastered that it was… It ended up being I think, “This is even more than I could ask for.” But the original lyric was supposed to be, “This is everything I ever wanted.” And no one caught it ’til it was mastered and we were like, “Well, I fucking guess that’s just what the lyric is now.” [laughter] That’s why “Everything” is… Yeah, that’s a true story. It’s still called “Everything”… Which, I don’t think there’s any deeper meaning by “Everything,” but I’m not sure, I’d have to listen to it.
Christian Zucconi: We see this song as a celebration of living in the moment. We thought closing the record with this would leave our listeners with a sense of relief, we made it.
You were talking about stuff being heavy and stuff being light. I really feel the second half of the album with songs like “Promises” and “Ahead of Myself,” “Burial” and even “Hail To The Queen,” it feels heavy!
Andrew Wessen: I fucking love “Hail To The Queen”, dude.
It's so good, but it's so complicated.
Andrew Wessen: That’s my shit. I fucking love that song. I would’ve put that song in way earlier, honestly. I think that song is brilliant, but that’s my own feeling. I’m not saying that to the world.
Why do you think that?
Andrew Wessen: It’s my personal feeling… I think brilliant is a weird word, I wouldn’t say that. I just feel like it’s… I just love that song, the way it evolves, it has just loopings around and then Christian just goes through these so many moods of his voice, when he talks about soldiers and war… And then there’s this beautiful chorus that’s so positive and optimistic. I don’t know, I just love that song. And it makes you wait so long for the chorus… But when the chorus hits, it’s just such a payoff to me. I always had a special feeling about that song. In the three choruses too, it’s just like, “All we need is a little cooperation, I swear we can always work it out…” That shit, I’m just like… It’s so positive and just lights in front of me. I just love that song.
What would you do if I told ya
That the world is fillin’ with soldiers?
I’d tell you what I’d do if I were you
I’d get out from under the covers
And gather all the lovers
And teach this foolish world a thing or two
Don’t need to be stressed out or left out, we’re with you
It’s always better together, we’re with you
I been chasin’ rabbits all my life
Down the deepest hole to the other side
One thing that I learned along the way
There will be no nightmares of where I went
All we need is a little cooperation
I swear we can do almost anything
I can’t believe my luck
I’ve got another chance
I’m gonna hail to the queen of hearts
Oh, shine your light on me
No, I can’t believe my luck
I’ve got another chance
I’m gonna hail to the queen of hearts
Oh, shine your light on me
I listen to these songs and I feel like Grouplove have found a way to translate dark subjects into such compelling music.
Andrew Wessen: I think that’s kind of been the thing… I can’t really tell, light, heavy, which is funny. We did basically so many of these songs… Some of these songs from the beginning of our band. Especially Hannah and Christian, I’ve watched them, it would be like this dark, sad beautiful song, and then once it’s closer to the end, it always evolves into this more optimistic… It’s something that we bring the optimism of each other, I don’t know how or why. ‘Cause all of us alone can be self-deprecating, depressing… We can be depressing and hard on ourselves. And when we get together… I don’t know, there’s something about the group that brings joy and positivity out of each other, which, I don’t know… It’s the joy, it’s what’s so great about being in a band and not being a solo act, you know… That’s the way we’ve done for 10 years.
You were very close to saying, “There's something about the group that brings out the love.”
Andrew Wessen: [laughter] You wanted me to say that so bad! [laughter] No, but seriously that’s… It’s true. I don’t know, we’re a family. Especially at this point, shit, man. It’s been… There’s 10 years we’ve spent together, it’s crazy. It’s a long time.
So, what artists are you listening to right now that you would recommend for our readers to go check out in addition to your band?
Andrew Wessen: Well, I live with my girlfriend, her name’s Willow Avalon, and she plays indie music… She’s probably the only band I actually listen to. The band we were taking out was Le Shiv – they’re like my best friends – their singer’s always sending me unreleased music, and they’re genius. And then I went to the Andy Shauf, he’s fucking amazing. I don’t know, we listen to weird shit at home, we listen to like weird ’40s music, shit that no one’s gonna want to look into probably. But on that note, just the records and the musicianship in those songs – they’re some of my favorite songs ever. I appreciate your time, dude, it’s been nice to talking to you!
You too, thank you so much!
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📸 © James Marcus Haney
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