Hannah Hooper takes a dramatic swig from an audience member’s bottle of tequila before effortlessly continuing her colorful Rose Bar Session at Gramercy Park Hotel. Hooper. The self-proclaimed “Lady Grouplove” is a force of nature on stage, rivaled only by her husband and fellow core Grouplove member, Christian Zucconi, and of course, the adrenaline-infused audience. Grouplove was formed in 2009 but really caught listener’s attention in 2011 with the band’s breakthrough anthem, “Tongue Tied.” Since then, their live performances have become seemingly more explosive and even more community-driven.
“Grouplove itself is much bigger than just a band. It is more than music. It is a movement,” Zucconi tells me. Grouplove’s recently released fourth studio album, Healer, is layered with emotions and personal stories that go far beyond anything we’ve heard from the “Big Mess” act. Hinting at the album’s inspiration, Zucconi affectionately says of Hooper, “She’s the queen. She keeps this band so on point and together and she saves the day all the time.”
In the spring of 2019, Hooper was soaring creatively with the opening of her first solo art exhibit, Oblivion, at Shepard Fairey’s Echo Park gallery. Hooper had also just scheduled emergency brain surgery in three days. “When I found out, I was like, we need to only make music. I needed to make art to distract me because focusing on it was definitely not the way I like to handle things,” Hooper says of discovering she needed immediate brain surgery. “I felt like the art show was this weird, wedding and funeral. It was this weird, sort of beautiful time. I feel like I really grew up from brain surgery. It really put everything into perspective and, I’m just a lot happier. Which is a crazy thing–it took brain surgery for me to figure some stuff out.”
Throughout this trying time, Zucconi, Hooper’s husband, creative partner, and father to their daughter, remained composed on the outside despite his spiraling internal emotions. “I would go to sleep at night and stare at Hannah and picture them cracking her skull open. It didn’t make sense to me. I did my best not to think about it, but I knew we’d get through it. We’d just have to.”
Hooper recalls one more significant moment about the traumatic experience: “I pick angel cards everyday, and the night before the surgery we were like, let’s pick angel cards. The first card I picked was death. I was like, oh my God. But death also means rebirth.”
As this powerful duo sit in front of me discussing one of the most meaningful moments in their lives, I can’t help but be enamored by their strength. Their matching eyelids covered with vibrant glitter are worn like reminders to never let your spirit or resilience diminish. Healer emphasizes that reminder as well, through 11 empowering songs that range from introspective tracks like “This Is Everything” to cathartic releases of emotions in “Deleter.”
“We don’t want to hide the fact that we’re living through very polarizing times and that we went through a lot of traumatic experiences but it’s also important that we have some good songs that you can kind of escape to and dance to,” Zucconi says of Healer. Hooper adds to this saying, “We’re ready to bring people this new vibe–this energy that I really feel like people need right now. I feel like with this tour, we need it as much as our fans do. It’s beautiful in a new way for Grouplove. Selfishly, I need it. But also I’m excited to share it.”
Since this interview, Grouplove announced that they will be postponing their upcoming tour dates in an effort to preserve everyone’s health and safety. While the world fights through its current health situation, we are going to try and channel Grouplove’s glitter-infused mentality that Hooper describes saying, “We’re still hopeful. I think that’s how we always come out of things, like, this was hard but this is what we’ve learned and how it can be better, you know what I mean?”