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Touring the world, having a baby and 'Big Mess': Getting to know Grouplove

12 February 2018 | 11:11 am | Emma Jones

Indie darlings turned global stars, GROUPLOVE don't need an introduction to Australian audiences. With countless tours, festival appearances and sold out shows under their belt, the band have developed a strong bond with this country over their eight years of international touring. Their third studio album, Big Mess, was released back in 2016 and marked a new direction for the band thanks to the addition of lead singers Christian and Hannah's child and Hannah's stronger creative contribution in the form of outstanding songwriting and an emboldened sense of self. Naturally, it was a hit here in Australia, and now the band are finally here bringing it to their legions of adoring fans live.

Things have changed a lot for the band, but their knack for writing songs that fill your heart with warmth and love has never changed and it's what makes them such a special band. With an unwavering respect for their fans, Grouplove cherish the moments shared with their listeners all over the world, and strive and crave that genuine connection and community everywhere they go. With Big Mess serving as the end result of years of touring and having to readjust to life now as a huge force on the international circuit, it's a cathartic and heartfelt record that brings fans even closer into their world.

We caught up with the band to chat changes, creativity and what's still to come. Having already played in Brisbane last week, you can catch them in Melbourne and Sydney this week with more details below.

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You’re heading back to Australia, which must be exciting for you since you’ve said that we are one of your biggest audiences. How has touring changed for you as a band since your first shows back in 2011 to now that you’re presumably older and wiser?

Australia is like a second home to us now. Of course touring has changed a bit over the last 7 or 8 years, we have a few crew now and the stages are a bit bigger but the spirit of the whole thing is still the same. We still love performing same as we did when we were jumping around the practice space back in 2010. We’re maybe a bit more haggard looking because we’ve lived hard as hell for the last 8 years but we’re still just a bunch of weirdos thrashing about recklessly on stage and screaming at people. I don't think we’ve lost any of that crazy energy that has defined us from the beginning. 

Hannah has spoken about she’s felt really liberated and powerful over the past year - how has this influenced the band when approaching new music or touring? Has it reinvigorated  as a whole? 

Hannah is a legend, she’s like my sister and the bad kid from high school who gets you to do all the things you know you probably shouldn’t. Her mind is wild and free and has no real boundaries, her approach to songwriting isn't restricted by the limitations most musicians face. She’s constantly inspiring me and the rest of the band. When she’s invigorated it rubs off on everyone. I’m lucky to have inspiring people around me, especially in the same band. There's a lot of great musicians in the world but few people can truly create in a limitless headspace like her. 

Can you tell me a little bit about ‘Remember That Night’? It’s one of my favourite songs on the album – it takes me back to being a teenager and falling in love for the first time and experiencing heartbreak. What were you drawing on for that song? How do you go about writing about heartbreak and love without sounding cliché?

I remember Hannah playing me the demo on a late night drive home from some show somewhere in the States. The window was cracked and the night breeze was whipping through the car. It was so instant and classic feeling that we knew we had to do something right away with the song. We decided that we shouldn’t wait to put it on a future album but instead to be spontaneous and just put it out mid album cycle. It was fun to watch something come into fruition and released to the world so quickly. Its a shame how long it takes for most albums to see the light of day. Many times as a band you’ve mentally moved on to a new sonic sphere by the time a record comes out, but this time we got to throw it down and shove it out there and it was a great experience. You’d have to speak to her specifically about the certain sentiment but I think you’ve kinda hit the nail on the head in terms of the feeling of boundless love and its eventual transformation into paradise-lost that so many of us have experienced with a loved one. I think that she’s tapping into that here. If I’m reading it wrong she’ll call me out for it and I’ll blame you. 

And of course, the #RememberThatNight movement on social media was beautiful - does something like this movement inspire you to continue creating these kind of really heartfelt, intimate but fun songs in the future? Does it excite you of the direction the band is heading in now given its huge impact on the world?

Social media is a strange, it can instantly connect you and also isolate you completely from one another. In this case it was a positive experience and it was fun to get a glimpse into the lives of so many people who have come to our shows over the years. It's amazing to see some of the same faces that we saw 8 years ago when we were starting out. It sounds cliche but we live for this shit, performing live has been our focus and the lifeblood of this band since day one. It's good to know that its translating and that there are still bodies swaying in the venues. 

You’ve said that it’s always really exciting for you to get to know your fans along the way. Do you feel as though you’ve accumulated a big family throughout the years? How important is that sense of community to you when you’re on the road?

Ya like I was saying there are people who have been coming to shows for the better part of a decade which is insane to me. It blows my mind when people tell me they've seen us 5, 7, 10 times and in different places in the world. The fact that this band has taken us to every corner of the globe never ceases to humble and amaze me. Believe me, we are grateful beyond words that people still come out to the shows. We are still as fired up as ever, actually it feels like we’re just getting started.

You’ve always had an indie quality about you, but recently you’ve moved into stadium shows and supporting the likes of Imagine Dragons - a completely different world from the ‘Itching on a Photograph’ days! Has being in that kind of pop machine influenced you or your music in any way? How have you taken to playing huge rooms but still maintaining that intimacy your live shows have always had? 

The best part of playing big shows is that we have a ton of space to go completely mental on stage. I love playing tiny shows and arenas, I actually think its harder to play a tiny room with someone standing 6 inches from your face, watching everything that you do. There's somewhat of a disconnect in those cavernous rooms but it's fun to bridge that gap and make the person in the back of the room care. And it's possible! You have to earn it, and I know that we loved rising to the challenge every night. I'm not sure there’s a “pop machine” or if there is it didn't affect us. We just do what do no matter where we are or who we’re playing for. I look at it as a chance to share what you do with a lot of new faces. It also challenges you as a band to step out of your comfort zone and walk into a massive room of people and prove yourself. It builds character and makes you a better band. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Of course playing to your own crowd will always be ideal but there's something incredibly fulfilling walking out to an apathetic crowd and within a couple songs you have the whole place on their feet. 

It’s so amazing that such a joyous and anthemic record could come from such chaotic times while you were making Big Mess. What were some of the things you learned along the way that you think you might take into future creative times? 

It's been a crazy journey from Never Trust… to Spreading Rumours to Big Mess. Hannah and Christian have been able to maintain the passion for this band while dealing with such seismic changes in their life and I give them massive props for that. Raising a kid in the back of a tour bus, waking up at all hours of the night and then trying to keep a relationship together, a band together and sing for an hour and a half a night. Maybe it seems easy from the outside but try it for a week and you’d be surprised how many people would buckle. It's the best job in the world but it's not an easy job. The thing is we still still love each other, and we still love making music together. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, we’ve fought and had really rough times but we’re human beings, what can you expect? I spend more time with these guys than I do my family, probably 300 days a year. Can you imagine? I promise you that you’d probably never want to see even your best friend after that much time together. But somehow through it all we’re in the best place we’ve ever been and we’ve begun to write the best album of our lives. I honestly am so excited to watch this chapter unfold and to share all this love and creativity with the world. 

Christian spoke about how Hannah has been writing a lot and coming into her own - obviously going through a period of chaos and emerging out the other side stronger than ever serves for some pretty great inspiration. How is it revisiting the songs now, after this period has been over, on the road in front of your fans? I imagine it would be an emotional experience!

We still argue over the set list every night! There are so many songs we love that don’t get played live anymore because we’ve released a good amount of tunes at this point and you’ve only got so much time on stage. Lately we’ve been mixing up the set a bunch and that's been fun, it challenges you as a band and keeps you from getting lazy. It's fun to see some faces light up when you pull a random one out of the bag. 

You’ve now got three albums under your belt, but you’ve been widely loved in Australia for years, so fans will be eager to revisit the classics as well! We’re all eager to know what we can expect from your tour? 

We’re going to do the only thing we know how to do: kill it.

Grouplove play The Croxton Bandroom in Melbourne on Tuesday 13th February and Metro Theatre in Sydney on Thursday 15th February. Ticket details here.

Big Mess is out now.

Image: Supplied

Interview by Emma Jones and Camilla Patini