October 14, 2016
Story by Lauren Gutierrez
Andrew Wessen is a punk rock surfer kid from the beach culture of Los Angeles. He has since become the guitarist of the alternative rock band Grouplove.
Wessen grew up in a quiet house – but his interest in music was sparked by the mesmerizing piano pieces he would watch his grandmother play when she came to visit. He was about 10 years old when he learned to play the piano, and was inspired by his older brother’s punk rock music to play guitar.
In high school, Wessen felt like the hometown hero because he performed locally in a punk band. Talking about it, he laughed and said, “All these kids come to every show… but if you went like one town over you’d get like one person. So it’s kind of funny. You think you’re killing it and then you realize that it’s totally irrelevant because no one knows who you are at all.”
In 2008, Wessen’s brother created an artist commune in Crete, Greece. He invited about 25 or 30 artists to sleep in tents and pile into old dilapidated buildings they fixed up enough to house people. “Everyone in the band was one of those people. We all sort of gravitated towards each other and loved each other’s songs… and created a sort of instant kinship,” said Wesson.
After the artist commune, the soon-to-be band members kept in touch; but each of them worked on their own projects for a year before they eventually recorded together for fun in their drummer, Ryan Rabin’s garage. According to Wessen, Grouplove wasn’t meant to happen, it was actually the one project that initially none of the band members paid attention to at all.
“I think maybe luck happens to those that are best prepared. You get that lucky break but it doesn’t mean you just waltzed into it,” Wessen said. He believes the struggles each of them faced as artists in their own worlds positioned them to find success in Grouplove. “It probably took us doing all those shows to nobody and all that stuff… to find that magic in that moment and capitalize on it.”
Over the past six years Grouplove has produced exuberantly brooding music that’s taken to a whole new level when the eclectic group is on stage together. The band has even become a literal family as the vocalists, Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi, now bring their one-year-old daughter, Willa, on tour.
Wessen reflected on the band’s journey and said, “If this had fallen into our laps when we were all like 18… I don’t think it would have lasted or would’ve appreciated it as much as we do now.”
This year they released their latest album “Big Mess”. It speaks to the issues they observe in the world that they try to inject some joy into where they can. On stage they have shared moments of raw energy and emotion with fans for over six years. Wessen said gratefully, “Seeing those people come back year after year is probably the most gratifying element of it.”
Grouplove @ The Complex, 536 W 100 S, Salt Lake City, Oct. 17, 7:00 p.m., TheComplexSLC.com
lauren [@] laurengutierrez [dot] com