When ‘MMMBop’ hit the airwaves in April 1997, everyone got their first introduction to a young trio of brothers with long blond hair and high-pitched voices called Hanson. While many pop acts disappear as quickly as they rise, these bright-eyed boys from Tulsa, Okla., have continued to produce a number of albums, start their own record label and even travel to Africa to help the fight against AIDS and poverty.
Being in the industry for over a decade, Hanson decided to celebrate their longevity with a series of shows called “Five of Five” at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City. Each night was dedicated to one of their five major albums, including their latest, ‘Shout It Out,’ on the fifth night. As the band prepared for their last evening of “Five of Five,” Hanson invited PopEater to come along for the ride.
Dapperly dressed almost as if they planned to coordinate outfits that morning, Isaac, Taylor and Zac filed into Belgian restaurant Le Pain Quotidien, ready to start their busy day and, of course, get their brunch on. As the guys noshed on their meals, they reflected on the fact that Hanson have been around for about 18 years, and both Zac and Taylor would celebrate the 20-year mark before they turn 30. “People haven’t necessarily known the band for 20 years,” 24-year-old drummer Zac told PopEater. “We started our first paying professional gig in ’92, so in 2012, it’s 20 years.”
As the guys looked back on their careers, Taylor remembered one potential endeavor they explored as kids — lawn mowing. “The only regret I have is that we didn’t continue our lawn-care business because we were really good,” he said, reminiscing about the venture he undertook as an 11-year-old. “I remember we ran over a couple of sprinklers along the way. We got those lawns mowed, those edges trimmed — we were good. Zac was there for moral support. At the time, he was too young to be legally allowed behind the lawn mower.”
Within a few minutes of being around them, it’s clear the guys are pros at what they do. Aside from making sure they’ve got their harmonies in check, the brothers are also businessmen who make sure every aspect of the Hanson brand is done the way they want it. As they made their way inside Gramercy Theatre that afternoon, Zac and Taylor — Isaac was back at the hotel to do a phone interview — went to work, making sure the set up to stream that night’s show online was going according to plan.
Once Isaac was back with his brothers, the three worked to make sure everything was perfect, as that night would be the first time they would be performing ‘Shout It Out’ live. This meant a sound check with their special guests, some of the original members of the Blues Brothers, that lasted a few hours. It didn’t matter that the guys rehearsed for that long because ‘Shout It Out’ is a record that Hanson hold dear to their hearts.
“This record actually does bring forward a lot of the things that people remember about what Hanson is and what Hanson was,” Isaac said. “This is a really upbeat record. It’s cool because for us, it connects the last 13 years in equal elements. For people who may have not been particularly familiar with what we’ve been doing for the last decade who are just now getting into it or have been a fan for a long time, there’s a lot for everybody on this record. We’ve never been worried about what people thought of us; we just make music the way we make music, and I don’t think there’s any lack of confidence in the work we do.”
While music is something that comes as naturally to Hanson as breathing, there is one thing the guys put a little more effort into. When they filmed the video for their latest single, ‘Thinking ‘Bout Something,’ they had to put on their dancing shoes and do choreography, the first time they’ve ever attempted such a feat.
“Dancing in the video was one of those things where we realized we had to take it over the top,” Isaac said. “We had to really go for it. At first, Zac was pretty resistant to it but then realized, ‘Wait a second — we’ve got to do this.’ The trickiest thing was we had a lot going on that week. There was a lot of other stuff besides the video and so having enough [time] to rehearse and get really, really good was a little bit tricky. There were a few times where I felt I could have done a little bit better. We had a lot of fun, and if we’re going to start dancing onscreen then that was the best way to start doing it. Three hundred people behind you dancing in the street, that was pretty fun.”
Although many people view Taylor as the band’s lead vocalist, Isaac as the guitarist and Zac as the drummer, the band never saw each as only playing one particular role. “We’ve never distinguished lead guitarist, lead singer, that kind of stuff,” Zac said. “We always just said, ‘I play the drums, I play the keys and I play guitar’ and each record evolves. Some records have more leads that I sing or that Isaac sings or Taylor. There isn’t a lot of pressure or thought into that. It’s just the way it falls together. We naturally have tendencies where I have highest voice and Isaac has the lowest voice, so the way we sing together is not just by choice, it’s by necessity. The new record, like the records up until now, it makes its own choices.”
Despite their career-driven lives, these brothers are not only close to their family, who flew into Manhattan for their final show — they also have families of their own. Hanson have been known to take their wives and kids on the road when they can, as well as making sure to balance their home and work lives. “Being on the road is always a traveling circus,” Taylor, who has three sons and a daughter, said. “My kids will be on the road for most of the summer tour. In a way, it kind of makes sense together because having a big family is chaos and being in a rock band is chaos. We’re moving all the time, things are changing. You just have to embrace the fact that it’s a little bit crazy and hectic and turn it into inspiration. It keeps you on your toes.”
With all the craziness, Hanson have been able to soak it all in, learn from every experience and move forward with their music, careers and lives. While they may not have a hit like ‘MMMBop’ again, the band has been able to thrive and continue making music, which is something they plan to do for a very long time. “When we first came out, we were really, really young,” Taylor said. “Hopefully the history of Hanson shows the fact that we were so into music that we had to get started young, and we were crazy about it. We always said, ‘Hey, we’ll see you in 10 or 15 years,’ when we first came out. The good thing is we were true to our word.”