Family Fun

At 13 years old, my family and I moved from Tennessee to Arizona, passing through Oklahoma on the drive. Crossing the border from Arkansas into the Sooner State, we broke into a jovial, off-key sing along. You know that Rodgers and Hammerstein musical? Oklahoma! The musical’s signature song memorably features the cast spelling out the state’s name in a dramatic crescendo of territorial American pride.

So now we’re all singing this song, and it hits me: Hanson, my favorite band featuring my future husband (Taylor if you must know) lives in this state. I giddily protest that we must drive through Tulsa, Hanson’s home base. I am somehow successful. My girlish borderline insanity made the empty streets of Tulsa look magical. “MMMBop” came on, and I gasped that it was obviously a sign from God that the articles in Teen Beat I’d absorbed about the band would pay off and soon all of the Hanson brothers would fall in love with me. Or something.

Cut to 2010. The tween pandemonium halted. The “MMMBop”-inspired insanity subsided. The fans grew up. And so did the band. “We all started out so young together. I mean, I was 11 when we kind of hit the scene. I’ll be 25 this year,” drummer Zac Hanson says.

Hanson released their major label debut Middle of Nowhere 13 years ago. Since then, they’ve released seven more studio albums, including a Christmas album, parted ways with Island Def Jam (where they ended up after Mercury merged with Island). They started their very own label 3CG, a reference to their compilation album Three Car Garage, and started releasing their music independently.

“When we first formed the label, it was a lot crazier of an idea. What does being your own label mean?” Hanson says. “In a lot of ways it’s a very simple thing. I’m not going to give [my music] to someone else and say, ‘I hope it works out.’ For us it’s a tool to grow with.”

This past April, Hanson released the video for their latest single, “Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’.” Those same Tulsa streets I begged to drive on provide the video’s setting. The video pays homage to “Shake A Tail Feather,” which the diehards – both of them – will remember Hanson covered live and released on Live from Albertane. Taylor, Isaac and Zac all twist and shout with a huge cast of extras, re-enacting the famous Ray Charles scene from the Blues Brothers film. It captures that same buoyant feeling from Hanson’s first burst of fame: dancing in the streets, singing as loud as possible and pure, summery fun.

That single is from the new record Shout It Out, a soulful pop outing featuring musical heavyweights. Jerry Hey, who arranged horns for Michael Jackson, joined the band to record in El Paso

“These horns are pop horns,” Hanson says. “It’s not orchestral or something like that. It’s a sound that brings excitement to the whole record. [Hey] did actually do a couple songs on our record Underneath and it was really great to have him back.”

So far, so good.

“The response to the record has really been phenomenal, and people have been saying really flattering things about the band. That stuff isn’t why we do it,” Hanson says. “That scene [in the video] was just this perfect scene that connected with the way we feel about the new record. It’s people being unlocked and finding joy in music.”

Shout It Out is well-executed, adult pop rock that still satisfies the inner 13-year-old fangirl pining for a Hanson brother to call her own. As to whether crying, screaming and fainting ensues, well, you’ll just have to see ‘em live to find out.

Tue., Sept. 14, 7 p.m., 2010
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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski