It's been almost a year and a half since mainstream-indie-rock band Grouplove played its last live set — more than two-and-a-half since its sprawling second album, Spreading Rumours, was released. That extended break might not have been the outfit's original plan, but for vocalists Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi, there was a little — but far more important — matter to attend to: one Willa Payne Zucconi. "I had a baby with Christian," Hooper shares with excitement. "She just turned 6 months old. We've been kind of domesticating."
Domestic bliss, though, hasn't kept the couple and their bandmates from their regular duties. In an interview with New Times, Hooper and Zucconi say the group is just about to begin mixing what will be its third album. As Hooper puts it: "We've been living the extremes: parents and... the opposite of parents. I think we relax by making music. It's very much just part of who we are."
"When we took a year off, we began writing songs at home," Zucconi adds. "When the baby came, we kept writing still. She was always part of our sessions."
Indeed, according to Hooper, the newest member of the family proved to be the central focus of the album. "A lot of the songs are about Willa," she says. "If they're not about Willa, they're about feelings we're having [about her]. It's all directly correlated to Willa. And then, of course, there's a couple songs about the wild nights out in between. We're juggling that. It's an interesting time for us — there's so much responsibility that comes with a child, but in so many ways, we're still children."
The band, including new bassist Daniel Gleason, split recording time between the couple's L.A. home — where sessions were recorded by bassist Ryan Rabin, who tracked the band's two previous albums — and Seattle. There, Grouplove worked with Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, the Shins), marking the band's first time in the studio with an outside producer. "He was really fun to work with," Zucconi says. "It made sense to get out of our comfort zone and try something new. We had a lot of fun, and we all learned from it."
"We came in with a lot of songs," Hooper says — nearly 40, by Zucconi's count. "We were feeling really inspired," she recalls. "It's not really a job, which is why it's amazing that we are where we are today. Some people keep journal entries, and some people Instagram. We write songs." The results, she says, are a series of more mature pop songs with a darker edge.
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Grouplove remains tight-lipped about an album title and release date (indeed, at interview time, they had yet to decide which of the 17 tracks they recorded would wind up on the album), but Zucconi promises at least one new track Saturday night at the Fontainebleau. The one-off show isn't just their first in more than a year, it's the band's first "real" Miami performance. (Grouplove played a brief acoustic "pop-up" set here at the peak of Tongue Tied's radio juju.)
Though the choice of Miami Beach as the venue for the group's return was more a matter of serendipity than strategy (the band was approached with the show offer), Zucconi and Hooper see a clear advantage to making their reappearance so far from home.
"There's a freedom to not doing your first show in your hometown," she says, "which I think is going to be liberating for us. There's that person onstage we need to reconnect with. It's like that animal — we gotta let it out of the cage again. We're ready. I'm just pumped to get back out there."