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A Q&A with Grouplove's bassist Daniel Gleason

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OCTOBER 06, 2016

When Grouplove first burst onto the indie rock sphere, the Los Angeles-based band sang of getting high at parties and cruising to the beach in convertibles. Now, after years of touring, and following the advent of huge life changes like becoming parents (guitarist Christian Zucconi and singer Hannah Hopper), getting married (drummer Ryan Rabin) and moving to a new city (bassist Daniel Gleason), the world seems a bit bigger to Grouplove. Adapting to the erratic rhythm of this new way of life is just plain scary.

The band tackles this sense of uncertainty in their latest effort Big Mess, an album equally anthemic and playful as it is reflective. Fresh off a mini European tour, Grouplove’s bassist Daniel Gleason chatted with The Daily Californian about translating his chaotic life into chords, working with influential indie producer Phil Ek (Built to Spill, Modest Mouse) and if the L.A. music scene is as bad as what others make it out to be.

This interview has been edited for clarity and space.

The Daily Californian: Unlike Spreading Rumours, which was written right after tour ended, you guys took a break and a bit longer to write (Big Mess). And I heard there were originally 40 songs, so what was the process behind that? Was that just a matter of having so many ideas and playing around with them?

DG: We were all in this in-between period in our lives and needed some personal time to figure out where we are as a result of all this. And I felt like that’s what honestly made the record better too. A lot of bands can put their heads down and tour all the time, and that’s really good, but you lose connection with who you are and who you’re becoming. You’re acting off of instinct at that point without taking a second to look back and reflect and learn.

We had that time to get that perspective and to learn who we were. We kinda came in and came out of it with 40 different songs. Some of those were written in the same room, some were written by Christian, or Hannah or Andrew (Wessen) or whomever, and then brought to the table. Some were written on the computer, some were written in the studio. There’s no process with this band, which I think is one of the more exciting aspects of being involved. It’s just sort of whatever feels right, feels true to me in the moment, you know.

DC: You guys have stated that Big Mess is about the world being a scary, chaotic place to live in. But I also got out of it that your own life is a microcosm of a mess, if that makes sense. Like, there’s a macro and micro level of living in a mess.

DG: Right. And I think the thing is that the title and the theme resonated with us because it’s the environment we live in, being musicians and artists that travel the world. We exist in this anarchistic environment, but we find inspiration in that lack of routine. We realized our lives are all over the place at this point; we had no idea of what to make of it. (Big Mess) reflects all of those things. And the world that we live in is all over the place, but we’re trying to do the best and get by the best that we can.

DC: And then you guys brought on Phil Ek to produce a few of the tracks. How was that?

DG: It was amazing. It was just one of those things where it was album three and everybody was searching for a new perspective on the songs and a new ear. We grew up on the records [Phil] did, and he was great. He let the band be a band. He wasn’t overbearing, wasn’t heavy handed. That was a really nice aspect, and I think we took some of that momentum into [recording] the second half in L.A. with Ryan. We’re really proud of that experience and how it turned out.

DC: So did recording the album bring more of a sense of order in your lives? Was (writing) it kind of cathartic and did it help (living in this world) make sense?

DG: At the end of the day, we’re all looking for art and means of communication, feeling connected to other people in the world. It’s a language that transcends just the verbal language. So it’s always cathartic, you’re always excited about the prospects of explaining a different personality. There was some order to (the process), but there was a lot of spontaneity to it as well. I think we grew as people in the making of this record for sure.

DC: You mentioned exploring different personalities, and Christian and Hannah described this album as a person with lots of diverse emotions within it. So was there one song you particularly identified with?

DG: When I first heard “Enlighten Me,” it felt important. I was hoping that was going to be important for everybody, and that people would really latch on to that one. And it seems that (it has) so far! I know that it’s pulled emotions out of me that were really exciting. I was really excited to explore those with my friends and kind of dive deeper into it. (“Enlighten Me”) tugs at the heartstrings a little bit. And that would be one that was more cathartic to create, to work in.

DC: It’s been said that “Hollywood” is about maintaining authenticity in the face of not-so-authentic environment. Was there any kind of feeling, like doubt or fear, or pressure to be a certain way in L.A.?

DG: L.A. sometimes get a bad rap, but I don’t feel that way so much. I have the band and friends that I can be surrounded with. But you feel that (pressure) anywhere if you’re in a band. There’s a certain amount of it. You kind of feel like maybe if you sell certain aspects of your personality that could further the business. But at the end of the day, it comes down to that you’re doing this hopefully to play music and to connect with people and to communicate parts of yourself in a whole different language. For us, I don’t think we find it that difficult to forget about trying to sell ourselves.

DC: “Do You Love Someone” is a really fun song, but when you really analyze the lyrics, it’s kind of dark. And I noticed that the filmmakers on Genero interpreted it that way too. A lot of the videos are kind of depressing …

DG: Yeah.

DC: Was this a conscious decision, to have a fun sound but bringing it down with the lyrics?

DG: You know, I don’t know if it’s ever necessarily that conscious. The inspiration is all kind of going off of instinct and just creating on the spot.

We make upbeat music a lot of times, but that’s not necessarily where we all come from artistically. It just so happens we get along really well and we enjoy being around each other and enjoy playing music. But in our personal lives and some of our side projects, (there) is darker material that still finds its way in there at times. You have to dig a little deeper for it. But we do like to have that contrast and keep people guessing as far as what the song is going to be about and what we’re going to create.

Grouplove will be performing a headlining show at the Fox Theater on Oct. 6.

Contact Adrienne Lee at [email protected].

OCTOBER 06, 2016

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