Interview: Zac Hanson of Hanson
Even though Hanson was without a record company's financial and promotional support, the photogenic threesome still packed 1,000-person-capacity clubs last year. Drummer Zac Hanson, 19, said he feels fortunate that his band's fans stuck around until it released the album "Underneath" in April.
"We've always been lucky to have really devoted fans. Even though there's four years in between albums, we still have thousands and thousands of people coming to our website every day looking for what's going on. We can't give those people enough credit and praise for their devotion," Hanson said.
"It's cool to have critical success because it's always nice for your peers to say, 'Good job.' But who cares about them? It's the people who come out to the shows and the people who buy the albums who actually matter. Everyone else is actually icing on the cake. It would be nice to have radio support, not that we've ever had that much trouble with it," he said.
He and his brothers--keyboardist/singer Taylor Hanson, 21, and guitarist/singer Isaac Hanson, 23--have embarked on a U.S. tour that they hope follows suit. (See tour dates below.) The band is touring in support of "Underneath," its first album since 2000's "This Time Around." Released on its own label 3CG Records, "Underneath" brings Hanson full circle. It released its first independent album in the mid-1990s before scoring the international hit "MmmBop." Hanson said that he and his brothers have equal say in the company, which is distributed by AOL-Time Warner-owned ADA.
"It's pretty much run by everybody," he said. "We're very involved in everything that goes on. We always have been. This is really taking it to the next level, I guess. Sometimes we're so involved that it really slows things down."
Zac Hanson shared with SoundSpike.com his group's songwriting methods, influences and experiences writing songs in France.
On your tour last year, the choice of "Teach Your Children" was a prime choice to show skeptics--perhaps parents who brought their children to the show--that you have a talent for harmony.
Thank you. That's really where our musical roots are, though--those songs, those bands. Our inspiration to start performing and singing was [the year] 1958--Chuck Berry, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Little Richard, the Big Bopper, Buddy Holly. Those are amazing artists. We then moved into later periods and eventually got into people like Crosby, Stills and Nash, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones. We really like the originals, the people who sort of inspired the creation of rock 'n' roll music as we know it.
That's interesting. A lot of older performers aren't inspired by that type of music.
We tell people that and they say, "So your parents' music." So, really not our parents' music. It would be a generation before our parents. My parents aren't quite that old.
How did you get into that type of music?
The real reason we ended up getting into that type of music was our dad worked as an accountant for an oil company so we spent a year overseas when we were young kids. Because of that, it was all Spanish TV and radio so we ended up having these '50s and '60s tapes, tapes of that music. We just started listening to those. That was all we had to listen to. We listened to it over and over and over again. We started singing the lyrics back and just picked it up.
You released your latest album on your own label. What is it like having your own label? Is it run by all three of you or does one brother have more of a hand in it than another?
It's pretty much run by everybody. We're very involved in everything that goes on. We always have been. This is really taking it to the next level, I guess. Sometimes we're so involved that it really slows things down--"Darn, if we only had two members in the band and we didn't have to get that third guy's opinion." Generally, they're talking about me.
So you're the lone man out?
No, I'm just joking.
Did you write this album any differently?
I'd say not particularly. But you're writing it the same way. You may be pulling from different influences because of different things that are going on in your life, different people that are around you and more experiences to pull from. The way we write our albums has always been the same. You just write songs.
Do you write songs individually or together? Home or on the road?
Can I say all of the above? We write songs while we're on tour. We've already written songs that will go on the next record now. We write songs on tour, together and apart. Sometimes even with other people. We wrote with [pop singer/songwriter] Matthew Sweet on this album. We wrote [the title track] "Underneath" with him. We wrote with Gregg Alexander [former frontman of the New Radicals], "Lost Without Each Other."
Did you write those songs during Miles Copeland's songwriting retreat in France?
No, but we participated in that. It's in the wine country. There are a lot of great people who do that. It's a great excuse to go to France and drink wine for a week and tell people that you're working. You've got probably 20-30 people, all professional songwriters and musicians. There are four to five studios and three main places where you can do demo-ing. You group up in sets of three and you go for it. Every day you write a song. Whether it sucks or it's good, you demo it and you do that every day for a week and a half. A lot of great people were at the one that we did. Ed Robertson from the Barenaked Ladies was there, Donny Brown from The Verve Pipe, Miles Zuniga from Fastball. There's a lot of cool people. It's a fun event. It's a musical thing. When you're outside of music sometimes it's hard to understand, but with music you really don't have that many boundaries. There were some songs that didn't necessarily make it to the album. We were working with guys who worked with Marilyn Manson, Black Sabbath and Saliva to people who worked with Billy Joel, Don Henley and Carole King. We're coming together to make music. It's not that we were going to make Black Sabbath music, but we make cohesive material. It's a cool thing. It's a lot of hard work because people don't sleep. You fly to France and you start writing the next day. You have no sleep. You stay up until 4 in the morning and get up at 9 and write another song. You're writing with people you don't know or people you have no emotional connection to sometimes. It's just that exercise, that free-for-all of, "Let's just do it anyway."
What was it like to work with Gregg Alexander and Matthew Sweet? What did you learn from them?
It was cool working with Gregg--just getting together in a room and spending a couple days and thrashing out some music. Gregg's definitely a character but he's a cool guy. We didn't learn a lot. Matthew's a great writer and a really talented musician. We just enjoyed each other's company. We spent about four hours without knowing each other at all. One day we met through a mutual friend and we said, "Hey let's write tomorrow." We had four hours because Matthew had dinner and we had a meeting before then so we couldn't start any earlier. We went in [and] in an hour and a half we had most of the song. We had some lyrics. We went away and we went, "Man, that was easy." Sometimes writing situations work out well and sometimes they don't. Just the other day we were writing with Ryan Miller from Guster. He was just hanging out. We had lunch with him and he came up to Ike's and [my] apartment and we said, "Hey, let's write a song." It's that artist community of people just using each other's talents and strengths to combine to create something for the greater good. It sounds like the theme for a superhero team, like I'm reading the paragraph explaining what people do.