Rolling Stone talks to Taylor Hanson
Taylor Hanson Talks Tinted Windows
A few days ago we posted this exclusive track, “Kind of a Girl”, the first single from the generation-spanning supergroup Tinted Windows, featuring Taylor Hanson, Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger, James Iha and Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos.
The response has been overwhelming. Hundreds and hundreds of positive comments have piled up, most of them coming from hardcore Hanson fans.
So, here’s a treat for all of you. Yesterday we spoke with our old buddy Taylor, who told us all about the history of the Tinted Windows, the future of Hanson and the fact that he has FOUR children!
You know we put up the Tinted Windows song a few days ago and the response has been bananas.
That’s pretty awesome.
Take us back to the beginning.
It’s an interesting story. The thing about the band is sort of two fold. Adam and I originally met because we [Hanson] were making our first record in ‘96 and we were meeting with different people that were either up and coming songwriters or artists. We were writing with a couple different people, and we sat down to write a song [with Adam] and really never ended up completing something that made that album. But we always kept up a friendship. We just kind of always said, I think partly because we didn’t really finish the song, “Oh, yeah, we should do something together.” We kept in touch for years, and nothing particular came of it as far as actually doing collaborations. You’re in your different bands, traveling, you’re keeping busy, and we would just cross paths and do friend stuff, but hadn’t really made music together. I guess it was about three years ago, we were making our last record and Adam called me and we just started brainstorming, about this idea of a very straightforward project, music that we weren’t going to over-think. This is about the energy of guitar driven, tight pop songs. It sort of in the tradition of great bands like the Knack and the Buzzcocks and for that matter Cheap Trick. For me it was kind of a fun challenge, just because we always knew that the project was going to be something we would do in addition to our own bands. It wasn’t something that we were saying, “We’re gonna stop everything and do this.” It was a challenge because it’s very sort of straight ahead, it doesn’t have many soul influences, which is where my original gut is as far as Hanson. It was actually a really great thing to think about some of these other bands, and this style of music which I definitely love, but it’s very different than our original influence as Hanson.
So that was three years ago. Then what happens?
We just all would periodically touch base and say, “When can we get in a room and write songs. Let’s set aside time for a session.” It was really just ships passing in the night and going, “Great. We’ve got a week. Let’s get in the studio. So I would fly up to New York and hang out at Adam’s apartment. We’d work through songs and we’d just sort of… originally, the first session we just tried to kind of sit in the room and really just jam out different ideas, and really just play like a band off the floor, at least with the elements that were available to us. Just sit in the room and play. And um, honestly, it just sort of built up. We would grab a week here and a week there. The first actual writing session that Adam and I did, was actually at a songwriting retreat. I’m sure I probably mentioned it at some point, when we’ve talked over the years.
It was just more coincidence that in ‘06 we were doing our retreat, and we had begun talking about this idea, and so I said, “Hey – we’re setting aside a week to write songs. Adam, why don’t you just come down and we’ll just write for this.” And so we wrote this song, which I think is the last track on the record, called “Take Me Back,” which is yet to be heard. I think for me, one of the coolest things about it is the fact that everybody’s just been really able to enjoy the fact that this project was just about music. We all have things about the band that are flavors of what we do, but it’s really just an opportunity to do something that’s not exactly what we do in our own band. And also get to just play with people that are friends and also just really talented musicians.
So where does Iha jump in?
He and Adam have been friends for a long time. Adam can tell you for sure how early he and James first talked, but at the point where the three of us all sat in the same room, I think Adam and I had been talking about it already for close to a year before the three of us were together. You know, actually “Hey – here we are.” And it was really just an obvious connection. One of the things we talked about forever, is that once you sit down to write a song, or you sit down to make music, the differences seem to fade away a lot more. But, really, we just got along. What a better guitarist than to have than James?
So what are these songs about?
The whole project is really about writing songs that are totally straightforward, and are not trying to prove something or have some extremely deep meaning. It’s about girls, the back and forth. We’re trying to be as unpretentious about it as possible. We even had a few songs that kind of had some more irony in them. They were a little more tongue in cheek quality to the lyrics. As much as possible, we just kept going, “We don’t want it to sound like we’re trying to be too clever.” I think, honestly when you hear everybody play in the same room, the performance…it just feels very organic. But it doesn’t feel overthought.
And then finally Bun E. jumping into it.
I mean Bun E.’s obviously an amazing drummer. He’s an extremely credible dude. We’d had different thoughts about drummers, and he was just the one that you think, “Is this gonna happen? Is he gonna be into this project?” In the end, it just comes down to music as well. He just dug the record, he dug the songs he heard…at least the demos as they were. He adds an incredibly cool vibe to the whole project.
The song’s been out and people are freaking out about it. How do you feel about the response?
I think it’s great. I think it’s great for everybody that’s involved. Like I said, this is something that we’ve just been able to enjoy and not overthink up to this point. It’s great to see people sort of surprised by what Tinted Windows actually is, as opposed to what they think it’s going to be. I think that’s going to be the most fun thing about the whole project, letting people actually discover that this is a band. It’s not just a collection of pieces, it’s a record and it’s guys are gonna play together. I think you can feel that when you actually hear the Tint’s.
Some folks are concerned about Hanson falling off the face of the Earth.
It couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, we’re actually working on our record right now. We’re really excited about it, and we’ll be really active over the next year, as we are also doing the Tinted Windows stuff, which is gonna be a blast.
Every time I turn around you seem to be having another child. How many do you have now?
It’s pretty insane actually. I have four. To be perfectly honest, when I say it, it sounds pretty crazy. But it all makes sense when you meet ‘em. The dots all come together. It may seem like a lot, but it’s great.
And how old is the oldest one?
He is six years old.
So they’re about to put a band together too? Hanson, Jr.?
They could actually. I mean I would never wish this on anyone unless they were unable to not do it, which is what we’ve always said about our band. “If you can’t do anything else, then you should do it. If you have to do it.” If you’re addicted to it, to the point where you can’t turn it off, then I say go for it.
Have you had that discussion with them yet?
They haven’t seriously posed the question yet, as far as, “Dad, I need to talk to you. I’m ready to start my band.” To be honest, I would not be surprised if that question came. It’s funny, River is our second youngest, He’s two and he’s an incredible drummer. He’s got rhythm! And not just the way a parent thinks, “Hey my kids are great.” I mean, you always think your kids are great. He really has rhythm. So we’ll see.
So where are you on the Hanson record?
We’re in writing mode. We’re gonna be recording and hopefully have a record that we’re finished with in the next couple of months. We’re gonna be planning a variety of different things that we’ll be doing this year. Some stuff that’s still up in the air, kind of warming up to the next record. We’re getting ready to announce some dates with a couple of performers. Some kind of co-headlining things that we’re gonna do in the summer and the fall, sort of leading up to the release of the next record.