By Steve McElwee
– For the CDT
Can you believe that a decade has passed since the world got first listen of the brothers Hanson? It seems like eons ago that they came mmmbop-ing into our living rooms and girls were mmmdrop-ing their allowances on anything related to the three youngsters from Tulsa, Okla. At that point, the boys were destined to be forced into the forgotten file and written off as a boy-band one-hit wonder, but their sheer talent and marketability has changed that.
Hanson — from left, brothers Zac, 23, Taylor, 25, and Isaac, 28 — will play to a sold-out audience Sunday at the State Theatre. Opening acts are Dave Barnes and Everybody Else.
Since the heyday of their “Middle of Nowhere” fame, the boys have grown not only into men but into respectable musicians who should be taken seriously. I want to liken them to the transformations of two other 1990s pretty boys: Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Wahlberg. The king of the world and the dude from the Funky Bunch have reclaimed the respect of the American public with a string of critically acclaimed releases, and it looks like Hanson is following in their footsteps.
The brothers’ newest release, 2007’s “The Walk,” is really good, and this is coming from someone who, a decade ago, would have changed the channel immediately once the boys graced the television. “The Walk” obviously is more mature than “Middle of Nowhere” and showcases their songwriting talent, as is evident on the powerful track “Great Divide.” It is a little bit edgy but incredibly melodic and tugs at the heartstrings.
Lead vocalist and keyboardist Taylor Hanson’s voice is as strong as ever, and brothers Isaac and Zac do their part to help shed a new light on the band.
“It’s kind of weird to say that we have a more mature sound,” Taylor said. When we started, we were young, and over the years you develop a little more depth.”
“The Walk” is a disc that some may label as “more aware” and “grown-up,” but Taylor still sees the band the same way he did when they first started out.
“We’ve stayed really, really true to where we began; this is just a solid, pop-rock outfit,” he said.
While recording “The Walk,” the musicians wanted to return to earlier times and get back in touch with their original musical roots.
“We were conscious about recording it live in the studio,” Taylor said. “It was more rootsy, acoustic feeling, based on grooves.” He said that having everyone perform at the same time came from the ’60s rock ’n’ roll and soul throwbacks, and “although this is not a soul record, there is more of a natural connection.”
The tightness and the flow of the tracks from “The Walk” make it an enjoyable record that even those dubious of Hanson can appreciate. It is catchy and has the perfect pop hooks hard to replicate in today’s whitewashed wasteland of music.
While Hanson may not be as popular as they once were, the brothers still sell out venues and attract new faces to their shows. “We’re always hoping to reach as many people as possible, a continued desire to project your message,” Taylor said.
The message the brothers try to project now is awareness of the various situations occurring in Africa. Their current tour, “Walk Around the World Tour” gives the band a platform to show that “people can do simple things for larger causes,” Taylor said. They organize their own one-mile barefoot walks before their shows in order to support various causes in Africa and to promote action through small tasks.
When the guys aren’t touring or walking to raise awareness on the plentiful problems that plague the world, they are family men. Yes, Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson are all married fathers. Taylor said it’s obvious that his home life has been busier since the births of his three children. He added that although all of the family isn’t always on tour with them, when they are it’s a traveling circus.
“It’s kind of funny,” Taylor said, referring to his oldest daughter, Ezra, who asks occasionally “Hey dad, when are we going on the road?”
In 2003, Hanson formed the independent record label 3CG, an acronym for Three Car Garage, which references one of their earlier records and their current recording studio. The benefits of being the head of your own record label are almost endless, and Hanson has taken full advantage of the freedoms that come along the way.
“When we decided to start the label, we wanted to maintain course,” Taylor said.
He said the formation of 3CG let them avoid working with people who didn’t understand what the band was about.
“This is flexibility,” Taylor said, and it allows Hanson to have a direct relationship with their fans. “I wouldn’t want to be in any other position.”
Over 10 years, America first saw the three Hanson brothers running out of caves onto beaches, driving crazy cars and performing a funny-titled song in their parents’ living room. Since then, they have married, mated and matured, but they still possess their most important attribute — phenomenal song crafting.
Hanson will perform a sold-out show Oct. 12 at the State Theatre. Visit www.thestatetheatre.org for more information.