All Grown Up Hanson offers more mature message at HOB

By REBECCA GRITES For At The Shore, (609) 272-7205
(Published: September 13, 2007)

When you think of Hanson, you generally think of teenage boys with long hair making girls swoon. Well, that was 10 years ago. Today, Hanson is not only impacting the music scene in a way they've never done before, but Isaac, Taylor and Zac have decided to take on even bigger scenes - like AIDS relief organizations in Africa.

Hanson's latest album, "The Walk," was released in May and has music buffs like Bono calling it "genius." One critic raved that "The Walk" was a music experience "equal to 'OK Computer' by Radiohead." On the tails of such a highly acclaimed record, Hanson recently hit the road for a full tour, which will make a stop at the House of Blues in Atlantic City on Thursday, Sept. 13.

Taylor Hanson, keyboardist and lead vocalist, is obviously happy with the positive reviews and attributes them to the purposeful steps the band made to create a record true to their state of mind.

"We've seen with this new record that it's speaking to a new set of a musicians and peers of ours," Hanson says, "We tried to simplify some things that we typically would purposefully complicate, and that was a positive change. Not only with some fans that understand what we were trying to do but with critics that hear this record (as) being a little more honest and true to what we do when we walk into a room and just play."

Another big change for Hanson was parting ways with their record label. Hanson feels that going independent doesn't turn you into an indie-rock band, it just allows you to develop a musical career as the band sees fit - not what the record label demands of the band.

"Having stayed where we were and within this crumbling major label system, we would've gone - who knows how many different directions. Being indie has inspired us (with the) idea that we're able to reinvent ourselves not for the wrong reasons," Hanson says.

No matter what changes Hanson seems to make, loyal fans continue to follow and support each album they release. Hanson believed the majority of their fanbase has stuck with them since 1997 with the breakthrough album, "Middle of Nowhere."

"We see people all the time who have said, 'I'm totally into different music now than I was when I first heard you, but I still like you.' We (get) that more than most (bands) because it's weird to have a real band writing and playing that started with their fans at such a young age."

The element of familiarity has also kept Hanson in step with the majority of their diehard fans. Unlike some bands who have matured out of a childhood past of immense fame, Hanson believes in everything he and his brothers have created. They also believe that is what makes them such a creative and unpredictable group of musicians.

"We want our music to be like chicken soup. We want people to listen and be like, 'Mmm … I like this, I know this.' But it's not exciting to you unless you're doing something that is interesting and without that excitement, people won't feel attracted to - whether it's familiar or not," Hanson explains. "(We) never turn our backs on our old music. (We) just take it and twist it."

No matter what Hanson may be doing musically, they are without a doubt making an impact globally. The boys took a trip to Africa to see what the AIDS epidemic was doing to the country and what they could do to help. Initially, Hanson recorded the song "Great Divide," which was a download-only release. The profits from that song were donated the Perinatal HIV Research Unit in a South African hospital. They decided they couldn't stop there and are determined to use this tour to inspire and encourage their fans to take action against the AIDS epidemic.

"With all the talk about AIDS and Africa, there are very few people (who) talk about how to use what they have and put it into action," Hanson says. "Everybody has a tool. We all possess a skill or a dollar or a relationship of someone else that could influential. This is about taking whatever you have and putting it to work. It's not a moral judgment; it's about recognizing when things have become so out of control (that) it's the obligation of everybody to say we have an opportunity to accomplish something and to eradicate something. If we can attack (problems by) putting things to good used for this massive issue, there's so many other things that we could achieve."

Taylor Hanson on Hanson's Musical Influences

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin, left, was a huge influence in the sense that she sang amazing songs but they she was really a singer; and amazing vocalist.

Chuck Berry

(Chuck Berry), left, had all different influential elements; the harmony and the pace. The excitement of those classic Chuck Berry records, those were the first major influences on us. Those were the beginning for us and inspired us originally.

Current Bands

Bands like Travis, Wilco, right, and Ryan Adams are bands we've really been into; you've heard those influences strongly on the last record.