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Grouplove and the power of no planning

Matt Sullivan
Grouplove will perform at Humpy's in Anchorage July 19. Photo Joseph Llanes

The Grouplove backstory is the stuff of movie scripts. During a summer on the Greek island of Crete, five artists from different parts of the globe met serendipitously. The group -- including two from Los Angeles, two from New York, one from London -- was living at an artists' commune and bonded over music. At the end of the summer, they all promised to stay in touch.

“There was a certain magnetism,” guitarist Andrew Wessen explained in an email. “It's not something tangible, you know? It's like explaining why you fell in love with a certain person or something; it's not really easy to put into words, but we were drawn to each other and for some reason we actually did stay in touch.”

In 2006, Wessen and his brother Matt were surfing at Venice Beach in California and met a Greek surfer named Tasos Taiganides. The three quickly struck up a friendship, and Taiganides ended up staying with the brothers for a year. The brothers eventually learned that Taiganides owned property in Crete.

“My brother and Tasos became obsessed with the idea of starting an artist commune there, a place where artists could go and not be restricted by time, money and the stresses of the modern world, where people could create freely in a space that was inspiring,” said Wessen. “My brother and I went out there in 2007 to check out the place and make sure it was really possible, and sure enough, by the summer of 2008, there were 25 artists living there, mostly painters and musicians.”

Hannah Hooper was the first artist invited to Greece by Matt Wessen after he saw her painting “Redondo Beach” (the painting ended up being used for the cover of the Morning Benders album “Big Echo," and she created the artwork for both Grouplove full-lengths).

In interviews, Hooper has said that when she met Matt Wessen it was love at first sight. Shortly after, Hooper invited Christian Zucconi to join her for the summer in Greece. While there, the new couple met Andrew and drummer Ryan Rabin from Los Angeles and bassist Sean Gadd from London.

“The five of us came at different periods that summer, but overlapped for few weeks in August,” explained Wessen. “We immediately were drawn to each other's creativity and songwriting.”

In 2009, the five decided to reconnect in Los Angeles. While each had played music in Crete, this was the first time they had jammed together. The result was an EP recorded in Rabin's parents' garage (Ryan's father, Trevor Rabin, played guitar in the prog-rock band Yes).

“Our lives changed dramatically from that point on,” said Wessen.

That self-titled EP included the song “Colours,” which reappeared later as the first single from their 2011 full-length debut, the cheekily titled “Never Trust a Happy Song.” The sunny, hook-driven indie pop became a hit, and by that point Grouplove was all in, with Hooper, Zucconi and Gadd each relocating to California. (Gadd left the band earlier this year and was replaced by Daniel Gleason.)

Grouplove's second single “Tongue Tied” was an even bigger hit and was prominently featured in an iPod commercial. Now the band is everywhere, spending about 10 months of the year on the road. But they've still found time to write and record, releasing a more eclectic sophomore effort, “Spreading Rumours,” last year.

“We don't have a process; there's no go-to plan ever,” Wessen said of the band's loose songwriting approach. “Everything that made it on 'Spreading Rumours' was what we felt best about at that moment, and what we thought came out best on tape."

Comparing Grouplove to past bands he's played in, Wessen said he sees the lack of a process as key to the band's success.

“It was the first time where things just fell in line, and there was nothing forced about it,” he explained. “Every other project, I was practically begging people to listen, to come to shows or to care at all. With Grouplove it just seemed to happen how you wanted it to happen in your head. We were just having fun playing as friends and thought nothing else of it, and funny enough, the one time we didn't 'try,' it worked out.”

 

Grouplove 

When: 6 p.m. Saturday, July 19

Where: Humpy's

​Tickets: $48.50 advance and $55 day of show at brownpapertickets.com and Humpy’s

All ages, full bar with ID