New look Hanson set to hit New England

BMS talks with Taylor Hanson about the band

By Jennifer Carney, Staff Writer

"Indie cred" is something that not many people assign to Hanson. Nor do many think of them as a viable rock and roll band. But as we found out – and maybe the masses will soon discover as well – there's more to Hanson than bubblegum. A hell of a lot more.

It's a shame, in a way, that one of their latest successes came somewhat anonymously. Last year, Chicago's alt-rock radio station Q101 surprised their listeners by revealing that the most-requested song for nearly a month was, in fact, Hanson's newest single, "The Great Divide". What is even more telling is the fact that after the "mystery artist" was revealed, the song's popularity kept growing exponentially; the band experienced a 95% increase in music downloads after the announcement.

"Well, one thing about that that's really interesting is that we didn't do it," Taylor Hanson says by phone during a recent tour stop. "That came from a program director at [Q101]. We thought it was a cool idea."

"It just so happens that 'The Great Divide' stands up and is a much punchier, tougher-sounding song. The unique element about the album is that you've never heard this type of texture from the band – it's a little different."

Different can be a burden or a boon for a young band. Hanson pride themselves on being musicians first and foremost, and that means an appreciation and an incorporation of a rich layering of musical influences. There's a depth to The Walk that is as well-rounded as "Mmmbop" was infectiously catchy.

"I guess we're a pop-rock band," Taylor admits, "but we've started just saying that we play rock and roll, because that term has become so broadly used but now it doesn't get used in the same way."

"I think another way to say it would be that we're kind of soul-influenced pop-rock. But now you're probably completely confused."

Great pop hooks, savvy blues-rock and excellent melody can make you a critical darling, and even a big rock star. But going the extra mile, so to speak, to be a positive force for change is quite another thing for three brothers whose collective ages barely exceeds the age of one Rolling Stone.

Hanson aren't out to change the world, but they believe that every little bit helps. In fact, in addition to their own activism, they actively engage their fans at every turn. Before every show, Hanson and any willing fans participate in a barefoot, one-mile walk to raise awareness of the lack of basic necessities caused by poverty. At the same time, the band promotes their relationship with TOMS shoes – who make cool, custom "Great Divide" shoes – and encourage their fans to buy a pair and organize their own walk. Every pair of TOMS shoes bought means a pair is delivered to a child in need.

"We always thought that the music was supposed to inspire people," says Taylor, "but I think until a few years ago we felt uncomfortable with endorsing things so actively with as much endorsement as there [already] is from artists.

"We're a generation that's connected. We're a generation that is empowered more than ever before. And I think it's our opportunity to look at the things that we have and the things that we do and the things that we create and find a way to use those things to face somebody's huge issues."

In addition to all the philanthropy, Hanson puts on a great show. They'll hit the Calvin Theatre in Northampton on Friday and the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom on Saturday. For those who aren't quite sure what to expect, Taylor's got that covered, too.

"Expect to be engaged," he said. "I don't know for sure if we're successful at it, but the idea of a Hanson show is this: it is a rock and roll show. It is loud and it's about getting people to let their hair down and be able to enjoy themselves and let go of what's around you.

"A Hanson show is sort of a full introduction, I think, to the band," Taylor proclaims. "If you don't get what Hanson's about by seeing a live show, we've probably lost you."