Mmm... Hanson
Older, wiser and proud of their past, this band of brothers walks ‘The walk’ into a new era

By Scott Tady
Go Figurehead

When talking with Hanson, you don’t need to tiptoe around “MmmBop.”

Drummer Zac Hanson said he and his band of brothers, Isaac and Taylor, aren’t embarrassed at all by their 1997 bubblegum smash, even though they’ve matured significantly as artists.

“We’re not one of those bands that tries to run away from its past,” Zac said in a phone interview promoting Hanson’s Sept. 27 show at Carnegie Library Music Hall in Homestead. “I’m proud of ‘MmmBop.’ I know it’s what made me who I am today. I know it’s the first song many people at our shows ever heard from us. I know they want to hear it now. I also know it would be insulting to fans if you brushed that off, like so many bands do.

“Be proud of what you write,” Zac said. “Be proud that fans love it.”

The 21-year-old Zac also is understandably proud of Hanson’s new CD, “The Walk,” and the trio’s iTunes-only track, “Great Divide” that has raised money and awareness to combat the AIDS crisis in Africa.

“The Walk,” which includes three bonus tracks, is a poised and eclectic mix that Zac feels summarizes the band’s growth through seven albums.

“Our first album was influenced by Motown and early R&B. Our second album had more of a gospel-blues sound, with a gospel choir and Jonny Lang helping on guitar and John Popper blowing on harp. Our last album was a lot more acoustic, singer-songwriter sounding. A little mellower,” Zac said.

Released July 24, the new disc brings a soulful and at times raw energy.

“If you hear the record, you’ll hear how we sound live,” Zac said. “That’s because we basically recorded it live. In the studio, we were like, ‘One, two, three... Go! There was little time for overdubbing,” Zac said.

Peering hazily back into time — through the boy-band phenomenon towards prefab groups like the Spice Girls — some people might forget that Hanson always was an authentic band, even if youngest brother Zac was just 8 when the “Mmm” first met the “Bop.”

Guitarist Isaac is now 27, organist Taylor is 24, and like Zac, they’re all married. Taylor has three kids, Isaac one.

The Tulsa, Okla., brothers arrived at adulthood relatively free of tabloid scandals, a refreshing achievement compared to today’s new breed of spoiled young celebrities.
“We’ve always lived our lives a little more like the average person, rather than meeting the expectations of celebrity and suffering the pitfalls like drug abuse and alcoholism,” Zac said. “The influence of drugs and alcohol ended way too many great young rockers’ lives.”

But before you anoint him for sainthood, Zac matter-of-factly adds, “We have our fair share of fun. We drink a little. And we smoke a little. But we’ve done it in moderation; living our lives the way most average people would.”

Not that average people have had a debut single, like “MmmBop,” top the charts in 27 countries simultaneously.

“That’s still mind-blowing to me,” Zac said. “I don’t know if any song has been that successful since then.”

He’s had 10 years to figure out what fueled the “MmmBop” sensation, but Zac said all he can come up with is that Hanson was blessed with good luck and good timing.

“I guess grunge wasn’t doing it for a lot of people then,” he said. “So, when we came out with a song influenced by classic Motown that sounded like the Jackson Five, people were ready for a shift.”