Article published Oct 18, 2007

From Hanson boys to men

With legendary rockers like Bono praising their songwriting -- a full decade after they topped the pop charts with "MMMBop" -- the now-20-something members of Hanson might be forgiven a little chest-puffing.

Nevertheless, Zachary Hanson is wary of coming off as "cocky" after being asked if he envisions he and his two older brothers altering the way the music industry works. "This is a dangerous question for me.

"In some form, yes, I believe we could be a part of changing the music industry," Hanson, 21, says warily. Later, during a phone interview while on the road for Hanson's "The Walk" tour, he elaborates with a blunt analogy:

"I think artists are being forced to realize that you have to build a community of fans ... otherwise, you're not even toilet paper. Because toilet paper is a need. You have to wipe your butt; you don't have to go out and buy music to listen to."

Zachary, 24-year-old Taylor and 26-year-old Isaac made music history in 1997, when "MMMBop," a song they originally recorded in their garage, became a No. 1 hit and earned a Grammy nomination.

Since then, the group has been absent from Top 40 radio and the marquees of large venues. But Hanson is making a new kind of music history by leading the way for independent musicians.

Hanson has its own record label, 3CG, and plays mostly before midsized venues. It markets entirely through its Web site, communication with fans, and community service efforts such as fundraisers for AIDS prevention and treatment in Africa.

And, Zachary points out, the band remains rare in its focus on vocal harmonies. "We're an anomaly," he said. "With most bands, there's a lead vocalist and a lead guitarist. There aren't a lot of successful bands so based on harmonies."

The family nature of Hanson has also expanded; all three brothers are now married with wives that travel with the band, and the older two have children.

Zachary said the clan is relieved for the "little miracle" -- Isaac's recent recovery from complications of a rare blood condition. He underwent emergency surgery on Oct. 4 to remove an embolism that had traveled from his arm to his lung. Doctors have cleared him and the band to continue touring for now.

Zachary said the band is "still amazed" at their fans, many of whom have followed them since childhood. "In the end, we've been lucky to have been through a lot," he said.

As with all of its concerts, Hanson will precede Saturday's show at St. Petersburg's Jannus Landing with a walk to raise money for African children affected by AIDS. The walk is expected to begin at 3 p.m.; visit hanson.net for details.