Menu Subscribe Search



Subscribe for the Latest Music News

Enter your email address below to subscribe to a regular(ish) dose of AAA Backstage goodness direct to your inbox.

Interview: Andrew Wessen from Grouplove


Indie-pop darlings Grouplove have just finished a pair of knock-out shows and rounded out their visit with the first ever Like A Version ‘shoey’. A long time in the works, their upcoming album ‘Big Mess’ follows 2013’s ‘Spreading Rumors’ and has a comparable sound to an upbeat Arcade Fire, and their effervescent power pop and inner ‘group love’ make them one of America’s most addictive indie exports. We caught up with guitarist Andrew Wessen on the day of their final Aussie show for a chat about the new album and got some pretty deep insight into what it’s like to be a part of Grouplove!

Hi Andrew! How are you finding Australia so far?

We’re fantastic! We are running on fumes though, last night at about 3:30 in the morning the fire alarm went off at the hotel and we all got marched down in bathrobes and everything and the crew’s all cranky. Then I go back up to the room and our key doesn’t work for the door and it turns into this two-hour long saga in which they try to set up a bunch of engineers and no one can get the door open. They ended up putting us in the presidential suite so we just partied all night and stayed up until the sun.

I guess the moral of the story is if you want [to get] whatever you want from a hotel, just pull the fire alarm…that’s how you do it, everybody. Coming down here…it’s my favourite place in the world, it’s my favourite country. I’ve told everyone in the band that since the day we started. It’s the only place I can see myself [picking up my life] and moving here. I’m a surfer and I’m a foodie and I love coffee, and here it’s everything in one perfect storm.

I know you’ve been asked this a million times, but can you tell us about how the band came to be?

 Yeah, I’d love to. My brother started an artist’s commune in Crete, maybe back in 2007 or 2006. I went over there with him and we stayed many months there. We put some money into developing it and starting inviting artists in summer 2008. About 25 people came from all over the world and the members of Grouplove were there. We all hung out and hit it off and we became this little crew among the artists all there.

We’d ride our little scooters around and go skinny dipping in the Mediterranean. We had this kind of whirlwind friendship – it was nothing more than that but we all stayed in touch and at some point a year later, our original bass player Sean came out from London and visited some of us in New York. Then we drove up to L.A and it all happened organically from there with no intention of ever being a real band.

It was just friends making music – the first time all of us tried as a band. We wanted to make it, we wanted to play big shows – we made these moves, anything we could…everyone knows you got to hustle. Then it was this weird, strange, effortless thing – the one time none of us tried, it just sort of happened. The whole odyssey of it is bizarre, and sometimes I say it and it sounds like the biggest crock of shit ever but it’s true. Without the photographic evidence I would think I was lying. I’ve been back to the site in Crete many times since, and I’ll just walk down this cobble stone road and village where we all lived, and I’ll be like that’s exactly where I met Sean and Christian…It’s insane.

You guys are a pretty tight knit family, a lot of ‘group love’ going on, what do you think makes you guys work so well together?

I think a big part of it is that everything is ‘in house’ with all of our production. This new record is the first time we’ve used an outside producer. Hannah’s brother designed our merch, and all the songs are written by us. We don’t work with writers, not because we wouldn’t like to but because we genuinely thrive off each other’s creativity and influence.

We write everything together. Everything we put in the world is coming from this really honest place as friends and as bandmates. It’s not like some weird watered-down thing where there’s 50 people with an influence on it and at the end you don’t know what the original direction was. I think that gives our band an identity.

Now we’ve had albums ‘Never Trust A Happy Song’, ‘Spreading Rumours’, and ‘Big Mess’ is coming out next month. Are we following a story here? What’s the inspiration behind the album titles?

‘Big Mess’ came from the lyric in Welcome To Your Life but it kind of started meaning something when we really started chatting about it. Basically we’d all been on tour for four years with our first two records, during which time we took less than two weeks off between album cycles. When we got home our apartments looked like hoarder homes and we had been completely disconnected from our friends and families. We didn’t know ourselves beyond this bubble and our lives had sort of become this ‘Big Mess’.

It was the first time we had a year to reintroduce ourselves into the world again. In that sort of reintroduction, we started writing songs without a strict deadline. Normally we have to release it ‘here’, the single has to come out ‘then’ – you know, that’s how that shit goes. We delivered this album in March this year and we had this wonderful, scary time off. You’re just so used to having these schedules and these people around you, and then all of a sudden you’re sort of on your own. It was messy mentally and physically, but it made for good art and good music.

It was new territory for us and that’s something we always strive for as a band, not having a rigid process at all, so the results aren’t the same every time. We thought for this album we would carry that ethos into the realm and mix it up.

What’s different about the production of this album?

We went up to Seattle to work with this legendary producer and we had an incredible time in this really dreary semi-sad environment. We really locked ourselves off from the world, not having to be obligated to go to anyone’s birthday parties haha or go off to some bar that no one wants to go to. All of a sudden you can just take the time. And the isolation, the weirdness, puts you in a creative headspace – it was fun.

You mentioned this big mix-up and we’ve seen some big shifts in a lot of band’s sound over the years. Will we be hearing that through ‘Big Mess’?

I think we’re going into territories in this record that are genuinely uncharted for us. What makes it us is the voices. What we capture on tape is our personalities in the way we play. We’ve never been really scared to go down any rabbit holes with pretty eclectic records, and this one is even more so. It oddly feels the most cohesive, end to end. I’m incredibly proud of it.

What’s your favourite track off the new album?

I have a couple, but I sing a song called Cannonball so that’s one of my favourites. I love writing with this band and everyone writes. Some of us have more of the share sometimes, but I enjoy that element of it. That song, it’s one that I threw into the mix and it kind of went through a whole whirlwind of different ways of doing it before coming back to its original. It’s a fist-pumper and it’s gonna be a hell of a song live.

My other favourite on the record is called Enlighten Me. It has an incredible, haunting, beautiful, thumping groove to it. The lyrics are really heavy – it’s about sort of getting off the road in a really whirlwind moment captured in the song. I remember when Christian played it for us, I was just blown away by it and still am – it’s the strongest lyrically on the record and Ryan just nailed the production. I think that’s going to be a song people are really floored by and I still am every time I hear it.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen you down here in Australia, what’s happened during your big break since the last album?

During that time as a band, the biggest highlight would be that Hannah and Christian had baby Willa who is just the joy and pride of our band. She tours with us and she just rips my beard out everyday. You get put in these high-stress situations all the time, you get isolated in your own tripped out negativity – everyone does that. Even Grouplove, we fight sometimes. We’re grumpy and all that shit, as anyone is. It doesn’t matter what your job is in the world, but having Willa really does keep everything in perspective, just screaming for joy at the top of her lungs. She’s the happiest baby!

It’s just so cool to see your best friends and the Grouplove family grow. Genuinely it blows my mind and I’m just grateful that they’ve stepped up as parents and as bandmates to make that work, because it’s not an easy situation to be put into. To be crammed into every tiny crevice and have a baby in the mix, they’ve been fucking legends about it. With like 48 godparents she’s got a posse that goes with her, so she’s way more popular than me (laughs).

You guys are an actual family.

Yeah, you know, we fight and stuff but we genuinely love each other to the moon and back. It’s just a really special bond and we all have the tattoos so we have to like each other (laughs)!

The band tattoos?

We all have “Group” on our forearms which goes back to Greece, before it was ‘Grouplove’. It was all kind of cheesy, and that was the band name for all of two weeks and then it became Grouplove.

If you were to describe the sound of the new album in one sentence what would that be?

Jesus…it’s literally just jesus, that’s what it is (laughs). Fuck man, I don’t even know, there’s just so much blood, sweat, and tears in that. It’s a year of going fucking mentally insane, going through every high and low possible, loving and hating your bandmates, and having the most momentous experience of welcoming a new member to the family. I don’t know how the hell to put that into a sentence.

It’s just a ‘Big Mess’

(Laughs) It’s just a big beautiful mess that’s what it is.

What do you love most about Australia?

It’s a shorter list to name everything I don’t like about Australia. Everyone in the band knows that I love this country to tour in. I want to live here one day – I’m not just saying that, I’ve been saying it for ten years. The waves are perfect, the food is incredible, and the people are amazing. The coffee is insane. Just the vibe – when we hang with people, it’s always uplifting. The banter is always on point. As a band, we just don’t know a better place to play. The reception we get here, I would say the three out of the five top shows we’ve ever played are in Australia. I’m just grateful every time we get to come over here, it’s super special.

Hope you guys have a blast tonight in Melbourne!

(Laughs) We’re gonna light the place up!

Grouplove are now off on a world tour but there’s a good chance they’ll be back soon for some festival action. Big Mess comes out on Friday the 9th of September. Check out the official album trailer below!

Written by Tom Vu