|Hanson: From Oklahoma to South Africa
By JIM FABER
With a new album released this summer and a nationwide tour now under way, Hanson -- the band of brothers you may remember from a small single called "MMMBop" about 10 years ago -- is setting out to give their fans a dose of social activism along with their usual catchy pop.
In the midst of recording "The Walk," which was released earlier this year, the band took a brief trip to South Africa to visit a local choir. The journey's results were both musical --the choir's vocals ended up on the record's first single, "Great Divide" -- and charitable: proceeds from the single will go to AIDS research efforts at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto.
The band's reasons for adopting the cause are simple, said Isaac Hanson, the oldest of the three brothers.
"Our generation has been very, very privileged with wealth that has been very accessible to us, especially in relation to the entire world," Isaac said. "We can do things that are very, very simple to us that can have a huge impact on others."
The brothers gained an interest in AIDS research in Africa when meeting with a company called Docvia in their hometown of Tulsa. The company had just donated technology to let patients and doctors communicate through text messages to the Soweto hospital.
"There needs to be leadership in the heartland of America," Isaac said. "We need to make this (issue) a part of our social awareness."
But the message wouldn't matter without the music, and the band is excited about "The Walk." Isaac said the album melds the R&B influences of "Middle of Nowhere" with the gospel feel of "This Time Around" and the introspective qualities of "Underneath."
"We wanted to try to combine all three of those into one album in such a way that you could put a bookend on this chapter of the band, and say, 'This is what Hanson sounds like,' " Isaac said.
Isaac, 26, has been recording with his brothers Taylor, 24, and Zachary, 21, for more than a decade. Each is an equal contributor, but being a band hasn't always been easy, Isaac said.
"We definitely clash with each other consistently," Isaac said. "We have fairly heated arguments, but the music itself is that consistency, that thing we believe in. We don't always agree on how to get there, but we agree on the goal: a good song," he said.