Having sold millions of copies of their 1997 debut, Middle of Nowhere, Hanson may have a few dollars to spare, but they’ll never part with their Penny.
In fact, it’s pretty much impossible to get away from Penny. Contrary to the assumption that the co-protagonist of Hanson’s new single is an omnipresent girlfriend, Penny is actually a catchall for the memories and experiences that define a person. Everyone’s got a Penny.
“There’s lots of symbolism in that song — like driving down the highway and smoking cigars in the summertime,” Taylor Hanson said. “Life is sometimes in little pictures. You kind of flash back to those moments, and in all those moments, you think about the people you were with, the music you were listening to, and that feeling comes back. Penny represents the feeling, the song, the person that is always with you. ’It’s always Penny and me tonight.’ Whatever you’re doing, you’re carrying around this package, which is who you are and the things you’ve done.”
“Penny & Me” is the first single off the fraternal trio’s third album, Underneath. That it’s the group’s first album in four years isn’t because of some sort of mid-adolescent creative block — they claim to write songs almost constantly. Rather, a flap with their major-label record company left the album in limbo for months.
“Obviously there were problems,” Taylor explained. “If Hanson was over-the-top thrilled with our situation with the record company, we’d be there right now.”
When Hanson parted ways with Island Records last year, they could have shopped around for another label, but instead they started their own, 3CG. Although the venture proved a tough task to get off the ground, now the brothers couldn’t be happier to have a stronger grip on their careers.
“We’ve always been very indie[-minded],” Taylor said. “We’ve always been a band that was about playing live shows. We went on tour when everybody around us wanted us to make another record. We made independent records before we were ever signed. Our hearts have always been about making music for the sake of making music. We want to sell records so that we can make another record.”
Hanson’s decision to go DIY also comes at a time when major labels aren’t exactly synonymous with job security. Due to consolidation and slumping overall sales, many artists are getting the boot from label rosters. The ones that remain often find the people who helped their careers flourish have been replaced with employees they don’t have a relationship with.
“This is a time where some people are freaking out because of the shift that’s happening with record companies and radio and consolidation,” Taylor explained. “And we’re actually the most liberated we’ve ever been. To me, this moment and this time period is really going to be defined as a rebirth at the same time as it’s a deconstruction.”