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Life may go by in an MMMBop, but Hanson's set to use that time effectively. Proceeds from the track, "Great Divide" go toward HIV research in South Africa.

 

Hanson returns with activism, new sound
By: ASHLEE GREEN
Staff Writer
Posted: 9/27/07
Three marriages, four kids and a record label swap later, Hanson is back. In fact, they've been here all along - they've just been busy saving the world. Rehearsing in one of the band's Tulsa, OK studios in preparation for their upcoming tour - which includes tonight's Pittsburgh performance - Isaac Hanson takes a breather with The Pitt News to discuss the new album The Walk, the band's work to combat AIDS in Africa, why the music business is so screwed up and his personal fascination with Pittsburgh's architecture.


Midway through the creation of their third studio album, Underneath, Hanson had it out with their former label Island Def Jam and launched their own independent label, 3 Car Garage Records, a decision they proudly stand by today after the making of their fourth, The Walk:

"The best place we can be is in a more consistent place. Being an independent band and releasing our own stuff allows us the consistency that we did not have in the current record business." Isaac Hanson goes on to stress that the majority of all music is now sold as individual tracks, not albums:

"I think the music business is screwed up. This is not a record business anymore, this is a song business." Audiences, he explains, no longer trust the quality of music and as a result, bands have become increasingly short term and disposable.

"People think that a latte from Starbucks is more valuable than a song…people really think twice about paying 99 cents for a song." Hanson's sound, however, has never failed to be top notch and neither have their outside, humanitarian endeavors.

After learning that some of their friends were donating technology to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in a South African hospital, the boys were moved and hightailed it to Mozambique. They settled in at an orphanage and recorded a few new songs with a children's choir.

Speaking of, all iTunes proceeds from "Great Divide" will go to the Perinatal HIV Research Unit (PHRU) in Soweto, South Africa's Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital - so get downloadin'. The song itself talks about hardcore hope: "I find hope and it gives me rest / I find hope in a beating chest / I find hope in what eyes don't see / I find hope in your hate for me," a sentiment that is surprisingly strong in the disease-torn country.

Hanson speaks of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa as the "great challenge of our generation" and calls on young people everywhere to do their part. Despite their dire situation, he maintains that African people retain a positive outlook:

"They just need the resources," Hanson says. "Once they get the resources, there are incredible amounts of optimism and entrepreneurial vision that live within those people in a way that you can't really relate to until you're there." The $3 we waste daily on our morning coffee buzz? That's all it takes to keep an ailing African alive for a week.

"On a lot of levels, we as Western young people have an innate ability to help those less fortunate in a way that maybe we don't even realize," Hanson says. We need to go from awareness to action."

But back to the music: The passion Hanson gained from its do-gooding permeates each track on the new record and, like the band continually seeks to do, it challenges the perception of their ever-expanding musical identity.

"Our fans have grown with us. Their musical tendencies have changed, but they still enjoy Hanson music and they enjoy the old stuff as well as the new stuff," Hanson says. He deems The Walk "harder hitting" and more "raw" than past albums, but says "the music speaks for itself," and he isn't too fond of over-categorization. Although Taylor usually sings lead vocals, Zac takes the lead in the tracks "Go" and "Running Man" - an experiment that proved immensely successful both musically and lyrically.

A common misconception with the brothers of "MMMBop" fame is their pop-rock genre. Pop music then (think Chuck Berry and Bobby Darin) is a world apart from pop music now, (Britney Spears, *NSYNC) and it's easy to intermix the two. Hanson elaborates:

"There's a little bit more to it then that. First of all, yes, we are a band with pop sensibilities," Hanson says. "But we are through and through, rooted in late '50s and early '60s rock 'n' roll and R&B. Everything about what we do musically relates to that." Much like rock 'n' roll's transformation from mid-'50s to mid-'70s, the band's sound evolves with each record.

"People try and put boxes around music a lot of the time," Hanson says. "I think we're just kind of straight down the middle - rock and roll with harmony." But one thing's for certain: "Hanson is not still a bunch of long, blond-haired teenagers," he teases.

As for the band's future: "A lot more concerts, a lot more music. And certainly being accountable to our own selves when it comes to things like "Great Divide" and Africa," Hanson says.

The boys are making their way to our very own "City of Bridges" tonight to rock the Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead. Isaac's take on Pittsburgh? "The topography is insane. It's a city for the industrial age, that's for sure. It's an example to me of the feat of modern engineering - all those bridges. And Go Steelers!"