Three short years ago, Hanson put Tulsa on the pop music map. Boy, oh boy, how things change.
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
OK, yes, Hanson is comprised of three boys. This does
not, however, make them a boy band.
At least not in the strict sense of that new
colloquialism. The Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync, 98 Degrees --
these are "boy bands." They're pretty, preened and packaged
for ready sale. They hire European professionals to write
their songs, and they sweat through vigorous choreography
The Hanson brothers might be young and fresh-faced, but
they have no time for synchronized dancing because they're
actually playing instruments. They also write their own
songs and even co-produced their new album. They are boys,
for now, but they are definitely a band.
"From the very beginning, we tried hard to do our own
thing, to write our own songs and to be as involved in the
whole thing as any other real musician would be," said Isaac
Hanson, the eldest member of the brotherly trio.
In two weeks, the world will see what happens when three
brothers — Isaac, Taylor and Zac — stop being polite and
start getting real. "This Time Around," the Tulsa band's
follow-up album to the '97 multi-platinum hit debut "Middle
of Nowhere," hits record store shelves on May 9. The new
record pumps up the volume a bit, leaning more heavily
toward guitar-driven rock and featuring some high-profile
In person, the differences between Hanson old and new
would be quite apparent. Isaac's braces are gone, and he's
now the middle child height-wise; Taylor tops him by an
inch. On record, the contrast is almost as clear. Where the
hit single "MMMBop" hearkened back to the sweet grooves of
the Jackson 5, the new single — the title track — is a
piano-driven shot of Southern soul that could land Hanson a
slot on a new H.O.R.D.E. tour.
"When you're the one evolving, of course, you don't
notice it much. To us, it feels like a natural change,"
Taylor said during this week's conversation from the band's
promotional duties in Tokyo. "Those changes you do hear
right away are, OK, the voices are lower, so there's a
slightly different sound to accommodate that, and in that
sense it has more of an edge to it."
The increased soul quotient is no surprise, really.
Before the Hanson family — now seven children strong --
settled in Tulsa, they followed father Walker Hanson's work
transfers around South America. In their home-schooled
foreign isolation, the Hanson brothers soaked up Mom and
Dad's collections of '60s soul music. "When you hear
Aretha Franklin sing 'Respect,' that's like an undeniable
sense of musicality that can't help strike you, no matter
who you are or what you want to do," Taylor said.
This time around, Hanson hooked up with one of those
early soul icons. One track on the new album, called "Dying
to Be Alive," features a gospel choir led by Rose Stone of
Sly and the Family Stone. Working with her was a humbling
experience for the Hansons, Isaac said. "She does that
scatting thing on the end, and she was very sheepish about
doing it. The 10 people in there said, `Rose, what are you
talking about? You should do it.' So she wailed. She's this
little lady, too, and this huge sound came out. It was just
amazing. We were standing in the studio, looking at her in
the tracking room, and she belted it. All of us looked at
each other like, `Wow!' We thought, `We're just going to
retire right now.' All that singing we thought we were
doing — we realized how far we have to go," he said.
Blues guitarist Jonny Lang — who's Isaac's age — plays
three solos on "This Time Around," and Blues Traveler
frontman John Popper does some wailing of his own on
The resulting sound is indeed miles distant from the
boy-band clique, which often flies under the banner of R&B
(an acronym whose antecedents have been somewhat forgotten --
it's rhythm and blues.
"The early R&B had a big influence on us," Isaac said.
"Aretha Franklin is R&B. But Lauryn Hill is great, and she's
R&B. The Backstreet stuff is closer to what I call rhythm
pop. It's just pop, really. We're pop, too, in a sense, but
this is more rock 'n' roll in its essence."
"The (new R&B) is more drastically different," Taylor
said. "Now you're layering loops and it's a completely
different style of music. It's not even the same thing
anymore. The only thing (today) that touches on original
soul is someone like Lauryn Hill, who is still vocally in
that real R&B sense. She's one of those people who really
The key to "This Time Around," if you haven't yet noticed,
is that it's an album that might finally be discussed for
its musical offerings rather than generating mere useless
gossip about three cute pinups and their dating prospects.
The fans of the first album are older now, a little less
prone to hysterics and probably listening to music more
than simply reacting to it.
That doesn't mean the gossip mongers have lost any work.
The boys are still amazed at how quickly the minutiae of
their daily lives is reported on someone's Hanson web
"Sometimes you wonder who's telling people all this
stuff," Zac said. "We got a dog at one point. I mean, we'd
just gotten it. We hadn't told anyone, and the next day
what kind it was and how old it was was out there (on the
web). There's not much you can do about it." Some
personal information is sought after just to check the
status of the band, though. Two waves of rumors about Isaac
quitting the band to go to college palpitated the hearts of
local fans last year. A home-schooled student like all of
his siblings, he is technically finished with high school
now and is auditing a few college courses (physics and, go
figure, music theory). He said college plans are on the
table for the future, and he has looked at some schools.
What that would mean for Hanson's future remains
unclear. Isaac himself said probably very little, because
the music is the driving force for the family.
"I think we all want to continue this as long as we can,"
he said. "I saw Les Paul two months ago in a little jazz
club in New York City. He's 83 now and still playing
guitar. He invented the solid-body guitar and multi-track
recording, and he's still playing, still doing it. I hope
we can do that."
Hanson brothers ready for another busy year
BY THOMAS CONNER
© Tulsa World
Children seem distracted? Are they having trouble
focusing on schoolwork? Newly shellacked nails already
bitten to the nub?
Relax, it's probably nothing to worry about. They're
just anxious for the new Hanson album, "This Time Around,"
which is due in record stores May 9.
The three Tulsa-native Hanson brothers — Isaac, Taylor
and Zac — took time out from promotional duties in Tokyo
this week to phone home and chat with the Tulsa World about
the new record and its amplified rock 'n' roll chops.
The boys are ready for another busy year of circling the
globe to promote the record.
"I hope it's a crazy year," Zac said. "That's a good thing.
That means somebody likes it."
"This Time Around," on the reorganized Island Def Jam
record label, is the trio's fourth album, but it's the real
follow-up to 1997's multimillion-selling "Middle of Nowhere"
disc, which featured the hit single "MMMBop." After the debut
record came a Christmas album ("Snowed In") and a live set
("Live From Albertane"), but "This Time Around" is the first
full-length recording of all-new material since Hanson
opened the Top 40 floodgates for bright teen pop.
It's a bit overdue. The new record was scheduled for
release last fall, but original recording sessions with
noted producer and former Cars singer Ric Ocasek were
scrapped for still-murky reasons. The boys rehired "Middle
of Nowhere" producer Stephen Lironi and tried again.
"We actually did take longer than we thought to make this
record, and that's just the way the dice fell," Isaac said.
"We felt confident about it, though."
Most of the songs were written and demoed in the
Hansons' home studio in Tulsa, and three more were created
in the California recording studio.
No touring plans have yet been set to support the new
album. Hanson leaves Japan on Sunday for more promotional
events in South America, and they said they look forward to
coming home again — whenever that might be.
Comments are closed.
These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.