All they need is Grouplove

Andrew Wessen, third from left, loves his bandmates.
Andrew Wessen, third from left, loves his bandmates.

The first time Grouplove performed “together,” they actually performed separately, according to bassist/vocalist Andrew Wessen. The five members of the L.A.-based indie band met at a Greek artist commune in the summer of 2008 — high up in the mountains, in the tiny village of Abdou in Crete — where they instantly bonded.

“Somehow, out of all the crazy artists out there, we found each other,” says Wessen. At the end of the summer, the commune threw a music festival, at which all five members performed individually. That was the last time they performed apart. Hell, that was the last time they’ve been apart.

Talking to Wessen, whose lazy surfer drawl belies a fierce, almost single-minded work ethic (one shared by all of his bandmates), one sentiment is repeated. “This is all we have.”

Grouplove, as their name implies, operate as a single unit, their relationships with each other so symbiotic that you get the idea that they might not function apart. They’re tight musically, to be sure, but according to Wessen that’s because they’re even tighter as friends.

They originally planned to call themselves The Group (“you know, like The Band,” says Wessen) because running amok through the streets of Abdou (and later, reunited, in California), they’d holler “We’re the grouup!” high off the good vibes of having found their perfect complements. They later decided that The Group was too obscure a name to be searchable, and tacked “love” on the end, in a nod to those good vibes, but all five of them have the word “group” inked on their forearms.

That commitment to unity is reflected in their sophomore album, “Spreading Rumours.” To record it, they rented a house in the Hollywood Hills this past summer, which served as both their temporary home and recording studio. For 10 weeks they rarely left the house, or each other’s company.

“We worked all day and night,” says Wessen. “I don’t think I left the house in 10 weeks more than four or five times, literally. We were really holed up and we just lived and breathed that album. It was crazy. But I think that plays into the whole thing that all we have is each other.”

There’s that refrain again. But while it might sound trite, watching the band perform (their live shows are charged with buoyant, jubilant, energy) it’s pretty clear that Grouplove’s dynamic is such that it’s not just that all they have is each other — it’s that all they need is each other.

The band has been on the road for three years, barely stopping to take a breath (the only time Wessen takes for himself is the occasional morning surf — he says he’d be touring the world on a “selfish” surf tour if he wasn’t playing music), and it’s had an undeniably fracturing effect on their relationships outside the band.

“You know, people, like, got married and had babies, and it was like, ‘Whoa. I have not been around for three years, Jesus,’” he says. “It’s scary, but it kind of whittles out the people who don’t really matter. You don’t have time for frivolous s— anymore, to have peripheral friends who don’t really matter.”

Luckily, they have friends that really matter. They have each other, and they have a band that sold out most stops on their current tour before “Spreading Rumours” had even dropped. For the tour, they’ve been playing two stops in each city — one standard gig and one acoustic performance in a smaller, more intimate venue.

Wessen says the latter shows have been “the sleeper hits” of the tour. For the band, they’re a chance to explore their quieter side. “Honestly, Sean and Christian and Hannah can write some of the most beautiful, slow, cinematic love songs that we didn’t even touch because it wasn’t the right time,” he says of the album. For fans, however, it’s been a chance to get up close and personal with the band. “We get so riled up that it gets kind of wild,” he says. “And it happens every show, [the audience] just kick the chairs aside and rush the front.”

As for those quieter songs, Wessen says that, while their second album wasn’t the right place for them, they’ll be recording them in the future. They had a list of 40-odd songs they wanted to record, taped to the refrigerator in the Hollywood Hills house, before they’d even entered the studio. They had to cut that list down to 13 for the album, but he promises they’ll all be made someday.

And, for this band, someday is likely sooner than you’d think. Wessen isn’t sure when they’ll take a break, if ever.

“I think we’re a little bit out of our minds for not taking any time off in between recording our records, but that was a conscious choice,” he says. “We were all just like, ‘Well, f— it, let’s just go.’ Why take a bunch of time off? I mean, we’re not all buying new cars and houses, I’m still driving a 1989 Buick and checking my bank account, so maybe we should keep going on this, we haven’t quite made it yet.”


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