Hanson comes to the Workplay Theatre on Monday, September 9. Former American Idol contestant and Alabama native Paul McDonald will open. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $27 at www.workplay.com, or at the door for $30. Doors open at 8 p.m.
The three brothers, Isaac, Taylor and Zac, have been performing together for over twenty years, first achieving commercial success with the 1996 pop radio hit MMMBop and releasing its tenth studio record as a collective this year, Anthem. I spoke to the eldest, Isaac, about the band’s charitable efforts, its venture into brewing with MMMHops and its loyal fanbase.
Blake Ells for Birmingham Box Set: Anthem is bluesy. It’s almost soulful. And it seems with each record you guys do, you explore the boundaries of different genres. Why does that exploration appeal to you?
Isaac Hanson: As a band, we’re a little A.D.D., unfortunately, so you can always expect something unique about each record. This one takes a bluesier direction than we have some times in the past and we called it Anthem – a word or song in support of a cause. Many of our fans of the last 15 plus years have shown their passions year after year and song after song. So the title felt appropriate for an album that was a big artistic concept.
BE: On the current tour, you’re donating $1 from each ticket to charity. What’s the charity and why was it appealing to you?
IH: The proceeds raised from this effort are being used to help poverty in Africa. In 2007, we started helping to provide shoes, building schools and using our shows across the U.S. and Canada to help fund those causes.
Since 2007, we’ve been a part of a project called “Take the Walk” – a way that we can connect with people. Issues in Africa may not be something that you spend the rest of your life trying to help improve, but “Take the Walk” is about overcoming your own fears. Joining us for a day. Taking off your shoes and walking a mile. Maybe that will inspire you to take on another local challenge that you’re passionate about. Life is short and if you can make a positive impact, it’s important to do so.
BE: The thing I’ve been most eager to speak to you about is MMMHops. What is distribution like right now? When can I buy it in Alabama? Is it affordable?
IH: Some of those details are still being worked out. We have 50 states and all of those laws are different. Some are easy, and sometimes, there are a lot of hoops to jump through. We have an aggressive plan to get into a lot of states quickly, but we also don’t want to overextend ourselves and screw the pooch before we get going.
We’ll start at home – in Oklahoma – and we’ll begin looking into mail order options. We can’t necessarily mail order to every state, but hopefully, that will allow the fans a chance to get it if they aren’t local. If we already have this many people asking, it’ll be a hell of a lot easier to get it to them if we can do it by mail.
The best part of this is that it’s like having a song you like in your iPad – if you like it, you can just hit repeat. In moderation, of course. [laughs] It’s a full flavor pale ale. I feel like it’s a great introductory pale ale – it hits some notes of something like Sierra Nevada; perhaps even has some similar qualities to something like Anchor Steam. I think it is a beer that can be competitive with beer snobs, and I would consider myself a part of that beer snob category.
BE: You’re all family men now, and I’ve heard that you each take a tour bus on the road and bring your families along. Is that true? [via: @cturnip]
IH: No. [laughs] That would be a very expensive venture. We travel relatively light, and it’s been that way since the beginning. The most we ever had was – there have been tours with two busses to have have enough room. We’ve also learned over time that you can route the tours in a way that allows some time off for family.
BE: You have an incredibly loyal fanbase that has evolved with you. How has it felt to know that they were so willing to be a part of your maturation process?
IH: Music has got to change no matter what. If you make the same record over and over, why would people bother buying them? We’ve tried to make the most exciting and best quality record that we can make each time we set out to record. Our first concern is the quality of the songwriting, then everything else.
We feel lucky that we were able to connect with people at a young point in their lives. Hanson has grown up, but I think it’s just a matter of keeping on making records. Bands evolve. If it’s passionate, exciting and valuable to you, that is why it will be that way to someone else. It’s like the beer. It I don’t like my beer, I’m going to have a hell of a hard time convincing someone else to like it.
We have always been songwriters first. The pop fare is great, and everyone wants that. But it’s not the goal. We’ve been lucky that all those songs we wrote when we were young were also very much ours, too. Both of those can equally connect with people. They can have the familiarity with those songs, but then they can also know you in a completely different way. We never expected this.
BE: Paul McDonald is opening your show, a man with Alabama roots. How did you guys hook up?
IH: We knew Paul through his wife, Nikki Reed. She met us several years ago. Then, they started dating and we met him. He’s a great dude. She was in a music video of ours and we said, “You know? Let’s get Paul in the video, too.”
He plays the role of “drunken guy at a urinal” very well. [laughs]
BE: Did you receive free Eggos for life when “Thinking of You” was included in that commercial several years ago? [via: @aimeebelcher]
IH: [laughs] Yes. We got a lot of free Eggos. Eggos do actually get freezer burned no matter what. They can’t stay good forever.
BE: Tulsa is home, which is pretty big college football country. Are you guys Sooners fans? Oklahoma State?
IH: At the end of the day, I’m an Oklahoma fan. I’m more of a Sooner than a Cowboy. I only own OU hats. Other than that, I have an OKC Thunder hat I wear a lot.
BE: This is probably better suited for Taylor, but I wasn’t sure which Hanson that I would speaking with. Will Tinted Windows ever happen again or was that a one time thing? [via: @BradfordSim]
IH: I’ve heard him answer this before, so I’ll give it a try. I don’t think it’s a one time thing, but the timeline on when it will happen again is difficult to nail down. I know that it has been in discussion in the last few years.
BE: Who are the top five American rock bands of all time?
IH: Aerosmith is so insanely good. If they’re not number one, they definitely belong in the top five. On some level or another, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are on the edge of rock – they’re kind of rootsy, but I’ll include them because I love them so much.
I’m going to be showing my Southern bias here, but the Black Crowes are pretty amazing. As far as records are concerned, they can be a little hit or miss, but By Your Side and Shake Your Moneymaker are about as good as it gets.
I’d include somebody like Gov’t Mule. They’re really, really good, and I know that is more bluesy – it walks that line between blues, R&B and rock. And I think Little Feat, who aren’t necessarily rock either, are really cool. I like them a lot. Definitely an R&B kind of vibe.
But then, I ask myself, should Rage Against the Machine be in there? Red Hot Chili Peppers? That’s hard. You know what? I’m sticking with those five. Red Hot Chili Peppers – they’re rock, but they’re also funk. I’m gonna replace…
Nope. I’m sticking with that list. That’s five. And man, now my brain is just churning…