Your new album’s out now – was it easy to write and record?
This record was an interesting one. We started off with a very specific plan, and we’d started planning pretty far into the whole writing and recording process. We got about one song in, and we realised that everyone was exhausted after two straight years of touring and that we were all about to kill eachother! We had to take a break from one another, and that delayed the record by a good six months or so. Ultimately, it actually was the fastest writing and recording process we’ve ever done. We began writing in early October 2012 and finished mixing the record by early February, so it was definitely a very quick process. We pretty much got everything done in about four months, which is pretty quick when you think about writing songs from the beginning! Some of the tension we had in the beginning gave songs like Fired Up and You Can’t Stop Us Now the whole intense air they have. There’s this whole intense side of this band – we’ve kinda showed it in part before on records, but it’s never led a record in the way it’s led Anthem. It was an important statement for the band to make, and I’m very happy with how it’s all come together.
What’s your favourite song on the album?
Right now, my favourite song is Fired Up. The first single from this record was a very R&B song, and it was very in-touch with both our influences as a band and our sound on the rest of our last album. Fired Up is a real rocker, it’s one of the most aggressive songs we’ve ever done and I think it shows a lot of the more exciting elements of who we are as a band.
Most bands don’t manage to stay together long enough to make nine studio albums – what’s your secret?
Well… I don’t really know! Maybe stubbornness? We like making music, and frankly it’s all we know how to do! We’ve got to keep things exciting and keep moving forward, but… I don’t know. I think there’s a lot of mutual trust and respect between the three of us musically, and even when we are at our most tense moments I think we’d always prefer to get through it and get on with making music and playing live together. All that really matters is that a good song comes out of it at the end, to be honest. For us, music is kinda like therapy. It’s a way for you to express yourself, and to get some of those challenges and issues out of your head. In a way, Anthem is an example of that. We’re twenty years into making music together, and for the first time we looked at eachother and said ‘Are we gonna be able to get through this? Are we gonna be able to push everything else out and just get on with making this record?’. In the end, it let to us creating a very intense record that was somewhat of a healing process for us as a band.
You’re currently on a tour of America and Canada – how’s it going?
It’s going really well! It’s been so exciting to have so much of the tour planned and ready to go from the minute we finished the album. We’re currently working on more shows in places like Australia and Asia, which will be really fun. By this time next year, hopefully we’ll be talking about where the next album is going and where the next shows are gonna be. We just want to keep moving forward.
Do you guys consider how a song will sound live when you’re in the studio?
Most of the recording we do nowadays is done live, so in a way that process is really showing itself from the very beginning. When you’re writing and recording it, you’re always working through it together to try and find this special place where it just works.
You’re heading over to the UK in December – how do the crowds here compare to the rest of the world?
Well, we’re lucky – we have amazing crowds all over the world. They’re always so engaged and excited, and they’re always a pleasure to play to. The UK crowds are amazing, and we always have an amazing time. They’re so fun and enthusiastic, and we’re all really excited to get back to the UK.
What made you want to start making music in the first place?
Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry. The moment I heard that guitar riff was when I knew I was wanted to make music. Ironically, that song is about a young man who wanted to be a musician. I think it’s extremely appropriate that it started the process for me and the rest of the band. That and other songs, such as Rockin’ Robin and a lot of tracks by The Jackson Five… When we first discovered them, we were like ‘If they can do it when they were young, why can’t we?’, so I guess that kinda made us get up and start learning our instruments and taking them seriously for the first time. We were lucky that we were introduced to that, to the very beginning of rock and roll of R&B – I think the band would sound very different if we were first introduced to modern music, as opposed to the classic stuff. It’s also a great lesson in songwriting – the classic songs are all so short, like two and a half minutes, and it’s always a challenge to try and emulate that while still writing something meaningful. There’s a Billy Joel song where he talks about ‘I worked so hard, they were the best days of my life… But if you wanna have a hit, you’ve gotta make it fit, so they cut it down to 3:05.’, which I think is a great line!
Who’s your ultimate icon and how have they influenced you?
As a songwriter, Billy Joel. I’d go for either him or someone like Bill Withers, but for a completely different reason. Bill Withers is an amazing R&B singer-songwriter, and what he did was perfect the simplicity of an R&B song. He has this way of delivering songs like Ain’t No Sunshine in a way that’s just remarkable, and yet it’s so hard do because it’s so simple. It’s pretty amazing. However, at the end of the day I have to go with Billy Joel, just because he’s shockingly good as a lyricist.
You guys spend a lot of time together, but which member of the band has the most annoying habit?
That depends on your definition of annoying! I don’t know… Zak [sic] is probably the smelliest. I have trouble with biting my nails, but I’m not sure that’s particularly annoying to anyone else. I don’t know, haha!
What’s your favourite Hanson song?
Wow, that’s hard for a lot of reasons… For a start, we’ve put out around eighty songs on our albums… Inevitably, some of your favourite stuff is always your newest stuff, so right now I’ll probably go with Fired Up. It’s just a lot of fun to play live! It’s also a song that might surprise people who aren’t that familiar with Hanson, so it might make them rethink their preconceptions of our band. They might see us as being a very ‘pop’ band, but even in the beginning we weren’t nearly as pop as people thought we were. I think it’s fun in that way.
What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to the band – it could be on tour, in the studio, anything!
We’ve had our fair share of weird things happen! We’ve had a few people breaking into hotel rooms, which is always interesting… I think they might think ‘If I meet them they’ll fall in love with me!’, but it never really works out like that – it’s just a little bit creepy!
Describe yourself in three words?
Intense, jovial and complicated.