Trio has managed to stay relevant long after "MMMbop"

By | August 6, 2010

JournalStar

Teen pop stars are supposed to have their moments in the spotlight then rapidly disappear, never to be heard from again.

Not Hanson.

Thirteen years after the three brothers hit with “MMMBop,” they’re still going strong, having just released the best album of their career on their own label, and the trio still is playing generally sold-out shows across the country.

Last month, Taylor Hanson talked about the band and his brothers before leaving on a tour that will bring Hanson to Omaha’s Slowdown on Sunday.

He attributed the band’s staying power to three factors. First, he said, “music is in our DNA.” Second, he and brothers Isaac and Zac are hard workers. Third, they happened to hit when the Internet was in its infancy.

“We’re really kind of the first band to be of the Internet age with the fans,” Taylor said. “When we started out, we were so young and our fans were somewhat our age. We’ve always had a great connection with our fans from the beginning. We’re always humbled by that. We’ve always found a way to connect with our fans.”

Those fans aren’t just the grown-up kids who started with Hanson in the late 1990s. The band is picking up new followers, younger and older, who are drawn to the music they hear, whether that’s the oldies from the ’90s or the 1960s soul-rooted material on “Shout It Out,” the new album.

“It’s like ‘The Blues Brothers’ movie,” Hanson said. “If you had no idea who the Blues Brothers were and no idea of that film, you’d still like it. If you do have the history, it adds this extra layer. That’s how it is with this band.”

Taylor, the band’s main singer, was all of 14 when Hanson had its big hit. One of the biggest success stories to ever come out of the South By Southwest Music Festival, Hanson was signed by a manager at the Austin conference in 1996, then landed a deal with Mercury Records the next year.

“Middle of Nowhere,” the band’s debut album that contained the then-ubiquitous “MMMBop,” sold 10 million records. The next year, the band’s official biography was on the bestseller list and the brothers had received three Grammy nominations.

By 2000, however, Hanson had lost its pop appeal. The album “This Time Around” didn’t sell like its predecessors, in part because Mercury Records was in the middle of a corporate shakeup that led to it getting folded into another label.

In 2003, with their struggles continuing and the major label system entering its death spiral, the brothers decided to start their own label, setting up headquarters in their hometown of Tulsa, Okla., where they still live.

“We had the advantage of having a view from the top and seeing it crumble,” Hanson said. “We’re the band that had the lesson of making records in the old industry, and we could see where it was going. That coupled with some good old-fashioned Midwestern work ethic, we thought, ‘Let’s start the company.'”

The first release on 3CG, 2004’s “Underneath,” debuted at the top of the Billboard independent records chart and at No. 25 on the Top 200 list, making it one of the most successful indie releases ever.

“Shout It Out” is Hanson’s latest release, debuting at No. 2 on the indie chart in June. A collection of Motown-influenced pop-soul, the album showcases sounds that Hanson said the brothers have loved for decades.

“The first music we got into was actually older than our parents’ generation – late ’50s and early ’60s Stax, Motown and classic rock,” Hanson said. “That’s what’s coming out on this record. Then we got into piano-driven songwriters like Billy Joel and bands like the Doobie Brothers and Three Dog Night. Who knows what we’ll do next.”

One thing is certain, Taylor said: He and his siblings are together for the long haul, even if they fight once in a while, like all brothers.

“In some respects, being in a band with your brothers for this long, it means you do fight,” Hanson said. “We’ll get into a fight, and somebody will say something, and our band members will look at us and say, ‘That was kind of harsh.’ But then we’re back together again. There’s something about respecting each other enough to keep it together.”

Reach L. Kent Wolgamott at 402-473-7244 or kwolgamott@journalstar.com, or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/KentWolgamott.