By CAROLINE HUGHES
July 15, 2010
Being famous for a smash hit with a chorus that goes, “Mmm bop, ba duba dop/Ba du bop, ba duba dop,” could be a source of embarrassment for Zac Hanson, 24. But Zac — who plays in the group Hanson with older brothers Taylor and Isaac — relishes the memory of “MMMBop,” the band’s first hit from 1997 with that gets-stuck-in-your-head chorus.
“I was 11 (when the song was released), and we wrote that song when I was 8, and I love that song. It’s not exactly what I am today (but) I’m still able to be proud of it because I wrote it,” he says.
The three brothers collaborate on their albums, sharing lead vocals. Zac plays drums, with Taylor, 27, on piano, and Isaac, 29, playing bass.
The band, which will perform July 23 at Cape Cod Melody Tent in Hyannis, has come a long way since the mid-’90s, when female teens gushed over the brothers and “MMMBop” played from every pop radio station. Now, the three brothers are married with children. But they still haven’t lost their unique pop/rock ‘n’ roll- inspired sound.
Released in June, “Shout It Out” is Hanson’s fifth studio album and has a sound clearly influenced by the brothers’ favorite performers. Sweet piano melodies and upbeat pop beats mask the seriousness of the lyrics. As the title suggests, it’s about getting through a tough time by letting loose and dancing, says Zac.
Zac cites Tom Petty, Otis Redding, Sammy Davis Jr. and the Temptations as influences behind the record.
Zac believes strongly in Hanson’s natural sound that’s unaffected by technology and by popular musical molds.
“‘Shout It Out’ definitely doesn’t sound like what’s on the radio. I mean, there’s no vocoder (a voice-changing piece of software in many current pop songs) on it, but it’s just what we do. We just figure you make the music you’re passionate about and people will respond to a passion in your music. But if you go and try and chase things, not only will you not be happy but you’ll be left without a career and nothing to show for it.”
Maybe it was the break with their major record label in 2003 and the subsequent creation of their own independent record label 3CG that have allowed the band so much freedom. Hanson has done some unusual things lately that major record labels might not have allowed, including covering the song “Furry Walls,” featured in the comedies “Get Him to the Greek” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” The band also plans to play five concerts singing every song from its albums and stream live on the Internet.
Being on an independent label has its challenges, too, says Zac. Now, the three brothers are personally responsible for their successes and their failures. But at the same time, they have been able to transform the way they communicate with fans to keep up with a changing music industry, with events like the live stream and an active blog on their website.
Record labels make the mistake of not changing, he says. Instead, “(Record labels would say) ‘Hopefully we’ll sell a million records at Target.’ It’s not the future of music,” Zac says.
“I’m not saying I know exactly what it is, but it’s not that. We want to put ourselves in the position that we’re looking to the future. … It might take a decade before (record labels) start live streaming with bands.”
The Jonas Brothers appeal to young female fans like Hanson did in years past. But Zac says the only similarity of the brother bands is how they’ve coped with outside pressures and the “visceral reaction” of their teenage fans.
“I think in general they have really handled themselves well. … I always appreciate when people keep the dirty laundry not in public and keep it behind the scenes,” he says.
Unlike the JoBros, Hanson never wanted to be on TV or in movies.
“We just never felt like we were actors. Granted, I would love to star in ‘Star Wars’ because I’m a nerd,” Zac says, laughing.