Grouplove & special guest Sleeper Agent

SOLD OUT

Grouplove & special guest Sleeper Agent

Sleeper Agent

Wed, June 18, 2014

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm (event ends at 11:30 pm)

Haw River Ballroom

Saxapahaw, NC

$25.00

Grouplove
Grouplove
Grouplove
Big Mess

Turns out that a big mess can actually be a good thing. In the case of Grouplove’s third studio album, Big Mess refers not only to a lyric in the buoyant lead single “Welcome To Your Life,” but also to the situation in which they found themselves when they got off the road following 2013’s
Spreading Rumours. For the first time since releasing their breakthrough 2011 debut, Never Trust A Happy Song, Grouplove were back in Los Angeles indefinitely, with a lot of catching up to do. “We got off tour and realized we had been completely neglecting normal life,” says singer and keyboard player Hannah Hooper. “We were out of touch with friends and family, our house looked like we were hoarders -- it was like an explosion of so much at once.” In the midst of it all, Hooper and Grouplove singer/guitarist Christian Zucconi, who have been a couple since the band’s inception, found out they were going to have a baby. Like the true pair of artists they are, Zucconi and Hooper viewed the chaos as an opportunity to be creative. “We felt so out of control. Instead of trying to deal with the mess, we just started writing,” Hooper explains. “We had so many songs come out of that, and Big Mess is a collection of our favorites.” The album’s opening track, “Welcome To Your Life,” was one of close to forty songs that began in that messy moment. Hooper recorded the hook -- “we’re back in business, you’re such a big mess, and I love you” -- on her laptop, but the rest of the tune took awhile to come into focus. Months later, on the same day that Hooper went into labor, the joyfully defiant chorus came to Rabin in the shower, like a bolt from the blue. Says Rabin: “I showed them the idea and when we put those two parts together, they fit perfectly, both lyrically and melodically. It almost felt a bit fated.” There has been the tinge of fate to Grouplove since the beginning, when its five original members met at an arts colony on the island of Crete and formed such an immediately comfortable bond -- both personally and musically -- that they started the band upon their return to LA in 2010. Though Sean Gadd left Grouplove amicably in 2014, new bassist Daniel Gleason says he connected to the familial spirit of the band right away. Describing the vibe in the studio during sessions for Big Mess, Gleason says: “It was really open and honest. I've never been a part of an environment where everyone was willing to be so selfless if it made the song better. The lack of pride or ego allows the best ideas to drift to the top, and that's rare, but I think that's what makes the band what it is.” While those core qualities remain, Grouplove continues to mature on Big Mess, which demonstrates their ever sharper instincts as songwriters and their growing ability to make a bright, bold, genre-defying sound that is entirely their own. The band members say they feel most inspired when they’re collaborating on new ideas with a completely open mind. “What influences us the most is each other,” says Zucconi. “Even a song you that think might come out a certain way will be completely reimagined by someone like Andrew or Ryan or Dan, because their tastes and inclinations are so different.”

“It’s always been sort of a rule for us is that we want the writing process and studio process to be spontaneous,” says drummer Ryan Rabin, who has been Grouplove’s in-house producer since their earliest recordings -- tracks including their platinum-certified 2011 single “Tongue-Tied,” as well as alternative radio mainstays “Colours” and “Ways To Go.” (As part of production team Captain Cuts, Rabin has also produced and/or written tracks for Tove Lo and Jennifer Lopez, among others.) “Most of our best stuff has come from letting the song dictate the moment rather than forcing it into some preconceived sonic space,” says Rabin. “We’ve stuck to that process because we’re in love with that spontaneity.” Rabin’s recording technique -- “using the studio as a writing instrument, to elevate the song to where it couldn’t have gone otherwise” -- serves Grouplove perfectly on Big Mess tracks including “Welcome To Your Life” and the anthemic “Do You Love Someone?,” among others. But the band also wanted to challenge themselves on this album by working with someone new, and they found the ideal partner in Phil Ek, who produced five Big Mess tracks and whose approach in the studio is the polar opposite of Rabin’s. Among indie rock’s most beloved producers, Ek has worked on albums by Band of Horses, The Shins, Built To Spill and Father John Misty. “Built To Spill’s Keep It Like A Secret -- when that record came out, it hit me so hard,” says Zucconi. “And since then I’ve been a fan of his work. I love the sounds he gets.” The band previously teamed with Ek to record a song for the soundtrack to Paper Towns, and embraced the opportunity to return to his Seattle studio. “Few producers care so intimately about every minute sonic element of their production like Phil does,” says guitarist Andrew Wessen, “and it shows in the warmth of his tones and the organic clarity of the soundscapes.” “It was fun to explore stuff with Phil that we hadn’t done with Ryan,” says Zucconi. “Phil is really known for his guitar tones, and he’d spend hours getting the right tone. We started calling it ‘Tone Questing.’ It became a running joke in the studio. We even bought tunics and swords and made Phil wear a cape, and got a chainmail shirt for his assistant Cameron to wear. We found this really funny, medieval song we’d play while we were killing time to make everyone laugh.”Of the songs recorded in Seattle with Ek, Hooper points to “Traumatized” as her favorite. “It has kind of a raw, Nirvana feel to it which I really like,” says Hooper, who wrote the song with Zucconi in their LA home. “The lyrics discuss realizing what our parents gave up so we could become what we’ve become, and how much they’ve sacrificed,” she says. “When you’re an artist, you’re stuck in this interesting, child-like state, but I wrote that song in a moment of understanding that we were gonna have to pull it together to raise a family.” Grouplove unanimously cite the haunting, cathartic “Enlighten Me” as a linchpin moment on the album. Lyrics such as “I don’t feel my life is real / I’m on the fence with common sense,” capture a sentiment all five members of the band felt a personal connection to, even though the words and song were written by Zucconi. Says Wessen: “This album embodies the headspace that we all collectively share as band mates, as new parents and as human beings. I think these songs have a shared consciousness that we've never been able to capture as a band.”

“It’s a real rare thing, how we came together,” says Zucconi, reflecting on what keeps Grouplove’s outlook so positive, even after all they’ve experienced and accomplished. “There was this energy we had all been looking for, for years before we met. And it came together so effortlessly with this group of people. It’s still totally there and happens whenever we play shows. The energy is even stronger now. We all bring out the best in each other musically, and it helps me to grow and become a better person, being around the vibe of this band.” Big Mess is out September 9 on Canvasback Music/Atlantic.
Sleeper Agent
Sleeper Agent
In the three whirlwind years since Sleeper Agent released its debut, Celabrasion, its members have played everywhere from the Coachella festival to Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. They've opened for Weezer, Circa Survive, and fun. And "Get It Daddy," their dizzying anthem about growing up, has appeared in Taco Bell ad, while their bustling high-five to indefatigability, "Not Never," has soundtracked a Nike clip.

Celabrasion immediately garnered the affectionate attention of the blogosphere straight to the top of the nation music media. Rolling Stone hailed them as a "Band To Watch", describing their sound as "lusty garage rock with loads of retro smarts." SPIN declared, "the Kentucky-based quintet's playful, Southern fried, boy-vs.-girl power pop is instantly lovable." Esquire said, "these co-ed garage-rock saviors-in-waiting offer two minutes that sound like the most original – and forceful – introduction to a new band we're likely to hear all year."

"It's so hard to define success by one thing. Everything was so new…." says frontwoman Alex Kandel, looking back at their steep ascent. She pauses to think. "The first time we had a rider! When people gave us bottled water, I knew this was a career." Sleeper Agent will make good on that early next year, when they release their second album, About Last Night (RCA/Mom+Pop).

These days, the sextet—which also includes singer/guitarist and principal songwriter Tony Smith, bassist Lee Williams, guitarist Josh Martin, drummer Justin Wilson, and keyboardist Scott Gardner—are bent on jettisoning past their title as the Little Act That Could from Bowling Green, Kentucky. "Sleeper Agent started out as a fun, goofy side project," explains Tony. "I don't want this to be silly for the rest of my life. I want to embrace this seriously and treat it with respect for the people responding to it. About Last Night is a stepping stone."

Though their ambitions have grown, Sleeper Agent's approach continues to be disarmingly simple: delivering joyously melodies, even when they're bumming out. For instance, About Last Night's first single, "Waves," manages to be both plaintive and percussive—ruminating on the rigors of touring, then snapping out of that depression. Concedes Tony: "That was me, excavating my emotions."

About Last Night was born after Tony started scribbling together song skeletons on tour. The group fleshed out those compositions after decamping their tour bus to shack up together in a log cabin in Middle of Nowhere, East Kentucky. It didn't even have mobile service. "The cabin was hand-built by a World War II general," interjects Alex. "And actually, it was like a sanctuary."

Instead of killing each other in their secluded camp, they watched The Godfather, cooked family dinners, and emerged five days later with 10 solid tracks—among them, "Waves." The songs were recorded in Nashville (with Jay Joyce) and Charleston (with Eric Bass), and both encouraged us to "quit over-thinking it," says Tony. "We did a great job on the last record with melodies but tried to cover them up with distortion. We were scared to be melodic. Jay and Eric were like, 'Go for it,' and made it shimmer a bit."

That didn't always come easy. "The biggest pain in the ass on the entire record is a song called 'Eat You Up,'" says Tony. "It started off as a dark, slow song, reflecting its lyrical content. Then as we kept messing with it, it became very dancey. That song probably went through 10 variations." What emerged, when they stopped trying so hard, was a simmering synth-take.

"We really pushed ourselves," adds Alex. "We rewrote songs over and over again until they felt right. We spent a week on the last record, but got to spend almost a year on this one." The sauntering, lower-register "Haunting Me" was her white whale. "It had a lot of vocal subtleties," she says. "And it went from sounding like something that could end on the cutting-room floor to being one of my favorite songs on the record." Still, Alex admits true validation will come from road-testing these songs. "I can't wait to get back to doing what we do best, and that's touring."

Two years ago, the band played Santa Barbara for the first time. "It was such a strange and beautiful show. It was the perfect day—a rainbow circled the sun," she says. "Fifteen minutes before we went on, Tony got a call that one of our good friends passed away unexpectedly." It was, at once, one of their most challenging and rewarding shows. "All of that emotion…I can remember every second of that day—the scent, the temperature of the air. It made me understand why I do what I do."
Venue Information:
Haw River Ballroom
1711 Saxapahaw-Bethlehem Church Road
Saxapahaw, NC, 27340
http://www.hawriverballroom.com/