One of the more affable bands to land in recent memory is Grouplove. Brought together by a series of events that frankly sounds too weird to be fabricated, the five-piece coalesces in a mix of punchy vocals, tight harmonies, and youthful abandon. They are an "LA band," but their story begins beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. The tale is best told by the band itself. Its members collectively recalled Grouplove's origins via email while on tour:
"Maybe it starts the night [singer] Hannah [Hooper] met [lead singer and guitarist] Christian [Zucconi] at one of his acoustic shows in New York in the summer of 2008. Their connection was instantaneous and they ended up listening to tapes under the Brooklyn Bridge until the wee hours of the morning. Hannah had just been invited to an artist's residency in the small village of Avdou, Crete and was set to leave in a week. She was worried that if she left she would never have contact with Christian again, so she invited him...and he said yes. They sold everything they had to buy the ticket and sublet their apartments. [Guitarist] Andrew [Wessen]'s brother set up the residency, which brought Andrew out there. They also set up a small music festival in the town, for which a group of musicians were making a pilgrimage to play. [Bassist] Sean [Gadd] had come with a group of musicians from London to play. [Drummer] Ryan [Rabin] was finishing an exchange program in the Czech Republic and Andrew called to invite him to play drums with him at the festival."
Grouplove's sound is undeniably nineties, but standing on the shoulders of giants is not what makes the band great. Yes, Zucconi yowls like a combination of Frank Black and Billy Corgan. And yes, the group's loud-quiet-loud delivery, boy/girl dynamic only fuels comparisons to The Pixies, The Smashing Pumpkins, or a host of other pre-millenium bands. But Grouplove avoids being a nineties re-run, and the band is better for it. The band employs a straightforward vigor that belies the sort of disaffection that ran through much of early nineties alt-rock. Also, Sean Gadd's bass on songs like "Lovely Cup" is way funkier than almost anything that came out of that scene. Grouplove's effervescence seems to flow from the incredibly close friendship that has formed between its members, though it should be clear by now that this group loves each other.
2011 will be a long year of touring for the band. Grouplove played several West Coast shows with Florence and the Machine last fall, and has been touring more or less consistently since then. The band will embark on the NME Radar Tour in May and will be busy traversing the globe for the rest of the year. They have a bouncy live show, which is to say they literally do not stop bouncing up and down. The five members of Grouplove have a sort of magnetism between them -- they run and bounce around the stage like particles in a hadron collider. They goof around, Hannah wears a mask for part of the show, and the group imparts a palpable energy to the audience, who have started bouncing along about 15 seconds into the opener each of the three times I've been able to catch Grouplove live. The whole affair seems more like an interactive play than it does a concert.
The band is set to release its debut full-length album at the end of summer. Until then, a massive tour and a re-issue of 2010's Colours EP will have to tide fans over. Check out their video for "Colours," inspired by Ambrose Bierce's Civil War Era short story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," below.