When Zac Hanson is asked about the Hansons’ latest project, “The Walk,” and how it has changed his life, he laughs.
“Besides the blisters on my feet?” he says.
It might seem like a curious statement by the youngest of the trio of brothers who first came into public view a decade ago with the hit single “MMMBop.” But Hanson and his brothers, Isaac and Taylor, have good reason for investing in Dr. Scholl’s stock. At every stop on their current tour, including Monday at the Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead, they assemble a few hours before concerts with fans and walk a mile barefoot to raise awareness of AIDS and other issues affecting the poor in Africa.
“It’s something we feel passionate about, the same way we feel passionate about our music,” says Zac Hanson, the band’s drummer. “It’s something we couldn’t not be doing. We felt that this is a really unique time for us, and for our generation.”
While the band donates $1 to charity for each person who registers for the walk at www.takethewalk.net, the money is figurative. The brothers — who have a goal of walking 24,902 miles, the circumference of the world — realize the money raised will hardly make a dent in the problems in Africa, where they have visited villages stricken by poverty.
Instead, the brothers hope to raise awareness and inspire action on an individual basis.
“I don’t want to be remembered for what we didn’t do,” Zac Hanson says. “I’ve seen the impact that 20 to 25 years has made by this disease. I don’t want to hand (the problem of AIDS) off to my children and have a whole continent, a whole race of people be gone because of a lack of resources, a lack of information and knowledge.
“None of us thinks we’re angels who are going to save the world. … These people are seeking partnerships and assistance, not someone coming in to save them.”
Of course, the Hansons’ influence would be diminished if they were three ordinary guys traveling from city to city asking people to join them in a barefoot stroll. But Zac Hanson dismisses any pretensions of celebrity.
“There are no security guards, no blocked-off streets with police escorts,” he says. “We have one local person who knows what the mile is. We just walk with fans and talk with fans. It’s not about walking with Hanson because we’re a band and we’re ‘famous.’
“We’re just guys who are from the Midwest, from the heartland of this country, who know that we have a little influence, maybe more than most people, because of the privilege of being in a band. But we’re not walking out there as a band; we’re walking out there as normal 20-something-year-old guys who believe in something.”
And 20-something guys who have turned into fairly good musicians, the teen-frenzied associations of “MMMBop” notwithstanding. The trio’s latest album, “The Walk,” is, at heart, pop music with layers of soul, R&B, gospel and blues mixed in.
“Pop is something that is not bashful,” Hanson says, citing influences including Chuck Berry, Otis Redding, the Beach Boys, Sam and Dave, the Beatles and Bill Withers. “It’s like I’m going to write a great chorus and it’s going to stick in your head. You might hate me in two weeks because it’s so stuck in your head. But I’m going to write that anyway, because it’s great and it’s going to get infused in your head. I think this record, it might be our least-pop record, but there’s still that sensibility in what we do.”
Regis Behe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7990.