February 26, 2013
By Ron Bennington
Musicians, singers and songwriters Zac, Taylor and Isaac Hanson who form the group Hanson are best known for bursting onto the scene with the smash hit Grammy nominated song “MmmBop.” Since then, they’ve sold over 15 million records worldwide. They’re now recording under their own label and have a new album coming out this summer. They stopped by this SiriusXM studios this week to sit down with Ron Bennington and talk about the upcoming new album set to release some time in June of this year, and to perform a few songs live.
Hanson Talks About the Release of the New Album
Ron Bennington: Last time you were in, you had a cold. And you still sounded amazing.
Taylor Hanson: Thank you.
Ron Bennington: But this time, everybody’s waiting on the new album.
Taylor Hanson: Yes.
Ron Bennington: And no date set yet?
Taylor Hanson: There’s a drum roll going to announce it. We’re a few weeks away. In couple of weeks, we’re going to be announcing. It’s going to be in June. We have a joke within the fan community. We say things like – you’ll know soon. And then people kind of get mad at us that we…
Isaac Hanson: Exactly.
Taylor Hanson: It’s better not to say – than to say “soon”.
Ron Bennington: Right. Just never tell them.
Taylor Hanson: It’s going to be in June. And the single is going to be…
Isaac Hanson: We have to careful when we say exactly.
Taylor Hanson: Yeah. The single’s going to be coming out as well in a few weeks. And I think you guys are going to play a little tease of it, hopefully. Actually tease the record.
Hanson Talks About the New Single
Ron Bennington: Yeah. We’re going to play a tease of it. Why don’t we put that on now? And we’ll talk about it a little bit. Chris, we’ve got that ready to go? Alright, let’s take a listen.
Taylor Hanson: It’s a song called “Get The Girl Back”.
Ron Bennington: That’s just a little taste of “Get The Girl Back”.
Taylor Hanson: Yeah. “Get The Girl Back” is the name of the single. That was actually the audio from the little making of the video tease. You heard the voice of Kat Dennings…
Isaac Hanson: …So eloquently saying that her day was going to suck.
Taylor Hanson: “Tomorrow’s gonna suck” is awesome. She’s one of our guest stars in the video. As well as Nikki Reed and Drew Seeley and Drake Bell makes a little appearance. The song is, I think, a great bridge from “Shout It Out” to the new record. And that’s one of the reasons why we decided to go with that track. And we tell all the stories of the making of the record. But the new record is…it definitely has a little bit more of a rock and roll, a little bit harder edge. The guitar has made a serious comeback on most of the record. But that, I think “Get The Girl Back” is the perfect way to sort of bring people from where we were with “Shout It Out” into this new music.
Hanson Talks About the New Record Having a Harder Edge, and an Upcoming Documentary
Ron Bennington: Yeah, because it’s still got that soulful sound, but you guys are bringing in harder guitars on the new record. How’s that happen? Is that something that the songs dictate or do you guys decide before you do it?
Isaac Hanson: It just sort of goes like…(guitar playing)
Zac Hanson: That’s why that song does that. (laughs) That’s funny. That song was actually that speed when we started playing it.
Isaac Hanson: Exactly. And then it Zac was like – you need to speed it up! And then you go…(faster guitar playing)
Zac Hanson: You know the thing about this record is…I think it’s interesting because last year was 20 years of being a band. And I think with 20 years of being band, we found that for better or for worse, we’ve been working so hard for so many years, there was a little bit of tiredness and little bit of time that was needed. It was like – hey, let’s make a new record. Nooo. Let’s stop and take a couple months off and not see each other for a little bit.
Isaac Hanson: Exactly. And we literally did. We really spent 2 to 3 solid months.
Zac Hanson: To us it seemed like forever, but it was really like 3 weeks. But whatever. (laughs).
Ron Bennington: Was that the longest break you guys have ever taken in the last 20 years?
Zac Hanson: Probably a conscious break.
Isaac Hanson: Yeah.
Zac Hanson: The longest break of probably not going to the studio. Literally not answering emails. Never in 20 years, can I think of a time where we’ve taken any more than maybe a week off.
Isaac Hanson: And it literally was basically, the majority of 3 months of just kind of band silence on some level.
Taylor Hanson: We made a documentary that is yet to be finished, but is being edited right now about the making of this record. And it’s very much a music doc. It focuses on the process. But one of the moments in the documentary – well, we were just watching it, going through the editing right now – you decide at this point as a band whether to go like – hey, this is great. We’ve toured the world. Look what we’ve done. A lot of artists at 20 years go – it’s phase 2 or no phase at all. And I think the sound of this record and the spirit of this record and really everything we’re trying to accomplish this year, is really the decision to go the other way. To say – okay, we’re going to decide to kind of recommit ourselves to what it is to be this band. Because we spent…of the 20, now 21 years, this year. We’ve crossed into 21 years with 2013. Of the last 10, have been on our own label. The last 3 records have been our own – running our own company from top to bottom. And so, we’ve put in a lot of blood and sweat to be here and to still have fans that have followed the band and this record has definitely got…it’s got some fight in it. It’s got some fire in it. And I think, call it whatever you want – it’s definitely a record that’s going to be really really fun to play live shows. It’s going to be amazing to see live.
Zac Hanson: It’s been awhile since we’ve had songs on a record where it’s been like the hooligan parts. Like there’s whole songs where it’s like – okay, then the hooligans sing. Slash the audience comes in and screams that section. (laughs)
Isaac Hanson: Like soccer hooligans.
Zac Hanson: It’s great.
Hanson Talks About Music Coming First
Ron Bennington: But I think what happened too with you guys – it doesn’t happen with a lot of people who broke as young as you were – is that you guys are committed to music.
Isaac Hanson: Sure. Absolutely.
Ron Bennington: Like not chart success, not to be part of popular culture. So when you did that – I think that kind of freed you up to go into almost anything that you wanted to go.
Isaac Hanson: Well, we are first and foremost, I mean especially because we did start off young – most of what we were listening to was late 50′s, early 60′s rock and roll and R&B and so forth. For us, it was about the music, not about the girls necessarily. It was a nice benefit. You know when you’re 11, that’s not the first thing thinking about. Girls still have cooties back then. So, the first thing you’re thinking about is – I just want to sing songs like Chuck Berry and the Jackson 5 and things like that. And then, as you grow into being the band, it becomes a more complicated reality, but still, the core and the kernel of everything was exactly as you said. It was a music thing first and the chart success and all those kind of things are things you always hope for, but they’re not the reason why you’re doing it. And I think that’s the crucial factor here.
Taylor Hanson: It’s interesting too because I think we’ve gotten to do a lot of things that people that set out to just to be famous have gotten to do. I mean people who only wanted to do this because they want to be superstars and we’ve gotten to do a lot of those things. We’ve traveled the world. We’ve done the superstardom thing. We’ve been in crazy situations. But the truth is we’re all just really music nerds. We’re very happy in the studio for months at a time.
Isaac Hanson: Just writing songs.
Taylor Hanson: Or just being in the submarine. The tour bus going down the road getting to play every couple of nights. And my hope is that over time and really now, it has been over time – if you look back at what we’ve been doing – that is at the center of why we’ve been able have a connection with a lot of fans for a long time. It’s because all things considered, we’re playing for ourselves. We’re playing because we feel proud of what we do and we genuinely enjoy it. And because of that, you’re willing to do the extra work. And I think also, we’re just really stubborn. (laughs)
Hanson Talks About Comparing Past Music with Their Current Work
Ron Bennington: Do you feel like you’re competing though against the old songs when you go back into the studio? Do you feel like every record competes against the songs on the other records?
Taylor Hanson: You’re competing with yourself.
Isaac Hanson: You’re always. Yeah.
Taylor Hanson: You can’t make a record that you walk away with and feel like you left something out. I mean there are always songs that are in the wings and when you’ve got 3 songwriters, there’s always extra songs.
Isaac Hanson: Well, I’ll give an example too. And this was actually kind of a very interesting unique process. The song that we played “Thinking About Something” – that idea actually showed up on the record before it was actually recorded. And what happened was – fans actually saw a little sneak peek of us first actually starting to write that idea on a podcast series that we put out about the making of this album called “The Walk” which was the 4th record. And then, the song “Thinking About Something” didn’t show up until record number 5. And the reason partially was – why it showed up on record number 5 was because of that fact that we had that recording of us writing the song and we were like – oh, that was a really cool idea. And the reason why I’m saying all that is because that there are songs that you like that don’t make it to records, but then sometimes end up actually maturing and coming into their own and having a real solid idea to them and the next thing you know, they end up being a single on the next record.
Zac Hanson: I would say historically though it’s been hard to compare directly. Because just like for our fans, I think for us – we’ve gone through such a formative time period of age change. Especially myself. I’m going to be 28 this year. And we started when I was 6. So it’s hard to compare a song directly when you’re like – oh, there’s the 6 year old version and there’s the 12 year old version and then there’s the 15 year old version. Because your world is evolving and you’re changing your perspective, though your inspirations are the same, there’s just a lot of things changing. And I think…
Isaac Hanson: A lot of the articulation that’s different.
Zac Hanson: It just changes the way…you’re not comparing directly as much as you’re sort of comparing the end result. Is this quality? Is this reaching the quality standards I have? Not necessarily is it as good as that song, because they sound different.
The Hanson Brothers Talks About Their Writing Process
Ron Bennington: And the fact that each of you write separately as well as together, right? So bringing stuff to the band, is that a problem or you know like..?
Taylor Hanson: It’s a test. Everytime. It’s a test because everybody has a very different way of getting there.
Isaac Hanson: And different kind of stylistic songwriting leanings as well.
Zac Hanson: I would say the thing about bringing songs in is it tests your self-confidence. Even after 20 years of being a band together, sometimes you have an emotional connection to an idea and when the other guys get it or don’t get it or they want to take it in a different direction – you’ve got to work through that. And be able to either, with confidence say – no, no, no. Follow me for a minute longer and we’ll get it or just let it go. Like Ike was playing that riff. That’s a real riff on the new record. And it really did start off as this slow bluesy…
Isaac Hanson: Well, no. It was…(humming the guitar riff – they start to play)
Zac Hanson: And he’s like – you know, play it kind of Bill Withers. And then I was like – no, no, no. Hold on. Hold on.
Isaac Hanson: And they would literally…
Zac Hanson: Just play it about 50 bpm faster. (they play faster) And then you add the drums and that’s it. It has a little more…all of sudden it gets a little more of this “Come Together”, “We Will Rock You” kind of thing. And you have to sort of go – okay, I’m willing to take my bluesy idea and follow it down the road.
Isaac Hanson: Which by the way, I have a multi-track of the bluesy version, which is really cool.
Zac Hanson: He’s like – we’re going to release it.
Taylor Hanson: And this is a total tease, but as it’s starting to turn into “Storytellers” – tell me about the time…(laughs) But there are several songs that ended up on this, that will be on the new record – that were very much in contention because it was like – no, no, no. This is the idea and then going back and forth and making it right.
Isaac Hanson: Well and then the other way too what happened with that…I’m thinking of that song inparticular because also after that idea came together and Zac goes – okay, the riff needs to go faster and needs to go more like this and gorilla drums and yeah, we need the hooligan part and where everybody’s screaming out – okay, got it. And then we’re like…we’re kind of done with writing the song, we go into pre-production, we’re a week away from starting the record of the actual recording process and then I’m like standing there really frustrated – not able to put 2 sentences together going – guys, I don’t know what…
Taylor Hanson: It’s missing something.
Isaac Hanson: There’s this thing in the bridge…in the middle…it’s got to go somewhere else. And then the song evolves from there. And we put in this crazy thing in the middle which I’m actually really excited about people hearing as well.
Zac Hanson: Yeah, it’s the aggravation.
Ron Bennington: But sometimes everybody together on it and sometimes you’re battling back and forth.
Isaac Hanson: Oh definitely.
Isaac, Zac and Taylor Hanson Talks About Growing Up on Music
Ron Bennington: That’s the interesting thing when you get that much given to you as a kid. If you really think about it, the amount of music that came into before you started making music – at some way, it’s on a subconscious level.
Isaac Hanson: It is.
Ron Bennington: And that’s why everytime that I hear you guys, I’m like – well, I’d like to check their DNA is see if they’re black or not (Hanson laughs) because this is a very soulful soulful band.
Zac Hanson: Thank you. I hope that if you checked our DNA, we would be black because I would feel much better about my future in music.
Taylor Hanson: We actually have a joke which is code for good and bad. Which is “Less Anglo – More Afro”. When we’re trying to get the groove right, we’re like – no, no, no. There’s way too much European blood in that groove right now. (laughs)
Ron Bennington: But culturally, if you grew up on that music that’s basically what you are. Culturally, when you look at it that way.
Isaac Hanson: Oh, we grew up listening to a lot of American Southern music in some form or another. Whether it be R&B or rock and roll of various sorts.
Taylor Hanson: It’s interesting because we say with absolute positive – talking about being the black guy or the white guy’s song, it’s a joke, but the truth is I saw an interview with Ray Charles, the late Ray Charles talking about it. It’s like – look, you know we make music for people. And I think a lot of times, people draw the line in the sand about who you grew up with or what you look like based on what you’re going to sound like. And when you ingest music by those artists, it’s yours. I’m sure in one form or another – where your inspiration comes from, where you grew up, that’s going to be in the DNA regardless of whether it actually is there. In the blood.
Isaac Taylor: One little caveat too is that we were also lucky that those really seminal times in rock and R&B kind of history, were already distilled for our consumption in some form or another. All of the come and go kind of stuff was already weeded through on some level. So here you were listening to a tape from 1958 that had “Summertime Blues”, “Johnny B Goode”, “Rockin’ Robin”, “Tequila”, like “Tears On My Pillow”, like whatever it was it was like…