WHEN Taylor Hanson was 14 – in 1997 – he and his brothers, Zac and Isaac, visited Melbourne for the first time. Fan mania for the Tulsa, Oklahoma trio’s band, Hanson, was approaching hysteria. Thanks to their hit single, the indestructibly catchy MMMBop, they drew 20,000 people – mostly teenage, female and prone to screaming – to a shopping centre appearance.
Teen idols come and go quickly. Taylor Hanson says that he can measure the passing of time by each new band name journalists mention to him for purposes of easy comparison. It used to be *NSYNC, then it was the Jonas Brothers and recently it’s been One Direction. Taylor, at the ripe old age of 29, can afford to be magnanimous, because his group is still going strong. They haven’t toured here for seven years but have two sold-out shows scheduled at the sizeable Palace Theatre.
”We’re in an industry where 99 per cent of people who go into it fail,” Taylor says. ”We do it because we love the art – it’s too hard of a job to go into on a whim; you really have to live it. The advice we give, if any, is know your business, know what’s going on, and don’t be afraid to grab the reins.”
Hanson really was a ”boy band”: juvenile instrumentalists (Taylor on keyboards and vocals, Isaac on guitar and pint-sized Zac on drums) who played together. They had outside producers – the Dust Brothers (Beastie Boys) for their breakthrough third album, 1997’s Middle of Nowhere, which has sold more than 10 million copies – but generally wrote or co-wrote their songs.
After their 2000 album, This Time Around, failed to match the success of its predecessor, Hanson began a three-year battle with their label, Island Def Jam, over their future direction. Much of it is covered in Ashley Greyson’s documentary, Strong Enough to Break, but since 2003 the siblings have built a successful second career as independent artists, releasing a succession of albums. The most recent, 2010’s soul and R&B-influenced Shout it Out, was released in Australia last week.
”Whether anybody’s listening, our goal has always been to make records we’re proud of,” says Taylor, who is a married father of four, with a fifth child due later this year. ”Shout it Out may have been the easiest album we’ve made, because we just continue to focus more and more on what makes us identifiable and what we’re good at.”
Like their loyal fans – known as Fansons – Hanson have matured. If MMMBop was about losing childhood friends, recent songs such as Kiss Me When You Come Home address the stress of relationships and the rigours of parenthood.
Hanson has fewer fans now, but those who have stayed are well looked after. The band record an EP exclusively for their fan club most years and in January they’re taking over a Jamaican resort for a week so fans can book a Hanson-themed holiday: a week in the sun without children and with multiple Hanson gigs. In four days, 500 spots went.
”We’re trying to fuel that core passion,” Taylor says. ”Having hits and radio airplay is something you shoot for, but in the long run we believe in the Hanson community.
”With Jamaica, it’s really just a micro-festival. A micro-festival with room service.”
Hanson play the Palace Theatre tonight and Tuesday. Both shows are sold out. Shout It Out is through 3GC Records.