Most bands try to take a few months off between album cycles. But in the case of indie-tronic five-piece Grouplove, that break lasted about seven days.
The band rang in 2013 with a headlining gig in downtown Washington, D.C., its last official performance in support of 2011 breakout debut “Never Trust a Happy Song” — and entered a studio on Jan. 7 to begin work on “Spreading Rumours,” an even more rhythmic, eccentric follow-up due Sept. 17.
“We had this momentum — being on the road for so long and developing such a good live show, we wanted to harness that energy while it was still right and got right into the studio and captured it,” lead singer/guitarist Christian Zucconi says.
That no-sleep-for-the-weary approach is one that label founder Steve Ralbovsky seeks out for all the acts he signs to Canvasback, an Atlantic imprint since October 2009. Labelmates Frightened Rabbit, the Joy Formidable and, most recently, Alt-J, are becoming known for their relentless touring and release schedules, and the plan for Grouplove is no different.
“People go away too long between albums — it can almost be like starting over,” Ralbovsky says. “But with Grouplove, it stayed pretty active. ‘Tongue Tied’ was a song that, given its popularity, lingered for a while both at radio and became a desirable object for film and TV and advertising opportunities, and hung around in the atmosphere long enough that it gave the band new activity weekly.”
Not only was “Tongue Tied” one of the longest-charting entries on Billboard’s Alternative chart in 2012, where it spent 43 weeks, it also reached No. 42 on the Billboard Hot 100, and became one of the most-synched songs in recent years with big looks from Apple’s iPad, “Glee” and Chevrolet. In fact, it’s the gift that keeps on giving-yet another national ad campaign, for Clos du Bois wines, is set to feature the song starting Sept. 1.
All the lingering traction for the 2-year-old single has done little to cannibalize the momentum behind new single “Ways to Go,” which this week rises to No. 8 on the Alternative chart. It’s also raised the band’s profile on the road, and will enable it to embark on an ambitious outing dubbed the Seesaw tour, in which Grouplove will play a pair of headlining underplay dates in major cities — one electric at a midsize club, the other acoustic in a nontraditional venue. The tour begins Sept. 9 and will include stops in Seattle; Portland, Ore.; San Francisco; Los Angeles; New York; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; and Chicago.
“We wanted the band to go out and make themselves vulnerable and to kind of let people interact on a much more personal level,” manager Nicky Berger says. “It all starts with the nature of who Grouplove is — people feel a real attachment and connection to the group, so we wanted to give people something really cool and memorable in a stripped-down, more kumbaya-style event.”
The album will bear its own extra personal touch in the form of hand-drawn artwork from the band’s Hannah Hooper, who designed the cover, liner notes and a forthcoming series of animated videos that will be released in the weeks leading up to the album, previewing two songs each week. The clips will roll out on Mondays and Thursdays and culminate in a full-song video animation for the track “Borderlines and Aliens,” already a live favorite from shows toward the end of the previous touring cycle.
The DIY vibe is befitting of an album that features the statement “I’d rather be a hippy than a hipster” (on “Hippy Hill”) and was produced by the group’s drummer with dense, rocking arrangements that could fit in just as easily at a large-scale festival as they could around a campfire. Written and recorded in two months after the band shared a house/studio in the Hollywood Hills, “Spreading Rumours” nevertheless features a bit more programming than its more stripped-down predecessor.
“Each song kind of spoke for itself as far as what we thought it needed,” Zucconi says. “But overall we feel like it’s a much heavier album than the first one — just loud and lots of synths and guitars. We felt like, if you’re going to be performing these songs for a long time, you want to pick ones that will inspire you and have energy to uplift when you’re playing them live.”