Break out your old Tiger Beat and Teen Bop magazines. The Hanson brothers are back and all grown up. For those loyal fans that have been following their decade plus long music career and rooting for them through record label struggles, you’re in for a treat. Their newest album Shout It Out was just released in Canada and its got feel-good written all over it. Isaac Hanson chats with Pop Counter//Culture about the different musical direction they’ve taken on this record. He also gives us a bit of insight on how social media has strengthened Hanson’s relationship with fans, what it means to play “MMMBop” after all these years, and of course, getting to rock out on a Katy Perry music video.
On the writing and recording process of Shout It Out
The writing and recording process was a pretty straightforward one, but a little bit unique to the previous records. It was mostly us, all three sitting down kind of in a different way than previous records, more in a practicing band environment than it was us sitting behind a piano or acoustic guitar working out details. It was more like we were channeling a live performance. We set up in a big room and I actually spent a lot of time playing bass…It was very much a wholly collaborative effort. I think you can hear some of that in the record. It was a very fluid process. We all felt like we really knew what we were trying to get from the record.
On influences for this album
We’d been rediscovering a lot of our earliest influences during the months leading up to the official writing process – rediscovering the late fifties and early sixties kind of R&B, rock and roll and Motown music.
On the extensive use of horns on this record
There was a bit of hesitancy or lack of clarity on whether or not we needed to add horns in the early part of the recording process, but as we were multiple months out from recording the majority of the record, we realized that we absolutely had to get horn arrangements done for the record…[Horns] became a signature sound on the record and it really added a complexity and in many ways, it motivated an exciting element to the record that was clearly missing. I can’t imagine the record without it. It seemed like it wasn’t complete, and then the horns showed up, we all look at each other and said yeah, that’s exactly what was missing.
On sibling rivalry
There’s always a challenge no matter who you’re in a band with, whether you’re in a band with your brothers or with your friends. Granted, I’m speaking hypothetically because I have absolutely no idea what it’s like to be in a band without my brothers. That being said, it’s a relationship that requires mutual respect and honesty and collective agreement and vision for what it is you’re trying to achieve. Because we grew up with this sort of similar influences and the same parents, you have a certain set of innate abilities to be closer or on the same page. Having done it since we were really young, me starting out our first proper show when I was 11, Zac was six and Taylor was nine, I think it has been more of an advantage than disadvantage. There is always creative rivalry though.
On social media and the relationship with fans
I think the broader social media world and more broadly the Internet, as a whole and the way it has impacted the band and fan relationship, is incredibly positive. I don’t think there are any true down sides to what it was done for the direct fan to band communication and overall relationship with one another. There’s a huge advantage to artists not only as creators, but really when you think about it, as home grown, entrepreneurial businesses. Ultimately, now you have a way as an artist, that in the past we were relying on a record label or someone else to provide, you have a direct, potential relationship. When people are looking for you, they don’t have to go to a record store, or so and so record company. They go to the band’s website, whether it’s on Facebook or MySpace or a Twitter account or a specific URL…Unique to any other time in history, they are not going through anybody else necessarily and also because of that, the band has the opportunity to, shall we say, strengthen and capture that individual relationship with people.
On the changing perception of “MMMBop”
I actually like playing “MMMBop” more now than I probably did five or six years ago because for me “MMMBop” has taken on a different role than it did in the early years of our career. In the early years of our career, a song like “MMMBop”, its significance is different. Now, I feel like it’s kind of like the positive sense of nostalgia. You have all these positive memories associated with that song and with that part of your life and career.
Your fans’ relationship with that song is different also. They associate it with a uniquely different part of their life than they did before…As a fan you always love those kinds of songs – the unique points in a band’s history where you identified with them. When our fans first discovered our music, it was “MMMBop” so it’s a great privilege to have a song like that, to have history and have pop culture significance.
On the cameo in Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night (TGIF)”
That was a lot of fun. We got a call out of the blue from her team saying, ‘hey, would you guys be interested in being in this video?’ We were like, ‘sure! What’s the deal with this video?’ [Katy] called and explained what the concept was…We did exactly what it looked like we did– hover around on the video set, talk to Katy in between takes. We were bringing the party at the front yard of the house. It actually was a lot of fun because much like previous videos of our own, we found a way to entertain ourselves and the rest of the people around.
On running a company on your own terms
What I will say is that being an artist and especially being an artist who is running their own record company, there is always struggle and there will always be struggle. Yes, you have hopefully a healthy dose of ‘cherries on top’ in that process, but for us, this is just an ongoing process, whether it’d be Shout It Out or the next project or whatever it is, for us, we’re always thinking about the future and excited as to what we can do next. We feel like and we hope we have a lot more years to do things beyond what we’ve done and look forward to all the other creative things that we’re going to do and the business things we are going to do. Ultimately, this is an amazingly gratifying business to be in.