Hanson goes indie

By Brent Hallenbeck
That merry band of brothers named Hanson, the one that created the so-catchy-it's-contagious teen-pop confection "MMMBop" and sold millions of records a decade ago, has gone indie.

The term "indie" connotes music that's too peculiar or innovative to reach the masses. That doesn't describe Hanson, whose latest album, "The Walk," has the same soulful pop-rock you'd expect from the trio that inspired so many comparisons to The Jackson 5 in its "MMMBop-ing" heyday.

Hanson, performing April 23 at Higher Ground, has gone indie only in the business sense. They left Island/Def Jam Records four years ago, taking the album they recorded for the label, "Underneath," to their own independent label.

"Then you come to 'The Walk,' and 'The Walk' is the further extension of that," said Isaac Hanson, the band's guitarist and, at 27, its oldest member. "This is really the first record we've done from scratch as an indie. It's allowed us to approach making a record from what we feel like is the right place -- who is this band, what is the best version of a record we can do, and let's do it."

Speaking by phone last week from New York City, Hanson said the independent streak that runs through him and his brothers Taylor and Zac has been there from the start.

"We've always tried to think of things long-term, even from the early days," Isaac Hanson said. "There are a lot of things that we could have potentially done that might have made us money. We could have made dolls or lunch boxes or these kinds of things, and we might have sold a lot of those, but we felt like we wouldn't have been able to sleep at night or live with ourselves if we were doing things that we thought for right now could work. We thought, 'We might be young now, but we won't be young forever.' We had to approach it from what will we be proud of 10 years from now?"

Hanson said the band is proud of its music, not just now but of the music the three boys made all those years ago.

"Here's a huge advantage for us: We were the songwriters at the beginning, so we always felt very secure in what we were doing musically," he said. "Our biggest challenge was ultimately a misunderstanding of us in a more superficial way, on an 'image.' People would be like, 'They're so squeaky clean' and I'm thinking, 'We're Midwestern kids and our drummer's 11. If our drummer's strung out on drugs or a complete ass, that wouldn't have really worked.' It's kind of this funny juxtaposition where you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

"Those early days have gotten us to where we are," according to Isaac Hanson, "and because we were writing those songs I've never felt like anything we were musically in the past is contradictory to who we are today."