It’s enough to drive a guy crazy. You can’t blame Taylor Hanson for feeling a bit like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde right now. He and his brothers, Isaac and Zac, are recording a new Hanson album, while he’s simultaneously promoting and playing gigs with Tinted Windows to promote their new self-titled CD.
Hanson takes a break from the studio to talk to Hitfix about forming Tinted Windows with Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger, Smashing Pumpkins’ James Iha and Cheap Trick’s Bun E. Carlos, what he wants to sing with Gwen Stefani, his dream super group and the difference between baths and showers.
[interview after the break…]
Q: There’s so much buzz about Tinted Windows, for lack of a better term, among the hipsters. Does that make you laugh?
A: (laughs). I’m trying to figure out how to say this so you don’t quote me and it sounds like I’m… How do we feel about the hipsters? You know what? For me, it’s always been about music and, unfortunately, it’s not always about music from the point of view of what you’re perceived to be doing. So I think a lot of people that are hearing the reality of a Hanson, a Pumpkin, a Cheap Trick, a Fountain– just the chemical experiment nature of it is kind of fascinating. Ultimately, it musically sounds like something that a lot of people think of being as the cream of the crop of popular music. This style. The clean songs, the power pop songs with lots of guitars. It’s sort of the ultimate non-guilty/guilty pleasure.
Q; Today you’re working on Hanson, five days from now, you’re back on the road with Tinted Windows. Is it hard to toggle back and forth?
A: My brain’s spinning a little bit. For a long time, I wasn’t interested in joining another band. It’s one thing to write and produce, but once you join a band, it’s adds a whole different set of things you do. I mean, honestly, going back and forth right now, it keeps perspective on the things that you’re doing. Tinted Windows is like a…it’s like one’s a bath, one’s a shower.
Q: They both get you clean hopefully.
A: They both do the job. Hanson is an immersion experience. Tinted Windows is a refreshing splash from the point of view of “Let’s go do this.” Because it’s not something for any of us that we’ve spent our life building or our careers building, we are able to enjoy what we’re creating and we’re able to enjoy the people we’re working with and doing something that’s a little different from what we do in our own band.
Q: What were Isaac and Zac’s reaction when you told them you were doing Tinted Windows?
A: The three of have talked about that I would start working on the Tinted Windows deal for over three years because I started brainstorming about it then. And so initially, honestly, the main thing was, “That sounds kind of cool. When are you going to do that?” Sort of like, “Okay, you’re a little ambitious, aren’t you? When do any of us have the time to stop and do another band?” Because every band, you know, being an artist is a 24/7 gig, especially for us, we run the label. We have a lot of ancillary things that we do.
Q: What’s it like to look behind you and see Bun E. Carlos instead of Zac and to look to your side and see James and Adam instead of Isaac.
A: I love turning around and looking at Bun E., he’s a phenomenal drummer to play with. He just pulls the train, it’s so great.
Q: How has Tinted Windows pushed you out of your comfort zone?
A: As a singer, it’s not as soul influenced by a lot of those records that creep in as influences on Hanson records. So I think that was the main difference, the singing, the straight ahead melodic style. The genre of power pop, you can stretch it pretty far depending upon how anal retentive you are, but you know if you’re talking everything from a Buzzcocks’ song to Weezer is some incarnation of that, the style of actually singing it is different from what I spent lot of my time doing. It’s much more on top of the beat.
Q: Listening to the album, there were times you sounded like you were channeling Robin Zander.
A: (laughs). Hopefully, no one thinks I was attempting to do that. I think it’s because Robin Zander is just such an absolute icon of that style, if you get it close to right, you’re going to get close to him.
Q: How will this influence the new Hanson record?
A: The one thing I found out about the Hanson record we’re working on now is it’s really clarified the things that make Hanson sound a certain way. By really stepping out and performing the power pop and sonic things, it’s a very different set of colors. In my brain as we’ve been writing, it’s made me recognize the distinct things that we do that I used to take for granted. It’s nice to be reminded it’s not just the thing you do, it’s a particular style.
Q: What was the songwriting process like for “Tinted Windows?”
A: We all wanted it to be a bit more holistic, but because of the nature of it, we spent more time playing in rooms than we did writing. People threw songs into the pot mostly. One of the tunes that Adam and I co-wrote right at the beginning of the process of the whole band idea– I think it’s the last song on the record– is called “Take Me Back.” We actually sat down and hammered it out together and said, “Okay, this kind of works, it’s not just in theory… [goes into a deep voice] “In the science room, this group makes perfect sense, the chemical combination….” We created something that actually made sense.
Q: Bun E. Carlos has been making music longer than you’ve been alive. What’s the best piece of advice he’s given you?
A: (laughs) It’s not a quote, but the biggest thing I take away from Bun E. is just do it the way you really want to do it. He’s knows what he wants, he knows what he needed to get the show done… “This is the way I need it to be to be the best version of me, to show up and give it my best.” There’s a lot of drama from the point of view of being out there as an artist, you know, and fretting the things. When you’ve been doing it for a long time, you go “You know what, this is what I think and this is how I feel about it and I’m not going to be happy unless I stick to that.” He’s very clear on what he needs and he delivers every time.
Q: You said that so nicely, but what you just said– and these are my words– is he’s stubborn and won’t compromise.
A: But being uncompromising is a good thing. No, I’m … don’t take that I’m saying that he’s difficult. He just knows what he wants and also, those guys are very kind to people at the same time. He doesn’t cut people off. He’s just like, “Look, this is what I need. I’m a drummer; I’ve been doing this forever.”
Q: Tinted Windows is playing two shows with No Doubt. What song would you most like to sing with Gwen Stefani? No parameters.
A: It would probably be something that had a bit of a tongue-in-cheek quality to it. I think we could do a killer version of “I Will Survive.” I don’t think it would go over very well. That is a duet that I won’t follow through on.
Q: Will there be a second Tinted Windows record?
A: Right now, we’re just taking it one project at a time and expecting that it’s going to be great and we’ve really enjoyed doing it from the point of view of the creative side…Because everybody’s actively doing other stuff, we’re trying to let it breathe, but I would not be surprised at all if we’ll be making another album.
Q: People refer to Tinted Windows as a super group. Who would be in your super group?
A: Do they have to be alive?
A: I don’t know how they’d get along, but it would have to start off with Bill Withers and Otis Redding. Take those two forces of nature and put them in a group… I would start with this insane version of Sam & Dave that never happened in reality. This group would probably last two months, because I have a feeling they’d really get in it with each other. Drumming-wise, this is so hard. I’d probably have our friend Abe Laborial, Jr. On bass, Brian Wilson. On guitar, Brian May.