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Hanson: Beyond MMMBop
By Joe Lawler

Admit it, you had a copy of "Middle of Nowhere." Back in 1997 it was impossible to escape Hanson and their hit "MMMBop," but eventually you grew up.

Well so did Hanson.

After the success of their major label debut, their musical career got rockier. The band's label merged with Island Def Jam, a company best known for hip hop and R&B acts. Conflicts with the label led the brothers to form their own record label, 3CG.

"More than 200 artists got dropped; I think we were one of 12 not dropped," drummer Zac Hanson, now 23, said. "The whole process of how they released records seemed to be flawed. A great rap producer might not be a great rock or pop producer."

Not that the major label days didn't have some high points. The boys got to attend the Grammy Awards in 1998, mixing with acts whose careers were longer than the brothers' combined life spans. Zac was eight when "MMMbop" was written, making him the youngest Grammy-nominated songwriter.

The band's most recent independent release is the 2007 album "The Walk." The brothers are hosting one-mile barefoot walks before every show on their tour to bring attention to poverty and AIDS in Africa. The exact location is announced three hours in advance at hanson.net, but they are normally held in front of the venue, so get to People's early.

"It just kept evolving as we tried to find little ways to take small actions," Zac said. "At first we tried giving away all the proceeds from the song 'The Walk,' then we found a company [TOMS Shoes] giving away shoes every time someone bought a pair. We decided to do the walks to show people what it means to be uncomfortable for a small portion of their life. It's not so much about awareness as it is about being a catalyst to create action. The first step is often the hardest to make."

While Zac thinks the brothers will always record together, he has given some thought to the possibility of side projects. One possibility is the trio recording separate discs but releasing them together, similar to what Outkast did with "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below."

"It will always come back to what we do as a three-piece. There's a mutual respect and mutual combination of skills and influences that make Hanson what it is," he said. "We're all singer songwriters in our own right, but separate it is never going to be the same dynamic."