Band of brothers

Staff Writer

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Hanson - the three-brother band from Tulsa, Okla. - burst on the music scene in 1997 with its hit single "MmmBop." Since then, the brothers, Isaac, Taylor and Zac, have continued to play, putting out 10 albums, from their first "Middle of Nowhere" (1997) to their latest "The Walk," released in 2007. Although they haven't topped the charts since their early success, the band continues to work on their music and tour widely. On Friday, Hanson comes to the Calvin Theatre in Northampton for an 8 p.m. concert, which also will feature performances by Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers and Kate Voegele.

Isaac Hanson, the oldest brother, took time out from the band's busy tour schedule to talk with the Gazette on the phone Tuesday. The following are edited excerpts from that conversation.

Q: When your band first made the music charts some 10 years ago, you were 16 . Taylor was 14 and Zac was 11. How old are you now?

A: I'm 27. Taylor's 25 and Zac is 22.

Q: Certainly, you became almost overnight sensations when "MmmBop," your hit single, came out. You were all pretty young - can you tell me what that was like?

A: It was a very, very interesting time. You know every band, every musician dreams of the opportunity to travel the world and perform their music for people and to be successful doing so. We were no different. We were a young band ... but we were very, very motivated to take our music to the world. We had this incredible opportunity to do that and just over 10 years ago was the beginning of all that.

Q: How has your music changed since then?

A: I think for someone who [hasn[']t followed Hanson's music], I think they would think Hanson has evolved dramatically. ...

It's very easy with modern technology to woo yourself away from who you are as a live entity, to layer the music with tracks that are on some level unachievable. ... There's all these opportunities to polish all the rough edges off and what we said was that's not the right way to make records. We've done things that have been in that vein in some cases. But nothing more than your average band. But we want to remove the average. We want to be the reverse of average. And do it the hardest way. We want to do it as live as possible. As raw as possible.

We grew up with '60s music, R& B. If you listen to our first record "Middle of Nowhere," you're going to hear a lot of things that are Motown influenced. Our second record has a lot of gospel-y and blues elements. And our third record has a lot of singer-songwriter, rootsy qualities to it. I think "The Walk" - the reason why we performed it live - is we were trying to unite all the different influences of the last 10 years worth of records and give people an idea of what Hanson sounds like as a music entity.

Q: What are the challenges of that?

A: Certainly when you're recording a record live in the studio you're restricted by the fact that it's much more difficult to self-produce in that case, because you're not the objective ear. ...You need someone on the outside to give you a thumbs up or thumbs down ... that's why we included a friend of ours, Danny Kortchmar, who has done Billy Joel's "River of Dreams" album and countless other albums. He's worked with Jackson Browne, Carole King, James Taylor ... he's got a lot of experience in classic rock and roll.

Q: Do you collaborate as brothers and band members on both the lyrics and musical parts?

A: The three of us have strengths and weaknesses in different areas. We do collaborate ... depending on the song. I would say that "The Walk" is one of the most collaborative records thus far ... from top to bottom the three of us were aggressively part of each song from the very beginning.

Q: Is it difficult to collaborate because you're brothers?

A: I don't think it's any more challenging than with anyone else. ... In a lot of ways it's hard to keep bands together. I think when it comes to us being brothers, I think we have an incredible amount of respect for one another. Despite our different personalities. It is difficult, but it doesn't mean that it's not enjoyable. ... The most rewarding things I've ever done have been the most difficult.