Friday, September 5, 2014

LouFest Interview | Andrew Wessen of Grouplove: "We honestly love St. Louis."

Photo by Joseph Llanes

Even when I dream all day
Even when I dream all day

"Our bus driver has been driving for something like 12 hours now," guitarist Andrew Wessen says from the road. "I don't know how he's still up."

Wessen and his Los Angeles-based band, Grouplove, are currently on the Honda Civic Tour with Portugal. The Man, but that ride takes a temporary break this weekend when both bands will play LouFest in St. Louis. One-day ($60), two-day ($95), and VIP ($350) tickets are available here.

In 2013, Grouplove released the fantastic Spreading Rumours, the follow-up to 2011's Never Trust a Happy Song. Let's have a listen to "Ways To Go."

If you've seen a Grouplove show, you know there isn't a moment when something or someone isn't in motion on stage. If you've yet to catch them, have a listen to the 2014 live I'm With You EP, and then purchase yourself a LouFest ticket for this weekend in St. Louis.

We recently talked to guitarist  Andrew Wessen about this energy, their recent performance at Lollapalooza, the band's tight-knit friendship, LouFest, and their love for St. Louis.

So how is 12 hours in a bus?

It's better than 12-hour rides in a van, so I can't complain. I've been in a band a long time, so I keep things in perspective. It's really not all that band. Quite fun, actually.

I saw you a couple weeks ago in Chicago for Lollapalooza.


What's the release like playing for so many people?

That was a surreal one, honestly, because I don't think any of us expected the amount of people that were there, and also the reaction that people had -- it was so overwhelming. We definitely had a moment afterward where it was like, "fuck, did that just happen?" We were really taken back by it.

And that was a momentous one because of the history of the festival, and just being in Chicago and everything. It was a big moment for the band, and we've been "go, go, go" since that we haven't really had a chance to reflect, and you bringing it up now, it's coming back to me. It was really special.

Go, go, go. Is that how these festivals and tours are all the time?

Well, these festivals have been routed in part of a tour, so one day you're playing a mid-sized room, and the next you're playing to 40,000 people. So, you go, "well, that's a little bit odd." But you really don't have time to think about it, because you're just there. It's bizarre. We like the big stages, too, so we can run around.

You do like to run around. I remember the first time I saw you at The Pageant, and the energy was immediate. Where does that come from?

Well, playing music for a living doesn't suck, you know? (laughs) People say, "oh you must get tired out there on the road." And I'll say, "I have the best job ever." And yeah, it's tiring, but so is the guy waking up to dig a ditch. He's probably pretty tired, too. So, I can't really complain about traveling around with my best friends and playing rock 'n' roll. Our whole crew is like family, the twelve of us, on like one big pirate ship sharing experiences, meeting so many bands and amazing's the best thing ever.

The fun you have when you're performing, it does look genuine and unscripted.

We're a live band in the true sense. Really, anything could just go horribly wrong. It's unpredictable, and I've found that I've always loved the shows that aren't 100% perfect, or when something goes a little weird. With all the thrashing around, something could get away from you, and I look forward to those moments, it keeps it real. There's a lot of bands, you could literally tape their set from the night before and then play it as a track the next night. It's all going to be the same. And with us, I feel like you get a performance every time.

And I never take that for granted. And look, if a band wants to have a tour where all the shows are the same, that's their right, but I prefer shows and tours like yours. You can tell when it's fresh.

The only goal will eventually to be able to capture that in the studio, because the studio is innately a sterile place. You don't have that energy in a live show. We tracked a lot of the last record live, but still, there's a lot of standing, and live, it's just wild and crazy and fun.

Christian jumped out in the crowd during the first song at Lollapalooza.

He's crazy.

Does he do that a lot?

When he's feeling it, yeah. It's not planned. He has a knack for being unpredictable, which I like. He'll also keep us on our toes, like right before we go on stage, he'll say, "okay, we're going to play this song today." And it's like, "wait, we haven't played that one in about a month." But, it's fun.

He and Hannah seem to have deep chemistry on stage.

Well, they're a couple, so their chemistry goes super deep. They're soul mates; they really are incredible to watch. It's hard to take your eyes off of them.

What's it like being in a band where you know that's the case, where their relationship is so deep? Is it difficult at all?

Well, I can't imagine being in a relationship and having it under a microscope 24/7. So, obviously there are times when they're not getting the space they need, and people get pissed off,. We're all human beings, so I would be lying to say that it's all sunshine and rainbows, but I would say, the people we meet across the country always tell us, "I can't believe you guys like each other so much!" (laughs) So, we still fucking love each other. I can't imagine living this way with people you don't like.

So, let's talk LouFest. It's in its fifth year now, and we're really looking forward to your set. LouFest is a festival that's been growing a little bit every year. What are your thoughts about playing a festival that's still growing like that?

I actually prefer...I don't know, everything's different...but it's nice playing smaller festivals, or mid-level festivals, so to speak. You can walk up to a set at almost any time and not be a mile back. I like that size, and I like festivals that are in cities, or in parks. I think that's fun. You're not out in the sticks, which is also something I love, but it's just cool to be in a city. I love playing St. Louis so much. We always stay in the Loop -- the Delmar Loop. We love Vintage Vinyl -- love going there while we're in the Loop. I'm not sure which park LouFest is in. Which park is it?

Forest Park, which isn't far from the Loop.

Awesome. We love it all, The Pageant...we honestly love St. Louis. We've had a few days off there. Good vibe, good people, good food. So, I'm really excited about LouFest. Cool lineup, it's kind of a weird hodgepodge of rock...super eclectic.

Before you go, tell me about touring with Portugal. The Man, who will also be at LouFest.

They are some of our best friends. It's been unbelievable. They're mischievous, they kinda bring out the bad in you -- in a good way. They're secret bad asses, and I don't know if people know that, but it's been super rowdy, nights and stuff. And we've been doing a special cover with them, which I don't know if I want to give away, because we might do it at LouFest. I hope we get to do it.

GROUPLOVE plays LouFest on Sunday, September 7th at 6:15 on the Bud Light Stage.

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