April 10, 2008
Still crushin' on Hanson
Before the Jonas Brothers, Isaac, Taylor and Zac worked their
own teen magic
By Kendra Meinert
The last time Green Bay laid eyes on Hanson, Isaac, Taylor and Zac were
dreamy teens who made 5,000 girls scream.
And cry hysterically. And faint. And get so excited they thought they
were going to wet their pants.
Take that, Jonas Brothers. No Disney Channel publicity machine required.
Don't look for a repeat of that scene at Bay Beach Amusement Park from
eight years ago when the brothers from Oklahoma return to play the Meyer
Theatre on Sunday. But don't discount the staying power of Hanson fans,
either — even if their former pop heartthrobs are now married
The band's inescapable single, "MMMBop,'' is 11 years in the rear-view
mirror. Fans who were singing along then are still singing along now.
The band has never felt the need to slam the door on its boy-band era
even as it has moved forward and made more mature musical inroads.
"First of all, to have a career for the last 10 years and only
be 27 is a pretty huge thing for me and for us,'' Isaac Hanson, the
oldest brother, said by phone. "And I feel very, very proud of
that. I also feel incredibly lucky that we have the fans that we have.
We have some of the most loyal, most passionate music fans that you
could possibly have.''
While fans probably aren't as likely to show up these days toting homemade
signs that read "Drop 'em, Taylor,'' they're still crushing on
Hanson. It turns out it really was about the upbeat pop-rock with the
big hooks and shimmering harmonies after all.
"I think there is a similar level of excitement and passion from
our fan base even now. It's just that people are less biased to what
it is they see and realize these people are belting out the words to
every single song. These people are engaged in what this band is doing
— intensely engaged,'' Hanson said.
"I would go so far as to say that kind of enthusiasm doesn't dwindle
away but continues in some way. Look at the great bands of the last
50 years, they had that. And if you don't have that, you're probably
not great enough.''
All the love from fans helped get the band through some rocky times
once the feeding frenzy over their 1997 debut, "Middle of Nowhere,''
subsided. Their follow-up, "This Time Around,'' couldn't match
that monster success. A corporate merger later landed them on a label
that dealt mostly in hip-hop artists and didn't know what to do with
a group like Hanson.
"The worst thing you can do is sit there and wait. … We've
learned from our 'mistakes,' or as a friend of ours said a couple of
years back, 'You were lucky enough to get screwed early,' '' Hanson
"When you send a record company 80 songs over the course of two
and a half years (and they're refused) … there's nothing more
you can do except say good-bye.''
Knowing they were losing fans by not touring or getting an album out,
the brothers launched their own 3CG Records (named for the three-car
garage they first rehearsed in). After more than three years of wrangling
with their former label, within nine months they had self-released 2004's
"Underneath'' and launched a 60-city acoustic tour to get fans
"For me, it's always been about perseverance,'' Hanson said. "You
have to be willing to do whatever, whenever in order to get attention.
We've also been lucky enough that we have been singing together for
as long as we have, and also that we're a band. I kind of joke that
we're like a vocal group and a band at the same time.''
Hanson — Isaac, 27, soon to be a father of two; Taylor, 25, father
of three; and Zac, 22, to be a first-time father next month —
are touring in support of their fourth studio album, "The Walk,''
a 2007 release that has earned them some of the best reviews of their
In between music and babies, they've worked to raise awareness of poverty
and HIV in South Africa. Last month, they did a couple of sets at South
by Southwest in Austin, Texas, where they generated big buzz, no snickers,
at the edgy alternative music fest.
It was a sweet reward for three little kids who once piled in the car
with their parents and drove to Austin to play on the streets in front
of the fancy hotels, in hopes of catching the ear of record execs in
town for SXSW.
"It was like early '90s grunge, and here we are a couple of average,
middle-class kids from Tulsa, Okla., coming down to Austin, Texas, to
sing people some '50s and '60s covers and songs we've written,'' said
Hanson, who was 14 at the time. "…We'd start a cappella and
then hit the boom box with the backing tracks behind us. … You
just do whatever you can do to get people's attention.''
And hold it.
Remember that, Jonas Brothers.