Hanson plays the Chance in Poughkeepsie tomorrow.

By Sandy Tomcho
September 21, 2007

Times Herald-Record
Most musicians just go through the motions on interviews, but it seems drummer Zac Hanson may actually want to be on the phone. Maybe.

"I'm very well practiced," Hanson laughs. "I think that's part of the job description when you're a musician."

Hanson has been at this job since he was 8 years old. That's how old he was when he wrote "MmmBop," the hit that rocketed him and his brothers onto the international music zeitgeist three years later.

Now 21, he and his brothers, lead singer/keyboardist Taylor, 24, and guitarist Isaac, 26, are on the road supporting their new album, "The Walk," which brings them to the Chance tomorrow night.

The album was released on their own label; the guys cut their ties with major labels a few years back, which is documented in the film, "Strong Enough to Break." They continue telling that story with their iTunes podcast, "Taking the Walk."

Their beautiful harmonies are still as prominent as ever, but musically, they've grown up. Go! reporter Sandy Tomcho caught up with Hanson via phone and chatted about being their own bosses, new ways of distributing their music and, of course, "MmmBop."

So, all of you are married, Taylor and Isaac have kids, and you left your record label. Is that it?
There're a few more you can add to that, but you hit the high points (laughs).

What are some issues you've dealt with not being on a label?
It hasn't become clear how we're actually gonna sell records and make being a band still have the ability to be a career ... With this new album, we haven't even gone out to radio yet because we're waiting on that. There's no point in spending a bunch of money on the front end at radio when fewer and fewer people are listening to it and it's harder and harder to get on unless you're spending more and more money. You've got this equation where you're losing listeners and spending more money. Would you be better off to find other ways to expose your music?

Maybe one of those avenues could be "Strong Enough to Break."
I think "Strong Enough to Break" and what continued from that, "Taking the Walk," is definitely one thing that we decided to do that is a little unconventional for most bands. Podcasts, the medium, is really becoming something more and more people are using, but it's still kind of a fledgling piece of content where people are just discovering it ... It seems that after the documentary started to break, we took that to colleges and we did lectures with it, and we just traveled around with it on the last tour. It just seemed like it was such a good tool to expose the band; letting people have that access that's all about music. The podcast is the songwriting, it's the picking of songs. This is something bands should start using. We did it because we felt that this is something we'd like to see from bands that we love. You have to build a relationship with your fanbase. You have to build trust. You don't want to be a flash-in-the-pan. You have to change and evolve to stay relevant.

Which brings up another question. How do you achieve success at a young age and transcend that to be taken seriously as an adult? How did you guys get past "MmmBop"?
We've just done what we always did. Our label was a decision to say that we need to keep doing things the way we've always done them. If we had stayed with major labels, we were gonna find ourselves compromising to the point that it hurts our music. We've just always done things that we're proud of. "MmmBop" is part of what makes us who we are now. I can look back and go, "Man, I shouldn't have worn those pants," or, "Man, we made a crappy music video for that," but when it comes down to the albums, I don't say that. All the songs on those albums are the right songs for those records. I think every record has naturally evolved.

The new album, I think, has come a long way from the "MmmBop" days, and a good example of that is the first song," Great Divide," the charity single inspired by your trip to Africa.
One of the craziest things about "Great Divide" is it was written before we ever thought we were gonna go to Africa. When we started talking about going to Africa, we got the idea to record while we're there. It's the best way for us to talk to people about what we're doing. We're not just gonna talk to you, we're gonna make it part of who we are and what people know us for. We started listening to songs we could record on, and all of a sudden, "Great Divide," whether we knew it or not, was written for the message we're talking about, which is the devastation caused by the AIDS/HIV epidemic. Until we take tangible action and say it's relevant to our lives, we're not gonna make the huge impact that needs to be made.

What are people gonna see tomorrow night at the Chance?
We're gonna play instruments (laughs). It's about music. There's no crazy light show or dancing. You're gonna hear music from all the records, and we'll play some covers. Don't come unless you're ready to sing along and move your ass because that's the kind of show it is. We want our fans to be our traveling choir.