It’s a bit weird to think of Hanson as veterans of the music industry, because the lasting impression for many of us will always be three earnest young kids belting out the ubiquitous “MMMBop.” But that was nearly 15 years ago, and brothers Taylor, Zac and Isaac Hanson can now be considered survivors of the music industry’s ups and downs, a band that was birthed before the rise of social networking and the overall dominance of the Internet.
In June, Hanson released “Shout It Out,” its eighth studio album and third on its own indie label 3CG Records. During the run-up to the release, the band played five consecutive sold-out shows in New York, performing a different album from its catalog each night, culminating with a live rendition of “Shout It Out.”
Drummer Zac Hanson, at 25 the youngest member, took a break from editing footage of an upcoming DVD set of that five-night stand set for release later this month to chat with the Weekender in advance of the group’s Friday night show at the Sherman Theater.
WEEKENDER: What were the pros and cons for your band getting such an early start?
HANSON: Well, I guess I have an interesting perspective just because we’ve been lucky to go through a lot and see a lot of successes and failures in our own area and in the area of people around us and friends and musicians that you see come and go. I look at most of them as pros, just because we started off young, which gave us an opportunity to be not that old and have a lot of experience, a lot of history with our fans.
We’re lucky that we’ve gotten to be part of our fans’ lives when they are really defining themselves; adolescence and pre-adolescence, you’re really kind of defining what kind of person you’re going to be.
The cons are the longer you are in the spotlight, the more opportunities for the proverbial blade to cut both ways.
WEEKENDER: Why did you decide to use a horn section and work with Motown legend Bob Babbitt on “Shout It Out”?
HANSON: We were feeling drawn back to why we wanted to be a band in the first place. … I think (Babbitt) added the icing on the cake. … Bob has so much history, such a great sense of where the groove of where the song needs to be — a lot of those things you don’t even realize you’re hearing until you hear the rhythms that are in your subconscious.
With the horns, it’s something that immediately some of these songs called out for us. There’s a joke within the industry that every stupid A&R guy, when they hear a track and don’t know what to do with it, they say, “Put the horns on it.” But we sort of got to the point where we had a sense that we needed to go all the way.
WEEKENDER: Hanson formed in the mid-’90s, when the Internet was in its infancy. How has that sort of technology had an impact on the band?
HANSON: Well, I mean there’s a lot of different perspectives on technology and how it’s changed the business, and I think that we’re lucky that we burst onto the scene at the right age that our fans are really the first generation to really grow up with the broad proliferation of the Internet and cell phones. I remember when we first came out there were so few websites on the Internet, and we were in the top 10 most-visited websites, period, because essentially people of a certain age, the youth, were like, ‘What else can we do besides go to this band’s website?’
WEEKENDER: How do you feel about people’s opinion of Hanson? Everyone seems to have one.
HANSON: We’ve always been a band that was a little bit polarizing. There is unequivocally a response when people hear Hanson or think about Hanson. People usually love this band or hate this band. … I think the good thing about that is we are not making the kind of music or art that doesn’t connect with people. Bands like Matchbox Twenty make the kind of music that, in general, anyone can listen to and they won’t change the channel because it’s just kind of ‘eh,’ and that’s really great, but in general I think the kind of artists that I’m usually drawn to are the ones that really stir something up inside whenever I listen to it. It makes you want to be a fan. So I think that’s the kind of band that we strive to be, one that creates a feeling with our music.