The pandemic has been a period of isolation for many, as has been the case for Grouplove’s Hannah Hooper, Christian Zucconi, and Daniel Gleason. After not seeing nor playing music with each other for over six months, the band decided to record an impromptu album on the low in October of 2020 as an expression of what they were feeling at the time. The result is the record, “This Is This,” an album forged in the depths of their individual selves coming together to lay bare something raw and relatable as a collective. Over the course of our conversation, Hannah, Christian, and Daniel provide a window into the album’s unique creation process and the liberating feeling of transmuting your true self through music.
How was making an album during the pandemic?
Christian Zucconi: We made it in October and hadn’t seen each other since the lockdown started in March, 2020.
Daniel Gleason: The day our last album came out was the last time we saw each other.
Christian Zucconi: So it was a beautiful thing to see each other again and realize we’re still real and can still make music. We made the album in nine days and it became a really nice, organic re-awakening for all of us.
Did you all come in with ideas and themes that you wanted to talk about or did you discover that in the room?
Christian Zucconi: It was a little bit of both. We’d worked on some ideas before, but when we got together, the energy in the room was potent that the music just happened. It was awesome.
Daniel Gleason: One thing we talked about beforehand was capturing that energy and not spending too much time getting prepared. We wanted to capture on the record the sound of us playing together for the first time in over six months and just letting that be what it was. That was the only goal we really talked about prior. Like whatever happens, let’s just capture that.
So you were prepared to not shy away from any emotion or feeling or—
Hannah Hooper, Daniel Gleason: Mistakes.
Hannah Hooper: But those become the beautiful moments. Normally, there’s so much time [to record] and so many people involved on the outside. This was just Grouplove making the album, without anyone else knowing we were writing or recording, and without any outside pressure. We were just like, “Let’s be exactly who we are right now and just record that.” There was no, “There needs to be a hit! You guys have to write ‘Tongue Tied’ follow-up!” We were just like, this is this, this is us right now, this is this album during a pandemic and this is how we’re feeling. There was total honesty without even really knowing what the outcome would be. We didn’t know if we were going to release the work or not. We just wanted to make music together.
Will you use this approach for creating future records?
Hannah Hooper: I think the biggest thing we’re taking from this is to know that we are the artists and we know what we want to make, and there’s no other source than ourselves that should be creating for us. The reason I’m an artist is to learn about myself, exactly where I am, and to share that. That, in its truest form, is the goal. “This Is This” is the closest to that goal I personally feel we’ve ever been, especially as a collective album. It’s honestly the most vulnerable I’ve ever felt on an album and the most nervous I’ve ever felt about putting out an album because there’s no censorship on it. It’s just us. [Laughs] This is this.
It’s crazy how vulnerable you can feel when you’re free. That’s where the beauty is in music. It’s not a super well-produced album, but it’s the freedom of self-expression, which was at the core of what we were trying to do.
It’s super cool how you were able to go into the album with that intention and see it through.
Hannah Hooper: From the creation of the songs to putting out this album, we were the only people critiquing it. To have no outside sources is a beautiful thing.
What we’ve taken from this time is that we have a guttural feeling when responding to anything, even if it’s simply what you’re going to eat for lunch. You know what you want. Maybe you know there’s a healthier option, but you know what you want. We went into this album knowing what we wanted and it’s been a beautiful lesson in trusting yourself.
Trusting yourself and the expression of trusting yourself embodies this album. Is that something people will relate to more because it’s part of the album’s DNA?
Hannah Hooper: The more honest you are the more you reflect. If we as a band are a reflection, that’s what we’re hoping to give. We want people to see themselves in our music and I think the more honest you are with yourself and the more you share, the more people respond to that.
Christian Zucconi: We all have an innate bullshit detector and I think people will feel that there is no bullshit.
Daniel Gleason: Even on a larger scale, I feel like art is about communication, feeling connected to other people in the world, and being able to put off that sense of loneliness that exists somewhere all the time.
The more honest you are, the more you get to see who a real person is, and you feel more connected to it. It doesn’t necessarily matter that you can identify with their actual experiences, it’s the honesty in knowing that people go through their own struggles and their own joys and being able to connect to those emotions that other people are having that ultimately makes you feel whole to listen to. It gives you the sense that there are people out there who go through and experience similar things, and that we’re all going to be “okay” because of it.
Hannah Hooper: I also think this experience was about really learning to love myself. There was no presentation going into the album, it was more “This is who I am. These are the dark crevasses in my body that are letting out.” When we were writing, I was just letting out sounds. It was like a new voice for me, it was more aggressive. Things that I would normally express through yoga or other means I needed to let come out through the music, and in doing so, I could feel myself loving myself.
To understand the complexity of each of us individually is the beauty of the album. I think Grouplove has always been presented in one light, which is that we are a group of love and we have this upbeat thing. But actually, just like everyone, we’re very complex people and there’s a darkness to that, there’s an aggression to that—and that’s what’s beautiful. This new album is really about how “love” is loving all of who you are.
Would you say “digging deeper” and exploring all areas of your being is the new norm for you creatively?
Hannah Hooper: We’re always growing. Tonally, a guitar note that Christian hits or a bass note Dan hits—that emotes different things. You can’t predict the shape of the song, but the [different] way we were playing shaped our current album and it made me realize I can write as a “whole” rather than write as a “part.” I can write from all areas of my soul, it doesn’t have to be filtered, and that that’s okay because it will subsequently create the most honest and present music. At the end of the day, I want to get to know myself, I want to get to know this band, and I want to grow. The only way to do that is to be vulnerable.
It’s also being okay with not knowing what the future holds. It’s in the unknown that the most crazy shit happens, right? Like, that thing—that knot—that’s been in me for ten years that I just released – you realized it wasn’t as big a deal as you thought it was. Releasing it actually feels good. And that is something that someone is going to relate to, the sound, the lyrics, the scream—whatever it is—that’s going to be the thing.
Christian Zucconi: It was so exciting to see Hannah discover this voice in the room and to hear it come out of her, all powerful and amazing. She sings all the songs on this album and that’s a new thing for her in this band and everyone was completely on board. There was never a discussion of, “Well, Christian, you normally sing,” it was more, this is this. There’s no way I could sing the songs as well as she’s singing them and I would never even try. It was so natural, no one ever second guessed anything. She had to be singing these songs and to express herself through them. To see the discovery in real time—it’s such a cool thing to be a part of and listen to. Hannah sounds like such a badass.
Daniel Gleason: There were a few moments where we would all look around and everyone’s eyes were big when Hannah would open up on something and start singing on it. We were like, “Oh shit, I didn’t know she could do that.”
Hannah Hooper: I didn’t even know I could do that! It was really me saying, “I am safe here with my band and I am ready to let go.” That’s what this album is.
Daniel Gleason: It’s a trust fall.
Christian Zucconi: And it’s the first time we’ve ever felt that way, too. In all the years we’ve been a band.
It sounds like being apart for so long brought you closer together than ever before.
Hannah Hooper: Definitely.
Daniel Gleason: I think for everybody, this last year through the pandemic has in some form laid bare what’s most important in your life, and it’s also revealed some things that weren’t necessary or that were unhealthy. Certainly for us, the ability to play music and scream and show these different sides of our personalities is something that we needed more than ever. The journey for this album was to capture that on the record and let it be the sound of the band naturally.
Hannah Hooper: It’s such a physical album to sing and perform. We were so physical in the room and that physiciality adds this other element that’s so primal. Throwing our bodies around was so…cathartic. Everyone needs to write this album.
Did cannabis play any role in the album’s creation?
Christian Zucconi: Cannabis always plays a role—at least for me—in creative land. It helps me clear out all the bullshit and lets me focus in on that inner voice and subconscious spirit that I normally have trouble accessing in the day to day. Personally, I always love to get high and write music.
Daniel Gleason: From Christian, I’ve learned to open up and start smoking more during the music creation process and as he said, it helps get you to the source. It helps you focus internally in a way that drinking does not. Drinking makes you want to party. When I smoke, I don’t really want to party, I want to get closer to the source of what I’m trying to work on and why. You start to ask the right kind of questions and you stop caring about the wrong kind of questions.
Hannah Hooper: I feel like whether I’m smoking or vaping, it’s more of a ceremonial thing for me. It’s celebratory. I particularly like smoking with my dad. He’s my dude to smoke with because he’s got that sixties, trippy vibe and we just hoot at owls when we’re out in nature. I can get kind of paranoid with urban smoking.
What do you hope is the ultimate take away from “This Is This” for fans and listeners?
Hannah Hooper: When I listen to bands who are honest, there is a definite release. I want people to listen to this and let their body let go. We’re all uptight, we’re all looking at screens, everyone is trying to portray the greatest version of themselves—there’s so much pressure these days—and we’re isolated. Put the record on, turn the volume up, and just let the fuck go. No one is going to do it for you. This album is 35 minutes. You don’t have to go on our journey, but I’m telling you, there is such honesty in this album you are going to feel great after listening to it.
Follow @grouplove and check out their new album, “This Is This” now available everywhere