Yesterday, many thought it was an April Fools Day joke when it was announced the Tulsa trio would be returning to our shores with their new album Anthem and pop shows that have managed to sell out Australian venues solidly on their last trip over on 2012. It’s real though and as the eldest Hanson brother Isaac relates, it’s been an announcement which had been a little while in the making.
“It was number one on our priority list.” he asserts. “There was a little bit of a delay in making the announcement and we were pulling our hair out going, ‘This is not gonna happen, we’re gonna get ourselves back to Australia…’. So there was a little bit of a delay, but we’re really excited about the fact that now, here we are, getting this record Anthem out, and getting the announcement for the shows that we’re coming to do in August. Australia has consistently been an amazing place for us release records and do shows. We have just awesome fans in Australia, from the very beginning.”
Last seen out this way with their acclaimed studio record Shout It Out, Hanson have been hitting touring circuits across the globe hard since, only taking some months off to write and record album number nine, Anthem. It really doesn’t seem like it was that long ago I was gleefully singing along to “If Only” in a packed out venue of fellow 20-somethings, indulging pre-teen fantasies to the greatest degree. Isaac reflects on the tour, the fact that there is still a fiercely loyal Hanson fan base actively supporting him and his brothers not escaping him for one minute.
“It is surprising that the screaming, despite the years going by, the screaming has maintained a real presence!” he chuckles. “Not that I mind that, you know? I think we’re very lucky that…I mean, there is a screaming and intensity to the audience, but I have never taken for granted how cool it is. It’s not just the screaming, but it’s the singing along that is so cool and unique. I think there are very few people who get the opportunity as a band to have fans around the world who are so aware and connected with music that, no matter where you go around the world, the whole entire crowd is singing along from song to song. It doesn’t matter what record it is you’re playing. We’ve had a unique circumstance where that has maintained to be the case. Whether we’re on top of the charts at that moment, or whether we’re passing through on some random gig, there is a connection to the band that I don’t know we can fully take credit for, but I am perpetually humbled and excited by that reality.”
“The truth is, the title for this latest record actually came from that experience, that live show experience. The word anthem means song that rallies a group of people behind a cause or event, you know? For us, there was something about the word ‘anthem’, because it was indicatively musical and there was something about the word that was uniquely appropriate to that kind of experience that we’ve had as a band, playing shows with this incredible audience that we’ve been so lucky to have, year in and year out. Hopefully, after people see the show, they’ll feel similarly!”
Anthem, which was released through the US and Europe midway through 2013, will get an Australian and NZ release at the end of the week (April 4th), so by the time Hanson arrive for their August tour, not only will fans have had ample opportunity to purchase and flog it hard (if they haven’t already), but the hype surrounding their popular live shows will also snowball. The band’s New Zealand tour date will also mark the first time the brothers will have played in that area of the globe, a milestone Isaac is keen to get around to.
“We’re really excited about that, it’s going to be a great experience for us. We’ve been, over the years, introduced to a lot of Kiwis as we’ve found our way around the world, whether it be in Australia or whether it be in the United States. We’re really excited about the opportunity to finally get over to New Zealand and it’s going to be a lot of fun to see it as a country that we have not had the chance to visit before! Over the past few years, we’ve had the opportunities here and there to actually really play shows in previous tours in places like China, for the first time. In places like Korea or Indonesia or the Philippines. It’s nice to get to a new place!”
The record, which Isaac notes as being considerably different to previous Hanson efforts, charted at #22 on the Billboard charts upon its release – the eighth Hanson record to chart within the Top 40 of the US Billboard 200. For a band entering their 22nd year in 2014, maintaining this kind of consistent momentum – especially as a live touring band – is a feat in itself.
“We’ve been very, very lucky that we have survived as well as we have.” Isaac agrees. “I often say that careers don’t look like a straight line up or a straight line down, they look like a roller-coaster. You never really know what to expect and we’ve been pleasantly surprised with what has happened with the last few records. Being able to get back to Australia in 2011 with the Shout It Out album and then being able to get the tour announced and have it be as complete as it is, hitting the majority of Australia is pretty cool.”
“Even though we’ve visited Australia quite a few times, actually, the proper kind of touring where we were doing ticketed shows in theatres or bigger clubs or whatever…we’d actually done a lot less touring than you might think. It wasn’t really until 2003 that we did any proper gigs in Australia, even though we’d visited a couple of times. There was one show, if I remember correctly, that was outside…it was a promotional show, a free show of sorts in Brisbane, that was a unique one of its kind. We didn’t do a whole lot of other stuff like that and then, in 2003 and 2004, we did pretty extensive touring of Australia. It’s nice to continue this and it’s nice to continue to strengthen the market and follow up with a new record, two and a half years later!”
On the creative dynamic between himself and his younger brothers, Isaac is open about how different a recording process Anthem proved to be. Remembering that this is a band of musicians who have been commercially successful since their youngest member was 10 or 11 years old, it would be understandable to think that matured individual ideas or tastes would factor into the way a band would produce music beyond their teens.
“This record was actually a little more of a challenge to get made than any of us thought it would be.” Isaac admits. “We came off of the Shout It Out tour pretty invigorated with excitement over what the future might hold creatively and locked headlong into what ended up being, unfortunately, a very contentious circumstance between the three of us. I think we all underestimated the situation we were in, with all kinds of competing factors – some of them personal and some of them being just downright exhaustion! This record took a little bit longer to actually get done than we had actually planned on it taking, but nonetheless, it’s allowed for us to do a much better job on making sure that our fans have been able to get the exposure to the music.”
“I think that this record is a much more aggressive record than previous records have been. Part of that is led by the opening track, “Fire It Up”. Another thing about that record too is that the cover of it is a primarily black, silhouetted type of cover. Maybe that’s penance, because maybe every band has to do that at some point in their career! I think what it is indicative of, is that there is an intensity about this record and what I would call a size and an epicness to much of the music, that is indicative of that dramatic kind of cover for an album. Yes, there continue to be, and there always will be, trademark ‘Hanson’ pop sensibilities and obviously harmonies and whatnot, but it is very much rooted in an organic, very live intensity that is just who we are as a band. Not necessarily an isolation as singers, but just as a three-piece band: as a guitar player, as a drummer and piano player and songwriters. There’s an intensity and a rawness to this record than on previous records and I think you add on to that what we’re able to do as singers, and hopefully it creates this unique blend of vocal band/band. I think it’s what we know how to do!”
Being the eldest of the three, how has Isaac noticed any change in the way he, Taylor and Zac interact nowadays, not just as brothers, but as musicians in general? Some things never change, it seems.
“There are some things that remain exactly the same as far as certain degrees of people’s personalities.” he laughs. “I remember seeing a video of us as very young men…we were teenagers because Zac was about 11 or 10 maybe at the time and I was 15 and Taylor was 14 or 13. We were in the vocal booth doing some harmonies together and the discussion that ensued was remarkably similar to discussions that continue now, to this day! There are consistencies about who we are as people.”
Once I’d gotten the nerve to tell Isaac how much I enjoyed the experience of seeing the band perform for the first time on their last tour, he takes the uniquely full on vibe which results at a Hanson show as an example in discussing why it is that perhaps they’ve been able to continue this career as fruitfully as they have done.
“I do think that there are some people who are not necessarily aware of what it is that we do as a band,” he muses. “I think they don’t realise the level of intensity and aggression that is in a show that we do. I think that there are some that would expect a much more gentle version of music, but that’s never actually been what it is that we do, from the beginning. I think that, in some way or another, that’s part of it. What we always try to do is make sure that, from note one, you are in the moment as much as possible not only as the band, but as the audience. We’re trying as much as we possibly can to make it exciting, captivating and aggressive if need be, but also hopefully in the process bring a bit of sombreness as well. We want to take people on an exciting ride as much as possible and hopefully in the process, you find yourself lost in the moment. That is, after all, the goal of music. To allow you to live through it in some way.”
HANSON AUSTRALIAN AND NEW ZEALAND TOUR DATES
Tuesday 5th August – The Tivoli, Brisbane (18+)
www.ticketmaster.com.au // 136 100
Wednesday 6th August – Coolangatta Hotel, Gold Coast (18+)
www.oztix.com.au // 1300 762 454
Friday 8th August – Enmore Theatre, Sydney (All Ages)
www.ticketek.com.au // 132 849
Saturday 9th August – Palais Theatre, Melbourne (All Ages)
www.ticketmaster.com.au // 136 100
Tuesday 12th August – HQ, Adelaide (18+)
www.oztix.com.au // 1300 762 454
Friday 15th August – Metropolis Fremantle (18+)
www.oztix.com.au // 1300 762 454
Sunday 17th August – Powerstation, Auckland (18+)
www.ticketmaster.co.nz // (09) 970 9700