Soot Magazine: Hanson have a new Anthem

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Hanson Have A New Anthem 

By Patrick Muller — July 20, 2014
The pop powerhouse known as Hanson – brothers Isaac, Zac and Taylor Hanson – have grown up in the music industry. Now with their new record, Anthem, they’re back to pay homage to music greats and let Aussie audiences pick their set list. Patrick Muller chats to Isaac Hanson.

So you’ve got a new album out, Anthem.Which track is your favourite?

[Laughs]. Wow, well that’s always a little hard to say, but I will say that the record leads off with some of my favourites. The opening track Fired up is definitely a favourite of mine, and it’s a lot of fun to play. It’s a great song to actually start a concert with too, just a lot of fun. A lot of loud guitar and aggressive energy.

That energy has been on your other records though…
There have been songs like that on previous records but that’s the first time we’ve really lead off an album quite in that way, so it’s kind of a nice statement at the beginning of a record that says, “Hey, we’re going in a bit of a different direction here”, and then you have a bit of a more aggressive style, RnB almost, a little James Brown or even a little Michael Jackson-y influenced song, with the song I’ve Got Soul, which I’m really, really happy with how that turned out it was a lot of fun. We worked with our friend Bones Malone, who played in the Blues Brothers Band and arranged all the horns and has continued to do things like late night television here in the US and whatnot. He arranged the horns on I Got Soul and that was really fun, then there’s this song Get The Girl Back, and it’s obviously the first single and it’s that way for a reason. We really love that song.

Tell us about Get the Girl Back.
We wrote that songs bass line actually for our friend Bob Babbitt, who recently passed away, he was known for, amongst other things playing on an extraordinary amount of Motown hits including songs like Ball of Confusion by The Temptations and Signed Sealed, Delivered by none other than Stevie Wonder and countless others.

In fact, he toured with Stevie Wonder and he played on our previous record Shout It Out and we wrote that for him and then unfortunately he passed on before we could get him to play on the record so in many ways that songs in dedication to him at least it always has been for me. And obviously the song is reminiscent of the music that we grew up loving, that sixties, soul, RnB kind of feeling.

But I like to think it’s our own interpretation of it on some level or another, it’s not so much of a throwback that it literally sounds like it. But at the same time it has those qualities that we have known and loved for many, many years.

Yeah, you guys are great at that sort of thing. Speaking of Get The Girl Back, I watched the video for that the other day. Do you want to talk a bit about that? There’s some familiar faces in there.

Yes, there are. Our friends Kat Dennings and Nikki Reed who are amongst other things known for movies like Thor and the show Two Broke Girls, which Kat is in, and then you have Nikki who was in a bunch of amazing films like Lords of Dogtown or the Twilight stuff that she’s in and other things like that. Nikki has a long career in film and actually so does Kat. It was really fun to get them in there.

And the dudes?
Our leading guys are other actor friends of ours a guy named Drew Seeley who plays opposite Nikki and another guy named Alex Beh who plays opposite Kat. It was really fun to bridge the gap of some of our actor friends and film-maker friends and our music side. Actually, it was the first time that we really got “proper” actors in one of our music videos and I have to say it was absolutely a thrill to do it because those folks, especially our leading ladies. No offence to the guys, they really know how to convey emotion without a single word being spoken.

So it was done in one take?
I think we actually had what we needed in the first take for both of them [laughs], but we just decided to do it a couple more times. And the truth is it was true of the guys in many ways too, but there was just something in particular about Nikki and Kat. They just have some many years of experience. I was really remarkable to see them just pour it on. I don’t know how else to say it, but they just delivered in a really cool ways.

The thing I hear about this album is that you went for more of a live sort of feel, with the tracking and stuff.

Yeah, well we definitely did go for more of a live approach. We’ve been moving that direction for the last few records. Our record The Walk, which actually I don’t recall if that was released in Australia or not, but 2007 we released a record called The Walk and worked with our friend Danny Kortchmar who produced a bunch of other things, the album River of Dreams by Billy Joel, a bunch of Doc Henley things, he’s work with James Taylor and Carole King, all kinds of stuff.

He was an absolute pleasure to work with and really helped us to kind of refine and define our skills when it came to recording records that way, which is really much more of an old school thing and something that we really wanted to do for a long time, but just didn’t feel like we had the right collaborator and then having someone like Danny, who just has so much experience as a producer so it was really cool to be able to work with him.

Then after that, we have albums like Shout It Out, which is the previous record and then Anthem, which we kind of took the full producer responsibilities on those records and have really embraced the live, off of the floor approach of making records, which is that basically instead of spending a lot of time in the studio going through parts your trying to figure out. You spend a lot of time rehearsing as a band, working out the arrangements, making sure that everything’s right and then you go into a preferably reasonably large room and set up basically like you’re going to perform, onstage, and you just play it down.

You play it however many times it takes for you to feel like you got the right version of the song. Then you build stuff up around it. There are songs on various records over the years that have been basically live vocals, on our previous record you have songs like Think about Something, which was the live vocal that was done along with one of the takes, and there are various songs, like Get The Girl Back, Already Home and various others that were along the same lines. Some of the live recordings of the vocals that just had the right kind of feeling to them.

We asked your fans to submit questions via Twitter and one of them was: Do you wish that you still had the stardom from the 90s so you could reach a wider audience now?

Careers go up and down, you can’t really predict if you’re going to be at the absolute tip-top of the charts every single time or not, and you know what, that’s just a part of being an artist and being a musician and living life. I think we feel really, really good about where we are. We had a sold-out tour last time we came to Australia, we have sold-out shows here on this run as well.

I think that there’s no question that we still have a good connection with our fans who were with us from the beginning as well as countless others who are constantly coming up to us at shows. Last time we were in Australia, they were saying things like, “This is my first chance to see you,” or “I love this song off this record and that’s what brought me here,” or things like, “I’ve been a fan since I was a teenager and here I am for the first time”. Whatever those examples are, there are countless different examples of that. I think we’re just doing what every band does, which is going out, playing shows, making records that we’re proud of and in the process we’re lucky to have a lot of fans.

Having your own label now, do you have more control?

We were always very active in those kinds of things as well, but what I would say it that it’s not so much control, as just pressure [laughs]. Pressure to do things the right way and do them more effectively. I mean I would say in many ways, it’s not even the control. It’s just more that there’s less red tape. It’s just a cleaner, faster, more honest process. There’s a little bit less convincing that goes on.

I would say that we’ve never really compromised on anything that we thought was really important, so in that case I think we have been as true to ourselves as we could have possibly been from the beginning to now.

For better or worse, we are who we are and I feel really lucky that we can say that, because a lot of artists, especially artists who started off as young as we did, find themselves feeling like that got coerced into doing things that they didn’t feel particularly good about. We feel really, really lucky that we have not had much of that, because we’ve stuck to our guns, one way or another

For some of your shows on this tour you’re letting fans pick the set list. How do fans get involved with it and is that kind of scary, handing over the reins like that?

[Laughs]. It is a little bit intimidating to hand over the set list to people, but at the same time it’s also really fun. It’s a musical dare of sorts. We’ve done things somewhat similar to this. In fact actually a few years ago, we did an entire tour in the United States where we let people vote on the set list at every show.

We really felt like this was a way to take something that we had done our previous tour that we hadn’t had the opportunity to involve Australian fans and give them a chance to have a similar opportunity or a similar set of control over the process.

I’m looking forward to seeing what rises to the top of the voting. It’s been a really interesting process so far. We’ve seen a lot of songs that I would’ve expected and a few that I would not have, and that’s the fun part about it.

Check out Hanson on their Anthem Tour:

Tuesday, August 5
The Tivoli, Brisbane (18+ show)
Tix: Via Ticketmaster

Wednesday, August 6
Coolangatta Hotel, Gold Coast (18+ show)
Tix: Via Oztix

Friday, August 8
Enmore Theatre, Sydney (All ages)
Tix: Via Ticketek

Saturday, August 9
Palais Theatre, Melbourne (All ages)
Tix: Via Ticketmaster

Sunday, August 10
Hi-Fi Bar, Melbourne (18+)
Tix: Via Hi-Fi

Tuesday, August 12
HQ, Adelaide (18+ show)
Tix: Via Oztix

Friday, August 15
Metropolis, Fremantle (18+ show)
Tix: Via Oztix

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