Friends United: When Los Angeles-based genre defying troupe grouptherapy (all one word, all lower case), composed of Jadagrace, SWIM and TJOnline, released new album I Was Mature for My Age, but I Was Still a Child on June 27, it marked another significant milestone on their ever-accelerating road to success.
According to a press release accompanying news of the album’s release, the trio “have been close friends and peers for over 15 years and united during tumultuous periods of their young lives. They found solace and friendship with one another while navigating the all too often murky terrain of the entertainment realm. Individually they are vast and distinct and collectively they beautifully amplify the talents of one another, resulting in an art that surpasses the confines of genre and exists unlike anything else out right now.”
That camaraderie, that unified spirit, finds its way into their music, highlighted by the new video for “HOT!” Hip-hop, electronic music, pop and R&B collides in thrilling fashion as they demand to be heard. “I’m hot, I’m hot, I’m hot, never stop.” BOOM!
The group says that they all started off as passionate music fans. “We all grew up pretty isolated and sheltered,” they say, collectively. “Jadagrace has been doing music for her whole life essentially, but completely on other people’s terms. TJ and SWIM grew up steeped in online music subcultures as escapism from working as kid actors. We all got into making music the way we do it because we needed an outlet. A place to actually be ourselves, or maybe even discover ourselves, without the input of the adults around us. After a while we would start to collaborate to compensate for something the other was weaker on. Before we knew it we were operating like a writing/producing team and we were growing more than we’d ever been able to before.”
The trio have been friends since they were kids, and they found in each other a safe space to discuss the things that felt uncomfortable talking about elsewhere.
“We were already making music as a way to process our own issues alone so it only felt right to be there for each other musically,” they say. “It didn’t exactly register to us that we were forming a group until we had to come up with a name and everything. We’d already made probably over 100 songs at that point with no plan to release them. They were our therapy songs.”
Their songs, they say, have a lot to do with living in L.A. This city has a way of making its way into the art created here, and grouptherapy is no different.
“Beyond the obvious acting/film connection, the culture of being an LA native is very specific,” they say. “It’s one of the few places in the country where, no matter how much money you have, you’re guaranteed to see super-cars and celebrities. There’s this beautiful pipeline to super-stardom sewn into the experience of living here. Unfortunately that ends up being a magnet for grifters and swindlers offering shortcuts to success. The stakes feel higher and the possibility of fame, positive and negative, looms in the background constantly. It’s a very surreal place. It requires you to be extremely adaptable and crafty. There’s the cliche New York saying ‘if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.’ L.A.’s version would probably be ‘if you can make it here, you’ll be comfortable anywhere.’”
The group describes their current sound as adventurous. They clearly don’t like to box themselves in, and they allow the production to be as vulnerable as they are.
“Because of that, this album sounds less like a specific genre and more like a collage of all the things that have left an impact on us,” they say. “There’s traditional boom-bap on this album, there’s trap, there’s pop – all things we’ve covered before. But there’s also punk, drum and bass, shoe-gaze, deep house, nu-metal. We’re shedding our inhibitions and making the honest production choices.”
The new album was recorded at their home in North Hollywood with an engineer and a few friends. The intimacy allows for a more personal, artistic body of work.
“We went out of our way to make it feel like we weren’t making an album,” they say. “Just going in and taking risks. We started messing around with some ideas and sounds in November of 2022. At the end of the month we made FUNKFEST. From then on, songs just started pouring out of us until we turned around in March and said ‘wait a minute… I think we finished the album.’”
It’s not a concept album, but the overriding theme is one of accepting that your childhood wasn’t perfect.
“We learned a lot of hard things these past few years,” they say. “The world has been a hostile place to young adults lately. We’re a very stressed generation. Having been through a harrowing political landscape, a global pandemic, a constantly heating planet… We’re all living with a general sense of anxiety and dread. Quite a few of us and our friends learned they’ve been undiagnosed neuro-atypical in some way. We started learning the truth about our childhoods, our parents, our families. We’ve started moving into caretaker roles for our parents. This album is walking through the way we processed all of that. We had to go dig through our memories and pick out the things we wanted to take with us and leave the rest behind. Our hope is that us sharing our ups, downs, mistakes and little victories, will make it easier for someone else to do the same. Or at least, feel less alone while they do it.”
With the record out, grouptherapy is planning to take it to as many cities as they can, as then look towards a productive and successful second half of 2023.
“This is the first time we’ve taken this much time on making a project so we want to put it in front of as many people as possible,” they say. “In a way it feels like a celebration of the effort we put in. This album made us better people. So we want to honor that by bringing the songs to life on stage as many times as we can. When it comes to new music, we’ve started joking that we’re living the next album right now. So we’re going to live. And let the next era roll in at its own pace.”
Friends United: grouptherapy’s album I Was Mature for My Age, but I Was Still a Child is out now.
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