Hanson Still Writes the Soundtrack to Good Times

By | September 8, 2010

Phoenix New Times

When I was 13 years old, my family and I moved to Arizona from Tennessee, passing through Oklahoma on the drive. Crossing the border from Arkansas into the Sooner State, we broke into a jovial, off-key sing-along. You know that Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma!? The musical’s signature song memorably features the cast spelling out the state’s name in a dramatic crescendo of territorial American pride.

So we’re singing this song and it hits me: Hanson, my favorite band, featuring my future husband (Taylor, if you must know), lives in this state. I giddily demand that we drive through Tulsa, Hanson’s home base. For some reason, my demands are met and we go to Tulsa, where my girlishness and borderline insanity make the empty streets seem magical. “MMMBop” comes on the radio, and I gasp, because it’s obviously a sign from God. Absorbing all those Hanson stories in Teen Beat would pay off and, soon, the Hanson brothers would fall in love with me. Or something.

Fast-forward to 2010. The tween pandemonium has long since halted. The “MMMBop”-inspired insanity is a faded memory. The band grew up. And so did the fans. “We all started out so young together. I mean, I was 11 when we kind of hit the scene. I’ll be 25 this year,” drummer Zac Hanson says.

Hanson released their major-label debut, Middle of Nowhere, 13 years ago. Since then, they’ve released seven studio albums, including a Christmas album, parted ways with Island Def Jam (where they ended up after Mercury merged with Island). They started their own label, 3CG, a reference to their compilation album Three Car Garage, and started releasing their music independently.

“When we first formed the label, it was a lot crazier of an idea. What does being your own label mean?” Kac says. “In a lot of ways, it’s a very simple thing. I’m not going to give [my music] to someone else and say, ‘I hope it works out.’ For us, it’s a tool to grow with.”

In April, Hanson released the video for their latest single, “Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’.” Those same Tulsa streets I begged to drive on provide the video’s setting. The video pays homage to “Shake a Tail Feather,” which the diehards — both of them — will remember Hanson covered live and released on Live from Albertane. Taylor, Isaac, and Zac twist and shout with a huge cast of extras, re-enacting the famous Ray Charles scene from The Blues Brothers. It captures that same buoyant feeling from Hanson’s first burst of fame: dancing in the streets, singing as loud as possible, and pure, summery fun.

That single is from the new record, Shout It Out, a soulful pop outing featuring musical heavyweights. Jerry Hey, who arranged horns for Michael Jackson, joined the band to record in El Paso.

“These horns are pop horns,” Zac says. “It’s not orchestral or something like that. It’s a sound that brings excitement to the whole record. [Hey] did actually do a couple songs on our record Underneath and it was really great to have him back.”

So far, so good.

“The response to the record has really been phenomenal, and people have been saying really flattering things about the band. That stuff isn’t why we do it,” Zac says. “That scene [in the video] was just this perfect scene that connected with the way we feel about the new record. It’s people being unlocked and finding joy in music.”

Shout It Out is well-executed adult pop rock that satisfies the inner 13-year-old fangirl pining for a Hanson brother to call her own. As to whether crying, screaming, and fainting ensue, well, you’ll just have to see ’em live to find out.

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