For years Hanson has been stuck with the stigma that they are a bunch of teen boys singing “MMMBop” and that’s it. In reality the guys have grown up and left their top 40 hit in the dust. They have only gotten better at their craft and have tightened their abilities to as good as it can get for a 3-piece brother band. The Jonas Brothers may have the limelight, but when it’s all said and done people will remember the original pop heartthrob trio for their expansion of sound and passion for what they do. This is what Taylor had to say when I talked to him last month.
What would you say are the biggest changes you’ve noticed in the music industry between when you were first signed as kids and now?
Wow, Well, I mean there’s a lot. There’s so many changes from when we first started. One of the major things is the way audiences consume music. That’s one of the biggest.
Yeah the digital movement.
Yeah the whole digital movement. When we first put out the record, there were still cassette tapes happening and you know the CD was just driving. It was just like completely dominating because people were still buying catalogue stuff. So there was a big inflated view of CD sales. There was also when we first came out, we were so young that we struck a chord with a lot of super young people and they were even more likely to buy CD’s because a parent or someone older were buying something for them. Or maybe they were young and buying their first record. The idea of ripping it off online was so not developed yet. I think that the way people consume music is in a lot of ways cooler because people can actually think of something or hear about it and you can go get it. I love that about having the developed online world for music. But it is a real challenge to figure out the business side. When people have just stopped buying music they value the product so much less because people just expect that they can just have it. Everybody is sort of affected by that. But I think the other quality to this, that is really different, is that the development of independent music culture. Part of what we did starting our label, On The Third Record. A lot of people have done it different ways but there’s less dominance over the overall music business by the major labels. There’s still a huge amount under the umbrella of the majors but the force of records topping the charts and a lot of records that are becoming successful eventually that are connected to the majors are started and kept alive and made to exist because of smaller imprint labels. I think the culture of the new independent music scene is less about the style of your music and more about the approach. That’s totally grown and we’re among that category. We make roots’ pop rock and roll or whatever we are. But we are as indie as they come. If you get down to the definition.
Would you say that it’s harder now or easier now, pre internet and post-internet for being a band with the whole digital movement?
Is it harder or easier? You know I think it’s a lot more complicated then it was. I don’t think it’s necessarily harder or easier. It’s a lot more complicated because it’s not as cut and dry. Back in the 50’s and 60’s the record labels owned the studios. So if you really wanted to make a record you needed to get a deal. So in a lot of cases it was a lot simpler because you were like one goal, Get signed. Why? Because it’s really expensive to record stuff. So if we can get signed we can actually record our music. Which is insane to think about.
Now it’s so easy to record anything.
Yeah, and also it’s crazy to think that A&R guys actually had to go out and listen to bands play. Because there wasn’t just demo tapes people could just throw down any time easily. There were ways to record, but it was just so much more complicated. So going out to catch a live band was the way you heard whether a band was good and said “hey we want to record you.” So you know going forward to when our first record came out, right before recording and protools came into being totally dominate. Essentially before it was 16-bit people were still using it for editing. Even at that point it was a lot more complicated and a lot more expensive in general to record. The tendency was, “Hey if I get signed then there is only so many ways to reach people in massive ways.” The major labels control that, you have to get on radio, you have to get into record stores, it’s not like there is this other real legitimate option other than touring and touring. It was just less developed, but it was simpler, it wasn’t necessarily easy. No matter what era you come into something like that, anything that has as much competition to succeed as music or anything with art, there’s a 98% failure rate. Everyone fails and there are a lot of artists out there, so to actually to get there is crazy. The odds are against you.
Do you think with the way the music is now, do you think you would have started Hanson with the way music is now?
The simple answer is absolutely. When you start making music you aren’t looking at the industry. When you’re making music you have some kind of thing in your gut where you want to make something. Or you hear a record and you decide “Hey, I can kind of sing, or I can figure out this chord.” So you make music not because of an industry, you make it because of the music. But then later you figure out there is this whole other thing that goes with the package of doing this. Though yeah, I would definitely be doing it. Our story would obviously be quite different if we were a band and I was 12 years old right now and we were trying to get signed. It would be a totally different ballgame.
Was there ever a time that you wished you didn’t go into the music industry and had a semi normal childhood,? Or are you happy with the way everything turned out?
I guess I can’t imagine not being me. Not having someone else’s life. For me as a kid I felt the same way as I do now about making music. Obviously we were younger and your perspective is a lot different but I had this sort of pounding need to go for it. To measure up and sort of say” Well can I do this?” I think that’s the sense that you feel like you’ve got what it takes. You see other people and other music and you go ”Hey, I can do that.” So I don’t think I could unless I wasn’t me and I think the same for the other guys too in different ways. I don’t think I could have made that choice in a weird way. It takes determination to go do something you know? But at some level I feel like my choices just came into be. It’s like in my DNA, making music. So I wouldn’t want it different. I wouldn’t want a different life. You know everyone has, “That would have been cool to do that when I was this age to do this or that.” But not as a whole, definitely not.
What is it like releasing music through your own label and would you say it’s a more positive experience than being on a major label?
For us, a lot of the pieces are still the same. I mean you’re trying to market yourself, you’re trying to get it in places where people can buy it, you’re trying to put your face on things so people know about it, and then you’re trying to make a product that people think is great and that you’re super proud of. I can’t imagine doing it another way at this point. We’ve got this great little cottage industry that we’ve been able to build around what we do. The difference for us, and I think this is why this is the future and the changing shift is happening. Because of the way distribution has changed, like when we talked about digital movement. Artists can become the center and they don’t have to necessarily give up ownership of everything. They can find partners for different projects and different things. So for us I wouldn’t want to be in a situation where we were constantly deferring to somebody’s else’s structure. Where we are now allows us to create our own infrastructure that works for us. Everything that we’re doing plays to the bigger picture. It’s not just the record, it’s not just the tour. It’s a crazy idea to give way more content on some crazy package that a hardcore fan would really want and being able to do that. Being able to do content online, live streaming content and things you can do without restrictions. I wouldn’t want to be able to do it any other way. It gives you more freedom. It’s always difficult to compete with stuff but it’s way more important for us to be able to navigate the waters ourselves. To go out there and find people to be a part of it. You still have to get them excited, you still have to get people to use their relationships to get you in front of people. All of the other workings of being in the industry. But for us it just makes so much more sense to be in the driver’s seat.
To wrap this up, are you looking forward to Bamboozle Roadshow? What are your thoughts on that? And what can we expect from the band in the future with the new album?
First of all Bamboozle is going to be great. We have done a surprisingly small amount of tours with other acts. A lot of tours have been co-headlining or doing club shows or tours on our own. So there’s definitely a part of us that is looking forward to playing for people that aren’t necessarily out there to see us. Part of being a band is winning fans. When you’re opening up trying to start your band, you go to these random shows in the Midwest, like when we loaded up in our van as kids. To walk out on stage and be like “Hey, people don’t know us by the end of this we’re going to win over people” is great.
Especially with your history too. Coming from a pop radio band to the music you make now is so different that people don’t give it a fair chance. SO festivals like this is a good chance to win over a lot of people.
Yeah, you hope that’s the case. Honestly to be able to say, “Hey, check this out, this may be something you haven’t been listening to or haven’t been aware of” is something totally different for us too. To do a show regardless whether you have followed the band or you’d be like “Hey, that was kind of kick ass, I want to find out more” isall you’re trying to do as a band. Trying to people to respond.
And what can we expect from you guys in the future with the album?
Shout It Out is a record that is about celebrating what we love doing. Musically it’s a really pop record. It’s an upbeat, bright colored record. But it’s a record that is kind of up front. It was recorded super live and I think our hope is to resonate with people that have loved the band over the years. The attitude is just let loose. Encouraging people to sort of, for lack of better terms, in the video people of every shape and color are dancing in the street. It’s sort of over the top but there’s something about that feeling of not really caring if it’s cheesy or over the top or just saying “Hey, music makes you feel something.” This record is about not being apologetic about loving a great rhythm and a soulful melody. And just being able to say, this is something that just gets you excited. We grew up listening to great soul music and rock n’ roll music and it made you feel something. Every record isn’t meant to be a go dance in the street record, but I feel like this one is. It feels like a summer album and it’s really in kind of debt to a lot of the music we grew up listening to. And I think our band is always going to be referenced to classic soul and rock n’ roll and we’ll never get away from that. But I think this one makes it more obvious and I hope people see that.