Still active, Hanson proves family bands that play together stay together
By Allison Stewart

Special to the Tribune

September 28, 2007

These days, the members of pop-rock trio Hanson are all married, with four children between them (yes, you read that right). But in the brief period between their preteen beginnings and their grown up responsibilities, Hanson had themselves some fun. Mild, freakishly polite fun -- but fun nonetheless. "Truth be told, sure we met girls," recalls Isaac Hanson, now 26. "On the road? Absolutely. In fact, I met my wife on the road. But in a debaucherous sense, no. In a rational, 'I like to have fun and this is my life, let's make the most of it' way? Sure."

Nobody in Hanson can remember a time before the group dominated every aspect of their lives. Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson played their first show at an arts festival in their native Tulsa, Okla. in 1992, and released their first album three years later. "It develops from something that you really thought was cool and enjoyed, because you listened to '50s and '60s songs and memorized them after about the second or third time you heard them, into something that is a full-grown, fully developed, psychotic passion for music," is how Isaac describes the brothers' evolution from living room harmonizers to serious musicians.

Or, as Taylor Hanson, 24, puts it: "We really don't know what normal is."

Hanson released several indie albums before hitting it big with 1997's "Middle of Nowhere," which spawned the infernally catchy "MmmBop," and leveled any hopes the brothers might have had of being taken seriously. "When we started we would be like, 'I know we're really young and this couldn't be for real, but just think of us as old guys with high voices,'" Taylor Hanson says.

The band issued several modestly received albums in "MmmBop's" aftermath. They did charity work in Africa, released a documentary, "Strong Enough to Break," detailing their music industry travails and assembled an indie label, Three Car Garage, which recently issued their latest disc, the smart, serious-minded, roots-pop gem "The Walk."

Ten years after "MmmBop," critics, audiences and peers have slowly begun to come around. Recent reviews have been positive. Bono is a fan; notorious faux-metal singer Andrew W.K. is a friend. "As long as they're playing music and performing, they're doing what they were meant to do," says W.K., who claims his new career as a motivational speaker was partly inspired by time spent at one of the group's songwriting retreats. "They are phenomenal musicians. I think they can do almost no wrong."

Isaac Hanson figures that merely being able to survive this long has made the band interesting. Breaking up is not an option. "Zac, Taylor and I definitely have our moments, but we don't do our dirty laundry in public," Isaac says. "Most of the time." Off the road, the brothers will frequently get together for 10 hours a day, seven days a week, to attend to band business. Which makes one wonder: Do they ever get together and not talk about work?

"I don't think that's actually happened," Isaac replies.

The newest generation of Hanson children are only a few years removed from the ages their parents were when they first picked up their instruments. Taylor Hanson says he's thought a lot about what the near future might entail. "We're definitely not going to push [our children] to do something that's not them, but if they've got it, it would be stupid to not motivate them," he says.

"It definitely scares me. It's like, 'how could this family handle multiple bands?' We might implode."