All of us are healing from something in some way. Some of us have lost our jobs, our homes, our health, our loved ones. Some of us suffer from crippling mental illness, physical ailments, ingrained systematic oppression. Even today’s constant state of political turmoil is a pain point for most everyone. While it’ll take more than just art to heal wounds that deep, LA indie band Grouplove is returning from a long hiatus to bring us an album that is meant to hopefully aid us in our collective healing process — it’s aptly named Healer.
Over the past three years, the band has had to do some healing on their own. After a 2016 tour supporting the five-piece’s third album, Big Mess, they bore witness to the loss of a dear friend. To make matters worse, frontwoman and wife of bandmate Chrisitan Zucconi, Hannah Hooper, found out she’d have to undergo an unexpected brain surgery. The onslaught of trauma had left the band in a tough spot, and the group went quiet for some time.
During their absence, the members turned to the one remedy they knew could start to mend the damage that those events left in their wake: Creating art. In 2018, they retreated to isolation in an El Paso, TX studio to do exactly that — they began tracking what would become Grouplove’s fourth studio album. It would be the band’s rebirth after their most hopeless moment.
The result of those recording sessions is Healer. The record’s first single, “Deleter,” already made waves as an anthem for tearing down false idols and building anew.
We caught up with the members of Grouplove to talk about grief, their return to the spotlight, how their mindset and artistic process have changed since we heard from them last, and what they hope the new album will mean to its listeners.
Healer, both sonically and lyrically, sounds a lot like the stages of grief to me. Changes in tempo, tone, and even the bending of genres feel akin to the complicated process of coping with loss, a traumatic moment, or just a rough spot in your life. I lost my dad recently, and I found that immersing myself in art helped me both feel closer to him and heal in my own way as well. Is that what the process of making Healer was like for the band? What feelings were you channeling while you wrote it? And how were you able to use the events of the past few years to create such a cathartic-sounding album?
There’s so much to unpack here- all five of us at different points during the making of this album fell apart. I was dealing with the loss of a close friend and an upcoming brain surgery and 100% used the making of this album as a chance to process, heal and escape.
What got you back on your feet after the loss of your friend and the unexpected surgery? How does getting that news change your outlook on life and your art?
Making the album and being all together was how I got through it. Losing someone forced me to take stock of what I still have and be thankful for it.
How does it feel to be back after such a long break? Scary? Exciting? Both?
Being a band that has a track record for optimistic-sounding music, was it a challenge to maintain that quality after going through such a tumultuous three years? Healer still sounds like Grouplove, but the juxtaposition of its bright tone with the more somber thematic elements feels like a real evolution for the band. Would you agree with that
We don’t feel challenged to be anything other than honest to ourselves and to one another. Inevitably as artists, we’ve evolved and I’m grateful you hear it in our music.
What was it like working with Dave Sitek and Malay this time around as opposed to producing in-house? What challenges did you face and what new things did you learn about yourselves, your band, and making music in general?
It was total mind expansion. Completely liberating. Dave and Malay basically passed us a mirror.
Did you feel isolated while working from Sonic Ranch? Did that help your artistic process? How did being so close to the border during the Trump era affect the writing onHealer, especially on the song “Promises”? Hannah and Christian, I’m assuming that being parents yourselves, the family separation crisis occurring at the border only made it all the more poignant.
Sonic Ranch is so close to Tornio Texas it brought us face to face with exactly what Promises is about – there is a lack of empathy in the leadership of this country that is shocking to us. Being a parent brings an even greater sense of urgency to the fight.
“Youth” is my personal favorite track on the album — it feels like a break from all the heaviness. A simple reminder to live in the moment and try to find the beauty in where you’re atright now. What was bringing that song to fruition like? Was it a different process compared to writing the songs that contain darker themes on the album?
That track goes off! Love that it’s your favorite! There’s no real process for us – the first spark lights the way no matter where that comes from. That track started as a reminder to live in the present and evolved into such a vibe.
What excites you the most about bringing Healer on tour, aside from playing the new songs?
We can’t wait to get back in the room with our fans and feel that catharsis. We need it.
How do you hope people receive Healer? What do you want people to take with them after listening?
We hope people can take away from Healer whatever they need to – if they’re struggling with something they can know there are other people out there feeling the same way they do. We are all going through it – why not go through it together.