AMH writer Lisa Robinson was lucky enough to catch up with Zac Hanson to talk about his bands new album, Anthem and their upcoming Australian tour.
I just have to say that I’m obsessed with Anthem, the new sound you guys have is really something special!
Thank you very much!
The album as a whole is super funky and seems more intense than what Hanson has previously released. What were the influences and thought processes that went in to creating it?
Well, you know, there’s always a balance between innovating and continuing the sounds that people know you for. I think that with every record you just have to walk the tight rope between the things you know and love and pushing yourself to do new things. With this record, when we were writing it we were thing about the larger picture. We were thinking about the parts the fans could sing and you hear that through a lot of the record, it had a big influence on us. It’s part of the reason why the record is called Anthem, just because when you have that mind set you’ve got to recognize what that word means to everyone. That was one of the main things, but we always go back to 50′s and 60′s rock and roll and Motown records, but when you start pulling in more guitar you can’t help but listen to bands like AC DC and Queen and try to get those classic great big blues riffs with rocking drums.
This is your sixth studio album, how would you describe Anthem compared with your old ones?
Well obviously when you’re writing and working on a project I think that there’s a real connective tissue, but I think that you also know that there’s going to be a whole lot of people coming in and out. Like, somebody might’ve heard our first album and then not heard anything until this one, or had caught us along the way. Now we’re starting to see new fans who are you know, like, 18 years old and were barely walking when songs like MMMBop came out and they didn’t really know us in that time. So I think what’s different is that side of it, we still love melodies and harmonies. You want to write the kinds of songs that get stuck in people’s heads when they’re in the shower or in the car. I think that comes from growing up listening to 50′s rock and roll as well, those songs were written in that way where you couldn’t wait to get to the chorus and they had a lot of hooks, so I think we’ve found a lot of love in trying to piece that into the music that we write.
Yeah, that’s exactly what I had in my head when I was listening to it. Just a whole bunch of people singing along and dancing around.
Yeah exactly. I think that a lot of bands are afraid to be called ‘pop’ and that’s something we have never been afraid of. I think that pop usually just means good, because it means that it’s good enough that you’ll remember it rather than a lot of music that sounds cool but gives you no sense of being able to repeat it. We love pop music, and especially now that it’s turning into summertime in the US it’s just a great time it. From the beginning we’ve called ourselves a pop rock band and I think that it’s the most true brand we can be given. Lots of people want to call us a boy band and stuff like that, and what that means is just not who we are. I mean, we are boys in a band but we grew up playing in our garage. We were a garage band who loved to sing and happened to have three guys who could sing and so there’s a lot of melody in our record.
The video for ‘Get The Girl Back’ is such a fun concept. How did you get to working with Kat Dennings and Nikki Reed?
It was just a strange combination of events, you meet people and you admire each other’s work and you happen to run into each other at parties and different events. We met Nikki and Kat on completely separate occasions, and when we started thinking about the video we just sort of went “not only would you be perfect for the video and it would be really cool, but you also represent the huge cross section of Hanson fans and the kinds of people we’re talking about in that song”. They were into it and we found out later that they were actually friends with each other (because we met them separately), and it was like oh, of course this works! So it was just cool, it was really fun to have them. There were tons of friends in that video and random cameos and it was just a lot of fun to do.
How excited are you guys to head back to Australia?
It’s going to be great! We love the fact that this is going to be the fastest that we’ve ever turned around and come back because the last tour was sold out and received so well. We do so much as a band with running our label and managing ourselves, so with a small team it can be hard managing the blessing and the curse of having fans all over the world. It’s hard to get everywhere, but we’re really excited to be coming back in such a short term and we’re so lucky that we’ve been received so well any time we’ve played shows Down Under.
So many artists tend to forget about us when they head off on world tours because we’re so far away from the rest of the world. What’s the appeal of it for you guys?
Well the appeal is simple. You play a concert and it’s really fun and people respond well so you want to come back. That’s why we make records and that’s why we make music, it’s that feeling of getting to share a moment with people. Playing live has always been a huge part of what we love to do and the kind of band we want to be, and so more and more we’re getting to share that side of who we are with people all around the world. For years we’ve said if you’ve only heard one Hanson album, then you’ve only heard half of what Hanson is. It’s just not a full picture of what we do as a band, and we want to be able to share that experience. And like I said, it’s just fun!
What’s your current favourite song to play live?
That’s hard! (laughs) A lot of the songs on the new record were definitely written thinking about how the fans would react. One of the songs that actually has the title of the record in it is a song called ‘Scream and Be Free’, and there’s this big “oh oh oh” part that the audience gets in on. That’s particularly fun because it’s so easy to sing along to that, you don’t have to know any lyrics and people really jump in and enjoy it. It’s been really great.
Do you still play MMMBop?
We play a little bit of everything. We will definitely be playing MMMBop at a lot of these shows, I mean we’ve been a band for such a long time so it’s hard to play everything. You go out there every night and you know you’re disappointing someone like, “oh you didn’t play my favourite song!” But with six albums, and then there’s whole albums worth of B sides and demo releases and covers and you know you can’t play everything. We definitely try to hit the high points and play songs like ‘Where is The Love’ and ‘MMMBop’ and ‘Lost Without Each Other’. You try to think of yourself as a fan first when you’re writing the set list and think what would I want to see if I was seeing my favourite band? I mean you know that those songs might not be relevant or exactly what you’re into as a band in that moment, especially after being in a band for 22 years, but it’s such an important moment for the fans and you really want to be able to share that because it’s probably someone’s first time ever hearing the song you’re about to play live.
What’s it like to still be on this journey with your brothers after 20 plus years?
What’s it not like? (laughs) The thing that’s interesting to me, I think a lot of the time too much credit is given to us being brothers. I think musically it’s probably the most powerful quality because you have this genetic connection that’s undeniable, and the way your vocal chords are constructed are as similar as they could possibly be without being identical. That plays to your benefit in such a cool way when singing. I think that in terms of our personalities, whether you’re band mates or brothers or best friends, in the end to stay together and laugh you basically have to make the choice that you’re going to do that no matter what. As often as possible you’re going to put your ego aside and try to fight for what the other guy cares about, whether that’s during the making of a record, or pulling out the best song or vocal performance out of another guy. Sometimes it’s just doing things that you don’t really care much about, but you do it to try to facilitate them to make a better whole. It’s hard but it’s really cool when you have so many shared experiences over so much time, and you have so many references for what a great moment or a great show or a great song is, your understandings become so similar and you can take from that to fuel your next project.
All three of you are grown up family men now, how do you find a balance between family time and continuing to make music and tour?
It’s kind of crazy, it’s not very balanced (laughs). I was sitting on a plane and talking to a guy who had another crazy job where he travels four or five days a week, every week, year long. It’s kind of like that, we were talking about how he has three kids and so do I, and it’s not normal or balanced but you just really have to define what’s important to you. You have to make the time you spend together with your family really intense and really powerful, you learn to really value time. Being in a band when you’re an artist is your curse, you have this need to create and this desire to invent and it just makes for an interesting personality to live with. My wife probably enjoys sending me off for long periods of time so that she doesn’t have to deal with the craziness (laughs). In the end you just do what you can, and I’m lucky that I’ve found an amazing woman who wanted to be a part of my madness.
And finally, what can Australian fans expect from the Anthem tour?
A whole lot of different music! The thing about playing shows is that we don’t want you to come if you’re going to be standing there with your crossed arms and say “entertain me”. We feel like it’s a shared experience and it’s something that we’re sharing in a moment together. We love it when people sing along and dance along and just enjoy the process. We’ve got music from all different records, lots of different stuff and different set lists every night. We hope it’s going to be a great time.
Hanson’s Anthem Tour
Tuesday, 5th August 2014 – The Tivoli, Brisbane (18+ show) – Tix: Via Ticketmaster
Wednesday, 6th August 2014 – Coolangatta Hotel, Gold Coast (18+ show) – Tix: Via Oztix
Friday, 8th August 2014 – Enmore Theatre, Sydney (All ages) – Tix: Via Ticketek
Saturday, 9th August 2014 – Palais Theatre, Melbourne (All ages) – Tix: Via Ticketmaster
Tuesday, 12th August 2014 – HQ, Adelaide (18+ show) – Tix: Via Oztix
Friday, 15th August 2014 – Metropolis, Fremantle (18+ show) – Tix: Via Oztix