2014 will go down as the best year ever for Grouplove. With their 2013 album Spreading Rumours making waves on the Alternative charts, the quintet embarked on a mammoth, non-stop world tour earlier this year, booking their largest venues to date and making noteworthy appearances at U.S. mega-festivals such as Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. Grouplove’s surging, enthusiastic music and off-the-charts energy makes them a guaranteed good-time at any concert venue, and that held true on Sept. 16, when the group took the stage at New York’s Rumsey Playfield in Central Park to play the final gig of their long-running trek.
“Are we gonna do something special tonight? Naturally — we do something special every night, cause we’re just weird, special people,” Hannah Hooper, Grouplove’s kinetic, catsuit-wearing singer and keyboardist, told Billboard after soundcheck. “Five thousand people in New York is a big deal for us,” echoes drummer Ryan Rabin. “It keeps growing for us and keeps getting better.”
The band lived up to the pre-show promise when they took the stage just after sunset, thrilling the audience with energetic renditions of sing-along smashes like “Tongue Tied,” “Ways to Go” and their amped-up cover of Beyonce’s “Drunk in Love,” which has become a fan favorite. And as usual, the crowd matched the band’s exuberance by dancing and shouting along to every song in the set. It’s this infectious energy that Tom Evans, Grouplove’s front-of-house engineer, says is responsible for the bond that the band shares with its audience.
“I think what gives them their personal connection with the fans is that they are genuine,” he says. “They want to have fun, and that energy drags people along with them. When you watch a band like that, you can’t help but want to enjoy yourself as well.”
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The incredible chemistry the band displays onstage also translates to the band’s off-stage interactions as well. Completed by singer/ guitarist Christian Zucconi, guitarist Andrew Wessen and bassist Daniel Gleason (who joined in 2014), the band’s development coincided with their blossoming friendship, leading to a rare, egalitarian dynamic that translates to the band’s tireless touring ensemble.
“We started as a band without any history of friendship, and not long after, we started with our crew,” explains Rabin. “We all came together all at once. It’s really equal friendship and hangs together across the board.”
“There’s 12 or 13 of us living on a bus. In all that chaos, there’s no secrets so we have to all love each other and we all work together to make the show happen,” says Hooper, reflecting on Grouplove’s road crew, which has become a crucial part of the band’s extended family. “Behind the scenes, our crew is the most vital part of the show. People see us, but they build the whole stage, they make it sound great. They’re the reason we’re up there.”
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The crew members feel similarly endeared to the band. “The best thing working with Grouplove is the family vibe,” says Evans, who has been with the band for three years. “It’s just an awesome camp. It’s very exciting to see a band start from … rolling around in a van to growing and improving and building each time round. It’s good to see that such deserving people get those chances and take advantage of them.”
The convivial environment that surrounds Grouplove is one of the key factors that has allowed them to grow from their humble beginnings into one of the most celebrated alt-rock acts on the road. “Before we made our first album, we only played like one or two shows,” says Rabin. “Four years of touring and a sophomore album later, you naturally get closer to the people you travel with. Technically there’s a tightness and more camaraderie onstage. We know each other’s ins and outs even more than we used to and that makes for a better show. We can almost predict what everyone’s gonna do before they do it.”
And it’s the closeness that the band has found on tour that Hooper says they’ll carry with them into the studio as they briefly leave the road behind to begin working on their third album.
“When we first met, there was a freedom in the new friendship that gave us the ability to make music together that was unexpectedly free,” Hooper explains. “Now there’s a freedom that we’ve found in knowing each other so well. It’s an intimate freedom that going to help us write the best album ever. So get ready for it — it’s coming.”
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