In 2015 for their members EP, Hanson went Inside The Box. They built small writing spaces and restricted their available instruments. The idea, which suggests confinement and conventionality, proved to be anything but. In fact, the project became more about the possibilities of the internal spaces than the impossibilities of the outside restrictions. The small and simplified spaces generated their own creativity and showed that “No matter what the process – on a mountain, in the desert, on the face of the moon, or in a little writing room, we cannot remove our love of eclectic musical styles.” The music escaped the confines or rather, like the TARDIS, it was bigger on the inside that it seemed from the outside.
Something similar has been said about Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic build, Fallingwater. Built to exist organically in rock and waterfall, this building appears to occupy a space much bigger than its size.
The connection between architecture and Hanson is not unknown. They have recently purchased buildings in Tulsa for extending their business plans, they have always created and redesigned work spaces that are stimulating and creative, while Taylor Hanson has referenced architecture as an interest. His own photography shows a passion for shape, texture and rhythm, often featuring skylines or close ups of parts of buildings.
Recently he referenced Frank Lloyd Wright as an influence on his own creativity, but this wasn’t a complete revelation. The work of Frank Lloyd Wright is known to be a passion among Taylor Hanson’s family, with their Instagram documenting trips to his buildings in Oklahoma, Arizona and Wisconsin.
Is it just that Taylor Hanson likes architecture or is there a deeper wisdom and philosophy in the work of the radical genius of Frank Lloyd Wright, that connects with the Hanson story?
Frank Lloyd Wright, influenced and inspired by nature, advocated an approach to design that was free from classical conventions. He wasn’t persuaded to imitate the great and good of his day but driven to create something totally new. His designs blended the purpose and philosophy of the building with the character of the site and allowed it to be designed “organically.” It was as if it grew from that place and could only belong in that place. On a mountain, in a desert and from a writing room, his ideas came to life
As his ideas evolved he realised that the structure of the building did not have to depend on walls and that spaces could be opened up to allow for a flow that was unrestrictive, communal and creative. This reflected his philosophy of living in harmony and community with others and with nature. His buildings also offered spaces with secure insecurity. In harmony with their surroundings or with harmonious interiors, these homes or workspaces enabled thinking, working and living that was outside of the box, creative and energised.
The Guggenheim Museum in NYC was one of his last buildings and he died before its completion. For this he took an unused, old design of his, literally turning it upside down and inside out. He detested the box mentality of modern design and sought here to confound it. So he made this house of art into a lesson in art. Several features of his design were criticised for being impractical and so on this occasion he made several compromises to ensure completion, but the Guggenheim stands as testament to a genius who could imagine the unimaginable and believe it into existence.
“The thing always happens that you really believe in and the belief in a thing makes it happen”. Frank Lloyd Wright
So are there resonances with Hanson?
Hanson have always made music and business decisions according to their own natural impulses. The decision to tour after Middle of Nowhere showed their essence as live performers but it delayed their second album. Their decision to go independent took them from security without control to insecurity but with control. They settled their business in their hometown away from city life and they decided to focus their creative attention on the membership element of their fan base. They also built a music and beer festival while delaying a 7th studio album.
For the last 10 years, they have deliberately forced themselves to make new music for the fan club, in a defined space and time frame, experimenting and following a specific inspiration whether for the process of the music or its content. In 2011, they faced ” The Blank Page” for inspiration and in 2012 they stayed up all night, working on a masterplan, turning convention upside down and inside out, to create No sleep For Banditos.
Many of Hanson’s choices have been questioned and judged both within and without their fan base. But Hanson have always followed their own instincts and there is something courageous in building what comes organically from their overall philosophy and sense of purpose, and that rises from their circumstances just as Frank Lloyd Wright buildings rise organically in place. In time, it might be that the yearly Fan Club EPs are recognised as essential building blocks in Hanson’s musical catalogue and their place in the whole picture understood.
Hanson’s studio albums have always connected intrinsically to the circumstances of the moment just like buildings rooted in their environment. Underneath tastes of the dilemma of its production, The Walk is rooted in Tulsa with a view to wider horizons and Shout It Out is coloured in statements about Hanson’s own nature and philosophy. Anthem tells a story of self determination and individuality, while String Theory extends the possibilities of what reaching for the sky actually looks like.
At Taliesin in Wisconsin, designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright as a family home, there are symbols carved into the interior of the building which relate to his welsh heritage and the values beloved of his parents. The symbol, with Celtic origins, means Truth Against The World.
In terms of Frank Lloyd Wright and his family history, it seems to suggest speaking your truth even if it goes against convention or that which is popular. It suggests living and working with personal integrity even if that puts you at odds with others. It speaks of working towards personal and professional fulfilment even in the face of misunderstanding or disappointment. And importantly for us, it is possibly the inspiration for the title of Hanson’s next album, Hanson Against The World.
Taylor Hanson has spoken of being inspired by Lloyd Wright’s work and the spaces he created, so it might be appropriate to contemplate connections between these locations and the next chapter in Hanson’s music.
Maybe it will take them to these places to play or record or maybe it will inspire lyrics and sounds. Maybe the philosophy of Frank Lloyd Wright will find its way into their writing or processes or even the design of future spaces to work and perform in.
In Hanson’s latest EP In Real Life, they feature local images of places and structures. They root the songs in the natural comings and goings of their daily life. They sing of choosing compromise but not being compromised and they sing of better times ahead.
They sing of “the will to believe” being “all that is essential” of “trying to live up to our potential” and “the jump from fantasy to reality”.
These ideas are not unique to Hanson, but the manifestation of them is.
Just like a Lloyd Wright building, each with its incomparable style, Hanson’s next project will be something only possible for them, and only possible in that place and in that way.
Will it be worth the wait? I believe it will.