Brother’s latest album ‘shouts out’ to legends like Chuck Berry, Blues Bros.
You may remember the band HANSON by its 1997 pop hit “MMMBop,” but brothers Zac, Taylor and Isaac have more to offer than just a bubble gum pop song. All three members play instruments and offer vocals on each track, which has led to the group’s success of more than 15 million records sold throughout its career, Grammy nominations and the release of a fifth record, Shout it Out.
I had the chance to talk with Zac, 24, about the success of the current album, touring and a new addition to his family.
DZ: You guys have been around for about 13 years, so how have you maintained that level of success over the last 13 years?
ZH: That’s an interesting thing that I’m not sure I can quite answer in the sense. I mean for us, we actually started in ’92. People have known us since ’97. We never were going to stop, no matter if we were successful or not successful. It’s just something that’s in our blood and DNA that we have to make music to play shows.
Whether it’s in a theatre or in our garage. That’s the way we have always tried to be honest with the music we make and put our passions for what we do first. We are lucky with the way people have responded to it and have a connection with the music we are making.
DZ: The music industry changes every so many years. Obviously from ’92 to 2010 you’ve seen a lot of bands come and go and kind of die off. How does it feel to still be big and noticeable and have your music recognized all over the world in 2010 compared to so long ago when bands were dying off after one or two albums?
ZH: Sure. I mean it’s a definitely a different business today since it was a few years ago when we started our record label (3CG Records.) I think, for us, we are trying to look to the future of music and how it’s going to get to fans. How we as fans of music are gonna want the experience to listen to a record.
As far as [how] it feels to survive, it feels good to be able to keep doing it every day and still have fans sleeping out in front of venues, playing shows that in an industry where touring is even struggling. Ticket sales are way, way down and we are still out there; just played a sold out show in Omaha. We’re doing pretty good.
DZ: Not too long ago you decided to split away from your record company and decided to do it your own way. What did that do for you guys maturity-wise? As musicians, how did that help you grow?
ZH: Forming the label and going on our own was really a choice to not change what we do. We were in a situation where we were signed to a label called Mercury, which was a really good home for us.
We had lots of people who understood what we were doing under the vision of the band. After several large mergers, we ended up under Island Def Jam Records, which was not a good home for us. And I think what we saw was that they didn’t have a vision for our career and what we were doing.
They wanted to work with us because we had been successful. It just wasn’t a good place to be. When we left, it was also something, when you look at the rest of the industry, that there is so much volatility and retention stands are so short. The amount of money people put behind records is so much less.
All the reasons you would be with a label seem to be to disappearing. If you can’t know you are going to have people who understand your career, they might be fired a couple weeks after you sign a deal. That’s a problem. Or if they don’t give you a budget, then these reasons are going away.
The choice to be independent really is the choice to remove the middle man and rely more on the connection with the fans. It eliminates the politics in the music we make and allows us to move forward and make music we are passionate about without having to deal with the insecurities of label executives.
We just make music and hopefully are a band that says we don’t care about what’s happening now. We care about making music that will connect with people and have a lasting relationship in people’s lives.
DZ: You came out with a new album recently. Tell us about what influenced the new album and Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’, the new single that was released.
ZH: In general, this whole record goes back to our original influences. When we first heard late ’50s and early ’60s rock and roll and Motown records was when the spark happened. For us to go, wow, we should be singing and writing songs like that. It got us going. The first single, it’s even in the lyrics. Throughout the song there are all kinds of references to classic lines and titles from records past that we listened to growing up. It’s everything from referencing Ray Charles to the line ‘Respect.” It’s that salt and pepper of going back to that.
We were all feeling a connection to loving those records and rediscovering them at this point in our lives. The horn parts to the record are really keys to the new sound of this record. Every record has an evolution to it. The horn section does something we have never done before. There’s a calling out for it. You can do horns wrong and we didn’t want it to sound like Chicago. We wanted it to sound like Michael Jackson, a very iconic horn part.
DZ: How much fun was it to make the video?
ZH: The video was definitely a lot of fun. We are huge, huge fans of the Blues Brothers.
DZ: There are a lot of people who may not understand the video because they are too young.
ZH: Well, it’s funny, but we didn’t even realize it until we finished the music video that it’s the 30-year of the release of the Blues Brothers. It was made in ’79. You know, we grew up watching that movie because it was this perfect combination for us that was like bad humor, car chases and great music.
When we thought about that song and title, everything connected with the idea with reproducing the scene with Ray Charles. What you see in that scene (of the music video) is people reacting by expressing themselves through dance. They are the kind of moves that don’t look like a bunch of professional dancers. They are real people dancing. It’s not 100-percent perfect. It’s not pop and lock (here he makes pop and lock noises.) It’s a retro classic, dance moves anyone could do.
That was the feeling we wanted to portray about what this record is, which is a summer record. It says let it out and let loose. Even all the songs that are not happy love songs . . . in the end, the messages are saying you will get through it and just shout it out.
DZ: Where’s your favorite place to play?
ZH: That’s, hmm, anywhere that has a really excited fan base. Chicago has been really good to us. New York is good. I don’t care about where we are, but I care about the fact that the people are screaming out the lyrics to every song and dancing and enjoying themselves.
That’s what makes a really good show. You could be in the crappiest rock club in the basement of a brewery and still have a good show. If you have fans that connect with what you are doing, that is the best show.