Close to Home: Hannah Hooper of Grouplove talks hometown, touring, ads

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What happens when musicians from all over the U.S., a guitarist from London and a painter from San Francisco all meet together? Besides a melting pot of cultures and backgrounds, you also get an eccentric rock band combining styles ranging from electronica to folk and funk. Grouplove broke out last year with their catchy, dance-meets-merry-go-round track “Tongue Tied” and have since had the track featured in numerous commercials.

As they embark on their U.S. tour this week, the band’s San Francisco native Hannah Hooper spoke about how excited she was to play at the iconic Fillmore in SF this coming Monday.

“Playing the Fillmore seems so psychedelic,” said the keyboardist and vocalist. “I can’t even believe that we’re going to play a sold-out show there.”

Starting out as a painter with no musical background, Hooper found a comforting similarity between both arts.

“I approached songwriting the same way I approached painting, by not coming at it from a learned perspective,” said Hooper. “Music is much more media and much more social.”

Hooper spoke about how the use of their songs in advertisements has given the band a new outlook on getting your name out there.

She commented that the band as a whole used to feel pretty “old school” about advertising and associated it with the negative connotations like selling out.

However, Hooper’s view changed after she saw the merits of advertising and how it could grow their fanbase to new levels.

“It’s a totally different time. It’s been an eye-opening experience because (the ads) really helped people get to hear us,” remarked Hooper. “Hopefully nobody writes music specifically for an advertisement, but once you’ve written an album or a song and people are drawn to it, and you didn’t use it for a cigarette ad or for something that will hurt people, then I think it’s a great thing.”

While not all their songs are featured in video games or iPod advertisements, that doesn’t mean the band puts any less effort into their other tracks. Each song on their debut album Never Trust a Happy Song stands out on its own, never falling back on hackneyed styles or monotonous tones. Hooper in particular wrote the track “Slow,” an electro dreamscape of airy keys and fast-paced, tremolo effects.

“I wrote the song on a messed-up piano that Andrew Wessen dropped off. I was feeling kind of homesick and then started writing the song,” said Hooper. “I brought it to Ryan Rabin and he loved it, and then we built this crazy track. It started out as just the two of us working on it, but by the end of it all, five of us had contributed to some of the song.”

Even though Hooper said the recording process for “Slow” was smooth, other tracks weren’t so fortunate for the band.

While they were recording the upbeat string plucks and harmonies of “Spun,” the band had an unexpected encounter at their apartment recording space.

“We were recording in Ryan’s apartment in a sketchy building in LA,” said Hooper. “We were going through the track and we got a knock on the door, and we saw this huge police raid because someone was growing a huge abundance of marijuana in the building. They had to turn all the power off and we couldn’t go back into the building until two days later.”

Unfortunately, not every day in the life of a Grouplove member is as exciting as a buildingwide police drug raid — actually, maybe that’s a good thing. However, each member of the band still manages to bring the energy of a wild child from hell to each of their live performances. The “freakin’ weird characters” that make up Grouplove make their love of what they do apparent with each dunk-level jump and hair-swinging gallop — all in outfits ranging from silk dresses to pink cowboy hats. And though Hooper is happy to come home to “the best place on the planet,” regardless of where the band is they’re just pleased to be doing what they love.

“We’ll ask ourselves sometimes, ‘Why are we doing five shows in a row? It’s like a marathon, man. We’re crazy,’” said Hooper. “But then you get up there, and people are so excited to see you, and you realize that this is my favorite thing. Every night when we get on stage, we could not be happier to be wherever we are.”



What: Grouplove Concert

When: Monday, Oct. 1

Where: The Fillmore, SF

When: 8 p.m.

Ian Birnam is the lead music critic. Contact Ian is [email protected]