“If I had spent the last six years working at that job and progressed, I would have made a lot of money,” Nathanson told me from San Juan Capistrano, California, where his surfwear company is based. “But honestly, there have been very few days in the past six years where I’ve gotten in my car to go to work and thought, Fuck, I’m going to work. When I was at the investment bank, that was happening 50 percent of the days. And now I can go snowboarding at Mammoth in the middle of the week if there’s a good storm, rather than worrying about being at work at six in the morning. And there’s another upside as well: I have a total and complete passion for this business.”
There’s that tricky word again: passion. What’s with the Grups and passion? It’s all anyone wants to talk about. Passionate parents, passionate workers, passionate listeners to the new album by Wolf Parade. Even Rogan lights up when he talks about touring Japanese textile factories to find the perfect denim for his jeans. And I start to realize: Under the skin of the iPods and the $400 ripped jeans, this is the spine of the Grup ethos: passion, and the fear of losing it.
Which brings me back to my father: the one who wore suits, not jeans; the one who, when he was my age, already had four kids; the one who logged a lifetime at exactly the kind of middle-management jobs that no one wakes up excited about going to in the morning, and who then found himself sandbagged by the late-eighties recession, laid off in what must have felt like the worst kind of double whammy. All the adult trade-offs he’d made turned out to be a brutal bait-and-switch. Is it any wonder that the Grups have looked at that brand of adulthood and said, “No thanks, you can keep your carrot and your stick.” Especially once we saw just how easily that stick can be turned around to whap your ass as you’re ushered out the door, suit and all. Just how easily a bona fide, by-the-book adult can be made to wonder where it all went wrong, and why you ever bothered to grow up in the first place.
The Happy Ending
And this, improbably, is the happy ending to our story. (And, I admit, I’d hoped for a happy ending; for all the bedhead haircuts and Hives-peddling parents, I wanted this to end well.) Being a Grup isn’t, as it turns out, all about holding on to some misguided, well-marketed idea of youth—or, at least, isn’t just about that. It’s also about rejecting a hand-me-down model of adulthood that asks, or even necessitates, that you let go of everything you ever felt passionate about. It’s about reimagining adulthood as a period defined by promise, rather than compromise. And who can’t relate to that?
Of course, that’s not a real ending—even the Grups don’t know how this will end. They know they’re making up adulthood as they go. “My dad’s worked at the same place he’s worked for 30 years,” says Peccini. “But when I left my job, he said to me, ‘If I was your age—and if I hadn’t had three kids and a mortgage—I would have done the same thing.’ ” When I ask Peccini what he sees himself doing in ten years, or at his dad’s age, he gives the typical Grup answer. “That’s a great question,” he says. “I don’t know. But I like my life.”
Even Andy and Dominique, the startlingly cool rock-star parents, aren’t quite sure where this is headed. “All I know is that the end point you give yourself keeps shifting by five years,” says Andy. “When we were in our twenties, we were like, ‘When we get in our mid-thirties, we’ll have to call it quits, because it’s too pathetic after that.’ Then we got to our mid-thirties, and the timetable became the early forties. I suppose when we get there, we’ll say, ‘Once we hit 50 . . . ’ ” Then he says, with more resolve, “On our 50th birthday, it will be official. No more touring.”