Every December the staff that brings you The Tulsa Voice hashes out the best and worst of the year—from movies to Tulsa moments.
Georgia Brooks, graphic designer
Best live show: Hanson’s String Theory concert at the PAC
I take this opportunity to pronounce that “MmmBop” is one of the best pop songs of all time. I was worried that it might lose its magic with an orchestra, but that was silly: everything is epic with an orchestra! Shout out to my friend Annie for inviting me. I might have missed it if not for her pure, Hanson-loving heart.
Are you a Fanson? Fans of the band Hanson are dedicated beyond the crush stage.
“We came up in an era where it seemed like we were considered pop teen heartthrobs but our fans connected with us in a deeper way,” says drummer Zac Hanson. “We are actually more of an emo band than anybody has given us credit for.”
The band’s Wintry Mix tour will feature rock-n-roll style Christmas songs from their holiday albums (“Snowed In,” “Finally It’s Christmas”), a preview of their upcoming 2020 album, “Against the World” and a healthy dose of Hanson classics (“Where’s The Love,” “This Time Around,” “Thinking of You”) including their No.1 single, “MMMBop.”
“ ‘MMMBop’ rings truer with time,” says Hanson. “It’s about how life comes and goes. You have to reach for what is going to matter right now.”
WHEN/WHERE 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 21, The Paramount, 370 New York Avenue, Huntington
INFO $39.50-$49.50; 631-673-7300 paramountny.com
’90s kids may find it hard to believe, but it’s been more than 20 years since brotherly trio Hanson captured teen hearts nationwide with the release of “MMMBop” in April 1997. Isaac, Taylor, and Zac Hanson are all grown up now, but they can still work a crowd into a frenzy, which they’ll prove at House of Blues on Friday. (Friday, Dec. 20 at 7 p.m.; House of Blues, Boston; $39-55; all ages)
Hanson performs Tuesday, Dec. 17 at the Royal Oak Music Theatre (Photo courtesy 3CG Records)
It’s been more than 20 years since Brothers Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson rocked our world with “MMMBop,” and the Tulsa, Okla. trio hasn’t taken its foot off the pedal since.
Now all in their 30s — and with Isaac turning 40 next year — Hanson has carefully and judiciously pared down its career into a model of independent music-making. Since 2004’s “Underneath” the group has maintained its own record label, 3CG, and it’s launched other endeavors ranging from philanthropy to beer.
It’s also maintained a steady touring schedule, making sure its loyal body of fans never goes too long without a fix…
• Hanson’s current Wintry Mix Tour is, as the title indicates, a blend of music from the trio’s two holiday albums and favorites from its nine other releases. “We’re a touring band,” Zac Hanson, 34, says by phone. “We need to be out on the road. There was a window, but we didn’t’ want to do a straight holiday, wearing Santa suits kind of show. So we came up with the idea of a mixtape; It’s about one-third Christmas songs and we’re doing a handful of brand new song that are coming out next year and the rest is Hanson stuff you would expect. No reindeer, no elves, just enough Christmas so that it feels like a Hanson Christmas party.”
• In early October Hanson broke ribs, a clavicle and his scapula in a motorcycle crash in Tulsa. He’s now “a little sore but unscathed…That was a crazy thing; I’m not a crazy thrill-seeker, but I do like a little adrenalin. I was driving my motorcycle and, well….I know you’re worried about the bike. It’s OK, totally fine.”
• A friend Dash Hutton, subbed on drums for Hanson early in the tour, which he says gave him a new perspective about singing at the front of the stage. “I think singers should get paid, like, half,” he says with a laugh. “really, they have so much less to worry about. As a drummer, you’re using all four limbs and then singing; Take four out of five away and you’re just singing. It was fun, but I had to find a cowbell or tambourine to give myself something to add other than just my patented Zac high harmonies.”
• Coming off 2018’s orchestrated “String Theory,” Hanson now has two new albums in motion — “Against the World” for 2020 and another to follow. Zac says neither one is completed yet but that fans can expect a substantial amount of new music in the near future. “These days we’re really not thinking about having a hit or having a success but having a storyline and this whole community of people who are part of it,” he explains. “We teasingly call it the Hanson Musical Universe, like the Marvel movies; You’ll always know what the next one is, and if you don’t like this one maybe you’ll like the next one. To pull that off we have to plan further and further ahead, so why not tell people what’s coming? It doesn’t need to be a secret. We can share the information and it should be something everybody’s looking forward to together.”
• Hanson — who at 12 years old was the youngest songwriter ever nominated for a Grammy back in 1997 — says it’s been interesting to grow from hot teen hitmakers into what he now calls “almost a heritage band. It’s now nostalgia. My daughter (Junia) is turning nine, and she’s having a 90s-themed birthday party. We come from that era. So we’re at this interesting place where we can almost stop making new music and sort of coast — but that’s not what we’re wanting to do. That’s not worthy of continuing. So much of our music is about overcoming and living up to your potential. That’s kind of our calling card, and a lot of the heart of the music comes from that.”
Hanson, Paul McDonald and Joshua & the Holy Rollers perform Tuesday, Dec. 17, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 316 W. Fourth St. Doors at 6 p.m. $39.50-$79.50. 248-399-2980 or royaloakmusictheatre.com.
Zac and Isaac Hanson made a stop at All-Star Christmas, right in between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. They talked to Salt about how they celebrate the holidays, what they argue over during Thanksgiving (SPOILERS: it’s not politics), what their kids want for Christmas, and more.
Isaac and Zac Hanson joined Gina J backstage at All-Star Christmas and talked the Wintry Mix Tour, new music for 2020,what it’s like to have a 40-person Thanksgiving holiday, and more. Plus, Zac and Isaac talk about whether their own kids– some of whom are in the same age range they were when “Mmmbop” came out– will continue in their dads’ musical footsteps.
After tours, band members do the following to recuperate:
Taylor – cookies and cream ice cream
Isaac – sleeping / whiskey / cigars
Zac – Xbox is like cocaine
What advice would the band give their younger selves?
In 1997, Princess Diana of Wales, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Gianni Versace all died, as did 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult, and the biggest movie of that year — and one of the most successful of all time — was a fictional love story set aboard a massive non-fictional ocean liner that struck an iceberg, sank, and killed 1,500.
Emerging from the darkness, though, like a bedroom ceiling filled with stick-on, glow-in-the-dark stars, was Hanson — a band of blond, shaggy-haired brothers from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and its hit song “MMMbop,” which, at first glance, is literal gibberish. In fact, according to the band’s youngest member, Zac, it’s actually about just how pointless some things are and how fragile we all are.
“What that song talks about is, you’ve got to hold on to the things that really matter,” Zac Hanson told SongFacts.com. “MMMbop represents a frame of time or the futility of life. Things are going to be gone, whether it’s your age and your youth, or maybe the money you have, and all that’s going to be left are the people you’ve nurtured and have really built to be your backbone and your support system.”
The band was discovered during an impromptu performance during a SXSW softball game, during a time the brothers were busking in the streets — Zac was 11 years old, while brother Taylor was 13, and the group’s eldest, Isaac, was 16. At the peak of the band’s success, following the release of its breakthrough record, Middle of Nowhere, the band found themselves singing the national anthem during the World Series, performing on The Tonight Show, scoring Best New Act and Best Song at the European MTV Music Awards, landing three Grammy Award nominations, and adopting David Spade as the unofficial fourth brother during the 1998 MTV Movie Awards. While Titanic‘s Jack and Rose reigned as king and queen of the world, Hanson stood atop it, somehow escaping the fate assigned to other pop artists of the era: spiked hair with frosted tips, matching aluminum foil-looking suits, label pressures, gratuitous use of autotune, tabloid drama, and rehab.
“We’ve always felt a little bit like the underdog, even at the height of [our] notoriety and popularity in the late ’90s,” Isaac tells Metro Times. “I think we’ve continually felt, in some form or another, not particularly well-understood. And because of that, we have a certain stubbornness and kind of independent entrepreneurial spirit to us. I think if it starts to get too comfortable or too easy, I think all of us might start getting nervous because it’s always been an uphill battle for us.”
The battle, though, was made much easier in part to what Isaac describes as Hanson’s “entrepreneurial spirit.” In 2000, just before the release of the band’s third record, This Time Around, Hanson’s label, Mercury Records, had merged with Island Def Jam. The record and subsequent tour suffered as a result of the merger, and in 2003, Hanson decided to leave the label and start their own, 3CG Records.
“I’m extremely clear of mind that that was the right decision,” Isaac says. “There’s no question that what we did was not only artistically sound, but it was a really good long-term business decision because otherwise I don’t think we’d still be a band.
“Let me put it this way: If the label that signed us in 1996 would’ve still been a label in 2000, we’d be having a very different conversation.”
Since forming 3CG, Hanson has released six records, including 2018’s String Theory, which reimagines fan favorites backed by the Prague Symphony Orchestra, as well as Finally Christmas, the brothers’ second holiday record in a nine-record catalog. The band’s current outing, dubbed the Wintry Mix tour, includes a little bit of everything, including some Christmas tracks because, as Isaac says, “It’s the time of the year where the entire world is — whether you’re of the spiritual or religious persuasion or not — everybody’s dressing up, and everybody’s getting their house ready for a party.”
Though Hanson is far from the boyband of yesteryear — they’re all married, live in their hometown, and have a whopping 13 kids between them (Isaac and his wife have three) — they’ve managed to stay true to the dream they set out to achieve when they were children: to not betray the core essence of the music. The same can be said for Hanson’s fan base, which is an inevitable mix of late 20- and early 30-somethings who grew up on the music and those who’ve discovered the band through what Isaac calls the “YouTube vortex.” Newer fans even make the pilgrimage to Tulsa for Hanson Day, an annual celebration during which the brothers perform a series of shows and host events for fans. Despite being very much in the present — Hanson is looking at a robust 2020 with a new record and yet another tour — Isaac can’t help but be swooned by nostalgia.
So does he have any advice for his shaggy-haired, preteen self? “I would tell my 11-year-old self, ‘You’re going to have to work very, very hard for the thing you want the most in life,'” he says. “So work very hard, be bold, and trust your gut.”