Hanson standing strong after two decades

Want to feel old?

Hanson just celebrated its 21st anniversary as a band.

True, the sibling trio of Taylor, Isaac and Zac Hanson had barely shelved their Superman lunchboxes when “MMMBop” conquered pop radio in 1996, four years after the brothers officially formed as a musical entity.

Now they’re old enough to boast their own beer line — more on that later — and father enough kids to form an on-field football team.

While the chart hits fizzled after the late ’90s, Hanson did the opposite of fading into pop obscurity. They continued to hone their already impressive musical chops, recording and performing not for the Top 40 accolades, but because this is what they do.

Their recently released sixth studio album, “Anthem,” is a glorious collection of R&B-soaked, guitar-driven pop songs that spotlight the guys’ predilection for ’60s-styled melodies wrapped in meaty musicianship.

Check out the amusing video for “Get the Girl Back” if you need proof.

Hanson already wrapped a tour of Europe and South America, and on Saturday, the U.S. leg begins. The guys will return to one of their favorite venues, the Variety Playhouse, on Sept. 8.

Last week, Taylor Hanson called from the band’s home base of Tulsa, Okla., to talk about the tour, why Atlanta is special to him, and the beauty of Mmmhops beer.

Q: So you’ve already been to overseas. Will the shows change much for America?

A: I feel like we’re just beginning with the U.S. run. The great thing about the tour in the U.S. is that you can do so many shows in a similar kind of rhythm. This tour is going to feature the new record, which is all about the connection to the audience. The title (“Anthem”) represents songs taking on meaning with a group of people, so we’re looking forward to sharing that. We’ll mix in a lot of fun covers, too.

Q: You’re playing the Variety Playhouse here, which you’ve played a few times in the past. Is there a particular reason you like that room?

A: You pick the right size rooms, and the routing comes into it. There’s not a particular magic to it, but I do like the way that room feels and the way the audience is ramped up you can really look at them. Atlanta is such an awesome town. My wife is from there. We started dating 13 years ago, so I’ve spent a lot of time there and been down in Little Five Points a lot to hang out. It has a good vibe.

Q: You’ve talked about the struggle of putting this album together, but ultimately, what do you think made it work?

A: I think you have to compare it to a marriage, as much as that seems funny. At some point, you decide whether or not you want to walk away or not. These days, a lot of people choose to let their differences get the best of them.

When we came into this record, we really hit a wall, and that came out in our process and caused us to have to stop and rethink the whole album. What brought us together was thinking about what’s next. For me, it’s always been about what we could do next, that’s what gets you up in the morning. We’re 21 years into a band — and I’m 30 — so it’s who you are, it’s an identity thing.

Q: You’re still a young guy — but as you’re getting older, who do you look to for inspiration as both a singer and a keyboardist? I always hear a lot of Steve Winwood in your sound.

A: There’s some technical kinship with Steve Winwood, and he had a really unique and long career, which is what we strive for. As artists, Michael Jackson is among the greatest inspirations purely as an artist. There is an intensity that he produced that I really always identified with.

But if you look at careers and artists, we look at people like Springsteen, who always made live music the thing about him as a performer and has done critically acclaimed albums and made hugely successful pop albums. We look at people like Tom Petty, artists who, when you walk into the room, they have grandparents and kids singing their songs.

Q: So whose idea was it to do Mmmhops (the band’s beer launched earlier this year)?

A: It was really just a brainstorming session. As we started our record label (3CG Records), we thought it’s not just Hanson the band, but who we are on a broader level. We’ll roast coffee with a local shop or do a cool merchandise thing. At one point a couple years ago, it fit right into the brainstorming session. I think Isaac is the one who said Mmmhops and we first laughed, but then thought … that could work! It took a couple of years to get it out there. We’re working with a brewery in Oklahoma (Mustang Brewing) that has highly received beers. This fall, it will launch in multiple states in conjunction with the tour and we are going to have sales online to be shipped, hopefully by the middle of fall.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

For more of the interview with Taylor Hanson, visit The Music Scene blog at www.accessatlanta.com.

X