Hanson’s latest CD, “Anthem,” has been released and Hanson is starting the first leg of a North American tour that visits theaters and large clubs. What’s more, “Anthem” is a cheery album, full of the kind of pop-rock — ahem, anthems — that should have audiences singing and clapping along to the songs.
The tone of “Anthem” is striking considering what happened about a year ago.
“I think this record was an interesting one because we really reached a point in 2012 where this record almost didn’t get made,” Zac Hanson said in a mid-August phone interview. “It was the first time, really ever, we had come up against a challenge that was maybe bigger than this band, in the sense of it was hard to overcome, just personal, not taking care of what’s most important. And you do something long enough, you begin to take those relationships with each other, the things that come so easily for so long, for granted.”
Noting that he and his brothers, Isaac and Taylor, aren’t the type to air their dirty laundry in public, Hanson didn’t delve into ugly details, but it’s clear that the normal sibling harmony had gone off key.
“I think the best way to say it is just we became overworked,” Hanson said, noting the time invested into various Hanson business concerns had taken a toll. “We run the (record) label. We manage ourselves. We produce the records. All the projects we do in addition to music, and things like Take the Walk (a charitable effort by the band), all the merchandise, and we’re starting a beer company, all of those things (were happening). And then if you do all of those things and then you get to go do the music, but the music is sort of burdened by all of those things, your relationship is burdened by all of the stresses of everything around you.
“You haven’t taken the time to sort of clean the closet, do the spring cleaning. Then it was just sort of emotionally explosive,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot of care given to each other. It wasn’t one moment or one thing or one disagreement. It was really an overall sense that the music wasn’t getting the emotional energy. We weren’t taking the time for the music because it had somehow, one way or another, become that extra thing. ‘Oh no, we’ve got to go do the music.’ So it was sort of a hard reset.”
The brothers, who were between the ages of 11 and 16 when they broke onto the national scene in 1997, decided to take last summer off, and after the break, the three brothers returned with renewed purpose, and Hanson thinks that feeling translates into the “Anthem” album.
“There was really a sense when we came back together that we were fighting for this band, that as a unit, we were all ready to sort of start again,” he said. “You hear it in the music. So many of the songs, I think, are about, songs like ‘Already Home,’ which is about saying look around you. You’re already there. You’ve already got what matters. Or, ‘You Can’t Stop Us,’ which is fighting for what you believe in and not letting anything get in your way.”
That spirit extended to the music on “Anthem,” which predominantly is populated by songs such as “Fired Up,” “You Can’t Stop Us” and “Cut Right Through Me” with big guitars, big pop hooks and big choruses.
That tone is a notably different from the more piano-driven pop-soul sound of Hanson’s previous album, “Shout It Out.” But Hanson noted that ever since the group’s chart-busting major label debut, 1997’s “Middle of Nowhere” (featuring the smash single, “MMMBop”), the group has tended to change up its sound on each of the five subsequent studio albums.
“ ‘Shout It Out,’ was very piano-driven, and so I think what happened (on “Anthem”) was there was just this comeback of the guitar,” Hanson said. “The guitar rose again, and with that, there were a lot of riffs and driving melodies.”