Zac Hanson chats about return to Milwaukee

By | October 12, 2013

ON Milwaukee

The boys from Hanson are all grown up.

Hanson’s back. The musical brothers Isaac, Taylor and Zac are celebrating both their 21st year (!) as a band and their 6th studio album, called Anthem, which is full of their signature catchy hooks backed by a bigger, more aggressive sound. Hanson’s Anthem Tour will be making a stop at the Pabst Theater this Saturday night, Oct. 11

As in the past, the band will be doing a one-mile barefoot walk starting outside the venue at 3 p.m. to support the fight against poverty and HIV/AIDS in Africa. The band is donating $1 per person for everyone who does the walk, and fans have the opportunity to donate more if they would like. In addition to touring to support the new album and their activist work, the brothers are also brewing their own beer, called Mmmhops. We caught up with youngest brother Zac to talk about all of these things and more. Your recent documentary, Re Made in America, the Making of Anthem chronicles the creation of your new album, Anthem, but it also captures what happened after you guys had a surprising decision to face after finding yourselves burnt out after a grueling tour schedule, which was: after 20 years as a band, do we call it quits or recommit to the band? Was there any one person or event that started talks about the issue during your time apart to regroup?

Zac Hanson: In the end we sort of set a timeline, saying, “Let’s not talk or make music for this amount of time and we’ll see how we feel after that.” And what happened really was that the desire to make music continued and we were writing songs while we weren’t working together, and we came up with ideas for the future so that when we finally came together we were just ready to get back on the road.

OMC: You started doing The Walk again this tour after a couple years off.

ZH: Yeah, we didn’t do it in 2011 – the thing about the walks is more the decision not to do them versus the decision to say that we want to see the walks continue, not just as a Hanson-concert thing. We wanted to make sure that was happening. When we talk about the walks I think it’s always been something that we really don’t feel is about us as a band. There are fans that come see us – obviously there’s an unavoidable quality to it where you have people who just come because they want to take a picture or ask you a question about a song, but I think we felt like it was time to start them up again. Doing the walks is one more thing in each day, but we love doing them. I think part of the decision not to do the walks in 2011 was really about the fact that that particular tour, the Musical Ride Tour, was one where we were allowing people to vote on songs and which album we would be playing each night, so that took more time each day to rehearse to make sure the music was right.

OMC: That actually ties into my next question. You guys have been together now for a staggering 21 years as a band. Let’s look back for a moment to my personal favorite Hanson album, which is your second one, This Time Around. During the Musical Ride Tour, that album was consistently voted as the one to hear when it was among the choices for a show. Did the popularity of it surprise you?

ZH: Our fans surprise me a lot, so I’m used to my expectations being high for them and not knowing what you’re going to see from people. It was something that you couldn’t know – I mean there’s certain records where you know there are moments that are more anticipated. I think I was a little surprised, just because you never know which record is going to be the most popular. It makes sense to me, though. When that first record Middle of Nowhere came out, it was such a big record, such a big pop culture moment – people knew about it whether they wanted to or not. But when it comes time for record number two, you know, ‘the sequel,’ fans are making more of a conscious choice to follow this band. And that record…the messages behind it are about believing and fighting for things that you care about and I think fans probably identified with that maybe towards our band. You know, “I’m going to go to 12 concerts because I love this band,” or stuff like that. But it’s cool to see each record and be able to play it as its own little piece of our band’s history.

OMC: Jumping back to the present now, this summer I was at two concerts by artists who used your music to pump the crowd up before their shows. First, Taylor Swift broadcast the video of your cover of We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together on the screens between sets of her Red Tour, and Parachute cranks your single Get The Girl Back before they take the stage. How does it feel to have other artists use your music to get crowds going like that?

ZH: It feels awesome. Music’s supposed to connect with people and when you are making connections with other artists, that’s just another level in a sense that they’re looking for the same kind of inspirations that you are to make that next step for them in their careers. There’s just such a kinship that you feel honored when people choose to highlight you. It feels great.

OMC: We’ve gotta talk Mmmhops for a second. You have your own beer!

ZH: Yes!

OMC: Any update on whether or not Mmmhops will be available to the masses by Christmas?

ZH: It is just days away from being available in Oklahoma and it’s going to start out in that region of the country: Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas. Those states will be the first ones to have it, and we’re working on growing it outside of that. We’re hoping to be in as many as 10 states by the end of the year and we’re also looking at mail-order, trying to make it available in states that allow that. For us, it has to be real. This isn’t a kitschy thing that we’re doing today and planning to do whatever tomorrow. It’s a real business and company and we want people to really love the beer, so you have to do it responsibly. You can’t grow so fast that you kind of kill yourself in the process. But yeah, people should be able to start getting it within days in that part of the country and then we’ll grow, grow and grow, hopefully. We’re hoping people GET the beer, and TASTE the beer and like it just as much as they have anticipated it and then the rest is history.

OMC: In 2010, you played a string of shows in New York City called ‘5 of 5,’ where you played a different album each night Monday through Friday, and it resulted in a subsequent ‘5 of 5’ DVD set. Can we look forward to a ‘7 of 7’ after your next album?

ZH: There’s always potential – I can’t see us not doing more of that kind of stuff: things like the Musical Ride Tour, ‘5 of 5,’ etc. There’s a new DVD coming out called Anthem Live in New York that really features the new album and I kind of think of it as the 6 in the ‘5 of 5.’ We’ll see – maybe we’ll come up with a more innovative title, or maybe we’ll stick with a numbers system.

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