Released exactly one year after their fourth studio album, 2020’s Healer—and the day the world ultimately shut down around the pandemic, cancelling the band’s headlining tour, an “epic” release party, and TV appearances—This is This finds Grouplove navigating the angst of an uncertain year and their innate drive to keep the music coming—for sanity’s sake.
Videos by American Songwriter
Following up Healer, and Big Mess in 2016, This Is This is a rhapsodic entry into where Grouplove landed, following a year when everything was turned inside out. Exploring desolation, isolation, and a collective confusion, This Is This bursts open on howler “Primetime,” crossing into a more apocalyptic “This is the End” with its anthemic We’ll be together / This is the end and a Pixies-fused “Scratch,” chafing at all the messier emotions and the pomp of “Deadline.” Breaking the tide, “Oxygen Swimming” is a welcome reprieve from This Is This‘ strikes of “Just What You Want,” featuring Surfbort’s Dani Miller, “Seagulls,” and the synth-romp of “Shake That Ass.” Closing on an intersperse of Shout Shout Shout / Just let it all out belts with fragile lyrics I’m black and blue and green and everything in between / I hide behind my friends so no one can really sees and the harmonized refrain, You are not alone, “Shout” is a track Hooper admits was difficult to write and perform.
“There’s an honesty in there that’s just this animalistic thing,” she says. “When I’m singing that, I’m somewhere between passing out and crying. It’s so healing. It’s funny that our last album was called ‘Healer,’ because these songs are actually so healing.”
Recorded at Gleason’s Big Trouble studio in Atlanta, and written and self-produced by the band—Hooper, vocalist Christian Zucconi, bassist Daniel Gleason, guitarist Andrew Wessen and drummer Benjamin Homola—along with some input from longtime collaborator Ricardo Acasuso, Yeah Yeah Yeahs Dave Sitek and Malay (Frank Ocean), This Is This also came out of a newfound freedom during the pandemic where there was no pressure from a label, and nothing was expected of them. It was just the band, making music together.
“We were just able to be exactly who we are right now, just writing and being artists,” shares Hooper. “It was very cathartic.”
Most of the songs were newly written with a few held over from Healer, says Zucconi. “There were a couple that were held over that we never wanted to let disappear,” says Zucconi, “but a lot of it was just us collectively getting together and unspooling our insides in a room together and trusting our inner voices.”
This Is This came out of isolation and the collective uncertainties the band faced following the onset of the pandemic. “There were no barriers, no expectations,” says Hooper. “This is an endless pandemic, where we’ve gone through so much, collectively, and had to get to know the deep, dark corners of ourselves that we’ve had the ability to ignore by distractions and work and the chaos of everyday life. This album was us accepting that we can’t ignore the darkness or the dimensionality of ourselves anymore.”
All the ups and downs are what made the album for Hooper, who says she found an entirely new voice on the tracks. This Is This presents where Grouplove is now, as a band. “Whether it’s pandemic driven or not, this is a place we’re at in our lives right now,” says Gleason. “There was a need to take control of our own destiny. We all felt like we had to come together and make music for ourselves, not that we were never doing that before. There’s a little bit of control that everybody has felt like they’ve lost in the last year, and the one thing that we knew we could control is the music this band makes.”
Hooper, who worked on the album cover artwork, says Grouplove’s hands are all over the album. “This feels so honest for us, and on so many levels just so representative of right now,” she says. “To be able to be who we are right now is such a freedom.”
Initially writing the words “This is the End” on the studio walls, Hooper switched it up to “This Is This” which had less of a finality to it. “We stepped back and were like, ‘this is this,’” says Hooper. “We created this. This is exactly where we are right now. This is Grouplove.”
Flipped from Healer, which was pieced together more methodically, says Gleason, This Is This was less contrived. “The album title, to me, represents that if you strip away everything and you throw us in a room,” he says, “this is what the band sounds like.”
For every album, the band admit they’ve always tried to get to the root of their truth, or subconscious, however it played out. “I think this album is just that amplified,” says Hooper. “We’re always trying to be honest in the music—sonically, lyrically, vocally— and this is that without hesitation at all. It’s the most guttural thing we’ve made.”
Surprising fans one day before the This Is This release, the band played the album in its entirety during a livestream, along with the first single release of “Deadline.”
“It feels like we’re allowing things to happen at a level of honesty that’s usually difficult to get at,” says Gleason, “and there’s a lot of freedom in that right now.”
Zucconi jokes that with Hooper singing more, he can “sit back” and rock out on guitar more. “We just started formulating these songs,” says Zucconi, “and Hannah stepped up and just destroyed it.”
What Grouplove have drawn from this year is that they’re collectively growing as artists without any guidance.“We’re actually stronger as a unit,” says Hooper. “There was a freedom to working just alone as a band that gave us this ability to really trust ourselves, and I think that is what making art is about—trusting your instincts, making something from that place of honesty, and not second guessing yourself.
“We’re constantly evolving,” she adds, “and to embrace that and take risks is really why we do what we do.”