Hanson plays the Chance in Poughkeepsie tomorrow.
By Sandy Tomcho
September 21, 2007
Most musicians just go through the motions on interviews, but it seems
drummer Zac Hanson may actually want to be on the phone. Maybe.
"I'm very well practiced," Hanson laughs. "I think that's
part of the job description when you're a musician."
Hanson has been at this job since he was 8 years old. That's how old
he was when he wrote "MmmBop," the hit that rocketed him and
his brothers onto the international music zeitgeist three years later.
Now 21, he and his brothers, lead singer/keyboardist Taylor, 24, and
guitarist Isaac, 26, are on the road supporting their new album, "The
Walk," which brings them to the Chance tomorrow night.
The album was released on their own label; the guys cut their ties
with major labels a few years back, which is documented in the film,
"Strong Enough to Break." They continue telling that story
with their iTunes podcast, "Taking the Walk."
Their beautiful harmonies are still as prominent as ever, but musically,
they've grown up. Go! reporter Sandy Tomcho caught up with Hanson via
phone and chatted about being their own bosses, new ways of distributing
their music and, of course, "MmmBop."
So, all of you are
married, Taylor and Isaac have kids, and you left your record label.
Is that it?
There're a few more you can add to that, but you hit the high points
What are some issues
you've dealt with not being on a label?
It hasn't become clear how we're actually gonna sell records and make
being a band still have the ability to be a career ... With this new
album, we haven't even gone out to radio yet because we're waiting on
that. There's no point in spending a bunch of money on the front end
at radio when fewer and fewer people are listening to it and it's harder
and harder to get on unless you're spending more and more money. You've
got this equation where you're losing listeners and spending more money.
Would you be better off to find other ways to expose your music?
Maybe one of those
avenues could be "Strong Enough to Break."
I think "Strong Enough to Break" and what continued from that,
"Taking the Walk," is definitely one thing that we decided
to do that is a little unconventional for most bands. Podcasts, the
medium, is really becoming something more and more people are using,
but it's still kind of a fledgling piece of content where people are
just discovering it ... It seems that after the documentary started
to break, we took that to colleges and we did lectures with it, and
we just traveled around with it on the last tour. It just seemed like
it was such a good tool to expose the band; letting people have that
access that's all about music. The podcast is the songwriting, it's
the picking of songs. This is something bands should start using. We
did it because we felt that this is something we'd like to see from
bands that we love. You have to build a relationship with your fanbase.
You have to build trust. You don't want to be a flash-in-the-pan. You
have to change and evolve to stay relevant.
Which brings up another
question. How do you achieve success at a young age and transcend that
to be taken seriously as an adult? How did you guys get past "MmmBop"?
We've just done what we always did. Our label was a decision to say
that we need to keep doing things the way we've always done them. If
we had stayed with major labels, we were gonna find ourselves compromising
to the point that it hurts our music. We've just always done things
that we're proud of. "MmmBop" is part of what makes us who
we are now. I can look back and go, "Man, I shouldn't have worn
those pants," or, "Man, we made a crappy music video for that,"
but when it comes down to the albums, I don't say that. All the songs
on those albums are the right songs for those records. I think every
record has naturally evolved.
The new album, I
think, has come a long way from the "MmmBop" days, and a good
example of that is the first song," Great Divide," the charity
single inspired by your trip to Africa.
One of the craziest things about "Great Divide" is it was
written before we ever thought we were gonna go to Africa. When we started
talking about going to Africa, we got the idea to record while we're
there. It's the best way for us to talk to people about what we're doing.
We're not just gonna talk to you, we're gonna make it part of who we
are and what people know us for. We started listening to songs we could
record on, and all of a sudden, "Great Divide," whether we
knew it or not, was written for the message we're talking about, which
is the devastation caused by the AIDS/HIV epidemic. Until we take tangible
action and say it's relevant to our lives, we're not gonna make the
huge impact that needs to be made.
What are people gonna
see tomorrow night at the Chance?
We're gonna play instruments (laughs). It's about music. There's no
crazy light show or dancing. You're gonna hear music from all the records,
and we'll play some covers. Don't come unless you're ready to sing along
and move your ass because that's the kind of show it is. We want our
fans to be our traveling choir.