Transcending the ‘90s boy band image

By | January 26, 2012

Gateway Online

Sixteen years after their hit “MMMBop,” the Hanson brothers and their teenybopper fans have grown up

Although their days in the pages of Tiger Beat are long over, the boy band brothers of Hanson haven’t disappeared yet. Their long blonde locks may have been trimmed to more modest lengths, but the brothers still haven’t faded away from the hearts of their fans. Countless girls still swoon for the oh-so-adorable Hanson brothers, and now that Taylor, Isaac and Zac Hanson are returning for a brand new tour, 2012 is a year for Hanson fans all over the world to rejoice.

The Hanson brothers have been playing music together since the early ‘90s, but the group’s career took off in 1997 with the release of the album Middle of Nowhere, including the inescapable hit single “MMMBop.” Surprisingly, more than a decade later, vocalist and keyboardist Taylor claims he and his brothers aren’t sick of the song quite yet.

“You want to play things that people know, and the advantage that we have is having a really devout group of fans,” he says. “Art is new to me each day — that’s what makes making music great. If you go on autopilot, it doesn’t matter how many times you play your song, it could be boring. But in reverse, if you engage every time, then you can find a way to make it exciting.”

Hanson concerts bring back memories of the golden age of puppy love, walkmen and rollerblades for those who listened to the group in their heyday. But for a younger generation, a Hanson concert is something completely new. The group’s audience now ranges from middle-aged women to wide-eyed young children, and the brothers try to take everyone into consideration when performing.

“I think a huge part of (being excited to play) is actually realizing that somebody has only heard (a song) once.” Taylor says. “That person in the audience could be the 10-year-old that got taken to their first concert, or maybe a fan that’s been around for a long time but has never gotten to see us, and then they’ve waited for the moment to see that song that they grew up with.”

The brothers’ wholesome image and kind-hearted attitude is a big part of their stage presence, but the brothers also take this philosophy beyond their music. With their “Take the Walk” campaign, the brothers raise money and awareness for HIV/AIDS research and prevention in Africa, an effort made easier through their close connection with their fanbase over the years.

“For years we were interested in talking about causes,” Taylor says. “We would tell fans to send food to food banks instead of sending us gifts and things like that just because oftentimes you can’t keep everything.

“When we were making our fourth record The Walk, we were kind of called to take a trip to Africa for a variety of different reasons,” he explains of the group’s passion for the HIV crisis in Africa. “Some friends of ours were working at a hospital there and what we were struck by was the fact that HIV, AIDS and the extreme poverty situation in that continent is so linked to a lot of really tangible needs.”

The Hanson brothers soon discovered that having such a large and loving group of fans made it easy to promote their cause and ask for donations. With their organization, they specifically focused on simple necessities like clean water, shoes and inexpensive medicine.

“We started hosting these one mile walks — that one-mile walk and walking barefoot is a way to connect with poverty,” Taylor says. “We’ve used that message as a vehicle and had thousands and thousands of people walk.”

Hanson’s commitment to their fans, charitable campaign efforts and music has earned them a place in music history. After world tours, Grammy nominations and throngs of adoring ‘90s fangirls, these chart-topping teenyboppers have grown into a new era of maturity, with the same energetic attitude they’ve become known for.

“It’s very humbling to be able to have people that really, genuinely feel connected with you. But I think, you get into this because of the actual work, because of the making of music. The whole idea of adoration and fans and stuff, that’s kind of a bonus,” Taylor says.

“That can’t be something you hang your hat on too much because that kind of thing can come and go. I will say this: we are very humbled by the lasting connection we’ve had with a lot of people. I think you have to hold that very carefully and keep doing the things that you think are important.”