Normally this column is dedicated to a local act or show that shows potential to be the most engaging or exciting event of the week. Rarely do I get a chance to dedicate it to a nationally touring act. And although Hanson playing Cain's Ballroom has become something of an annual event, it's often easy to overlook the band's local roots in favor of their status as a nationally touring act.
Let's face it, amidst all of the rabid adulation of its primarily female fan base, it's easy to hate on the band based on its initial breakout success with "Mmm-bop," sold-out tours and the over-exposure that went with it. Thirteen years later, however, the band deserves to be looked at on its own merit, not just a window in time or an individual radio hit.
Throughout the years, the band has developed into, above all else, an amazing group of pop songwriters. Just as the vocals have developed and matured with age, so have the band's writing voices.
The band is still fully a pop act, but the bubble-gum tendencies have long fallen away and reveal a group that composes incredibly well written, fully realized songs with a timeless, classic feel.
After weathering a fallout with its record label, then reacting by creating its own and successfully moving forward as an independent act with enough weight to secure international distribution, Hanson is far more than a one-hit wonder or group of cute kids. Yes, the boys have grown into young men, but they've never forgotten their roots and are still based in Tulsa with offices for their label 3CG tucked quietly away in the Brady District, even though the band continues to tour relentlessly.
While the band was in Milwaukee last week, Taylor Hanson spoke to UTW as the group works through the current leg of the tour in support of the band's latest CD, Shout It Out, which was released in June.
With a stop at Cain's Ballroom on Wednesday evening, the conversation turned toward the band's Tulsa ties and a more open return to the band's R&B roots.
"We've really focused on being a touring act over the past few years," Taylor said, "and the Cain's is always a good show. It's almost like a neighborhood show since our offices are just down the street, and it's always a good time. This is the last of a run of shows, though, so we'll throw in a twist here or there and take a short break before we return to the road for the next leg of the tour."
Most notable about the band's latest CD is the obvious R&B overtones that flow out of the songs' basic pop structures. In-between albums, Taylor took some time to front Tinted Windows, an all-star rock ensemble that also included Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne), James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins) and Bun E. Carlos (Cheap Trick).
In talking about that project and how it affected the writing process for Hanson he said that mostly, it just gave him a different perspective. Although he wasn't actively searching for another project or people to write with, his friendship with Schlesinger just made it make sense.
Perhaps more so, Hanson said, "it really put into perspective how this record has more of an R&B background. Tinted Windows was so straight forward, it made it interesting to see how influenced we are by R&B, and it really accentuated that on this record. The contrast really did encourage us to really follow that a little more."
Perhaps ironically, Sheryl Crow (who plays The Brady on Tuesday) has also released an album heavily influenced by R&B. (Check out the Sheryl Crow preview on Page 40.)
When asking Taylor about the maturing of the band and if that effected the way its influences came out, he said, "There's a degree of getting to the point where once you've set a track record for yourself, it's easier to say 'Hey, this is who we are,' I think.
"Shout It Out wouldn't be the record it is if it weren't our fifth record. It's celebrating us as a band and who we are and putting it all into perspective."
Even with that perspective, Hanson has continued to stay tied to its roots, not only musically but locally.
Besides raising families here and basing label offices in downtown Tulsa, the group also shot a video for the CD's first single, "Thinking 'Bout Somethin'" in town and held an open call out for local fans to turn out for the choreographed dance sequences that were shot on Greenwood Ave. this past spring. The video, which works in locally shot footage from that morning, also play off of the band's musical roots and puts a spin on The Blues Brother's movie as well.
Released over the Internet via MySpace, the video has received more than two million plays since its release, providing testimony to the band's ongoing popularity and relevance as a pop act. Perhaps most interesting during our conversation was Taylor's perspective on growing as an artist and staying relevant.
"Evolution, to me, is a constant balance between being genuinely driven to be all you can and not coasting," he said. "You've got to keep evolving, but at the same time keep a certain element the same so you're not attempting to be something you're not.
"I think some artists get tired and start to make carbon copies of themselves and what they've done before. I think the real challenge is to stay energized to be as good as you once wanted to be and not just coast."
With the release of Shout It Out, Hanson has continued to develop as a band and a group of songwriters, proving that it's not just coasting or resting on past accomplishments. The disc presents a group of perhaps the band's strongest songs to date, making the show Wednesday night, Aug. 25, one to look forward to. Rooney and local support Phil Marshall will open the show at 7pm, and tickets are still available.
Also, the band will be continuing its walk for AIDS awareness, beginning at Cain's Ballroom at 5pm, an event that the group started with the tour for its last studio disc, The Walk.
More information and details can be found online at takethewalk.com.
The temperatures seem to just keep rising as we hope for a respite. Although the heat has drained us and even quieted the local scene recently, everything has come back to life as we have more shows than can be properly covered. If you're looking to get out, here are some highlights.
On Thursday night, Aug. 19, the Hard Rock Casino continues its free concert series, bringing Hoobastank to town for a show at the Friction nightclub. If you want to stay in town and still kick off your weekend early, KVOO brings Rodney Atkins to Cain's for the country crowd, while Flytrap Music Hall hosts Pato Banton.
On Friday night, Aug. 20, your best value might well be to take in the Brookside Music Crawl, which features most of the artists from the "New Tulsa Sound" CD compilation. Starting at 7pm, you can hop venue to venue to catch 16 acts performing at The Warehouse, Ida Red, Bruhouse, Sharky's, Ida Red, Doc's and Shades of Brown.
Everyone from Whirligig and Paul Benjaman Band to Sage Flower, Jesse Aycock and Lindsey Neal will be performing, and it's free, so it's a can't miss.
Also performing in town on Friday night are The Televised at Flytrap, You Hang Up (featuring Frankie Muniz of Malcolm in the Middle) at the Marquee and Dave and the Haters at Hunt Club.
If you're looking for a Friday road trip, you can either run to OKC to catch Shinedown with Chevelle, Sevendust and Puddle of Mudd at the Zoo Amphitheater or head east to Fayetteville for a very cool show with Eli Young Band and Corey Smith at the AMP.
Saturday night, Aug. 21, I'd highly recommend you check out Mayola's CD release at Mercury Lounge, and see why they are one of the most engaging indie rock acts in town. If you're looking to get in touch with your rock roots, check out Steve Pryor at Arnie's or Brian Dunning and the Rock & Roll Trio at Downtown Lounge.
Looking further out into the week, we've got even more high-profile shows to look forward to as Secondhand Serenade plays the Marquee on Sunday, and Tuesday night's audience is split between Sheryl Crow at Brady Theater and Meat Loaf playing the grand opening of River Spirit Casino's new events center, with Pearl opening the show. Hanson wraps up the week at the Ballroom.
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