Tinted Windows — the power-pop supergroup featuring Taylor Hanson, Adam Schlesinger (of Fountains of Wayne), James Iha (of the Smashing Pumpkins), and Bun E. Carlos (of Cheap Trick) — works better than its bizarre membership might imply. After a successful gig earlier this year at Mercury Lounge, the band returns to New York tonight for a proper show at Highline Ballroom. Hanson, now 26, spoke to Vulture by phone recently about his new bandmates, his beatific onstage glow, and a recent collaboration with a certain legendary song parodist.
I know you met Adam when you were still fairly young — was that a friendship from the start?
It was when we were making our first record, so I was like 14, and he was however old and wise, like mid-twenties. Fountains of Wayne had just put out their first record and we were about nine months away from putting out ours. I think in some light we knew we could create something cool together, and we just had a good rapport. Making music with people, there’s kind of a dance to it; it’s a combination of personalities and experience, and I think sometime the stars just have to align.
What were your first meetings like with James and Bun E.?
James and I met pretty early on, we all had dinner one night in New York; he’s like the most unassuming guy, he’s completely quiet, not at all a rock star. And Bun E. is just completely an icon. He doesn’t walk in with an entourage, he’s just a rock and roller, and I just immediately felt a kinship with him. At one of our first shows, his wife actually told me she hadn’t seen him smile that much in a long time.
Is this the first time you’ve been away from your brothers, musically?
It’s the first time as an artist, yeah. I’ve done writing with other artists, more behind the scenes, but it’s the only other band I’ve been in. And in the past I wouldn’t say I had a lot of interest in another band — it’s a full-time job in and of itself — but this just works. The biggest difference is just different personalities. With Isaac and Zac, we’ve played together since we were kids, we have a language people don’t understand, we finish each other's sentences.
You have an oddly beatific glow onstage. Are you always like this in concert?
That’s interesting. I’ve never seen myself perform. But being onstage is incredibly … it’s something I can’t really explain, and the idea of performing is to draw stuff out of people and connect with everyone in the room. So I think it’s just part of transmitting something bigger than just this guy standing with his arms crossed. To radiate something people can feel.
Are there other dream collaborations you have in mind right now?
No, no other side bands for now. But we do a lot of songwriting with people, for about five years now we’ve been doing this songwriters’ retreat, and everyone from Andrew W.K. to Adam [Schlesinger] to Mike Viola, Jason Mraz, and Har Mar Superstar come. Actually, "Weird Al" Yankovic — who is brilliant — and I wrote a song together in February; it’s actually a song inspired by seeing Brian Wilson once when Al and I got together with our kids and saw him wandering in a park in L.A. And it’s a cool song!