Hanson finds its pop-rock groove
Published:Friday, September 26, 2008
By John Benson
Drummer Zach Hanson was only 11 when the brothers hit it big.
When Zach Hanson is asked what is the most annoying pop song ever, the Hanson drummer quickly answers that it’s his sibling act’s 1997 ubiquitous single “MMMBop.”
It’s been a decade since he and his brothers experienced the Fab Four-like media frenzy resulting from their Oklahoma-based band’s 10-times platinum 1997 album “Middle of Nowhere,” which featured hit singles “MMMBop,” “Where’s the Love,” “I Will Come to You,” “Weird” and “Thinking of You.” The 22-year-old percussionist talks about what it was like being a punch line for music journalists from coast to coast.
“Let’s rewind 10 years ago,” said Hanson, calling from Vancouver, British Columbia. “If I would have been on the outside looking at myself — an 11-year-old drummer in a band with Taylor being 14 or 15 and Isaac 16 — I probably would have thought the same thing and written myself off. But that’s what you deal with.
“I guess we made a decision at some point that we knew we were the anomaly that if we wanted to look the part or fit the perceived image of what we were supposed to be, we would wait five or 10 years and come back when we were adults.”
Today, Hanson has found its groove as a pop-rock act not too far removed from Maroon 5. In fact, adult contemporary radio has warmed up to the threesome’s latest effort, 2007’s “The Walk,” which finds the group taking on more socially conscious issues such as the AIDS crisis in Africa.
It’s funny that despite the fact that the band members are now older, they seemingly can’t escape their past. The recent rise of another sibling trio — Jonas Brothers — has rekindled interest in Hanson.
“I haven’t talked to them, and this sounds really funny but I don’t really know any of their music,” Hanson said. “I’ve heard other people make that comparison to how they are three brothers in a band that are relatively the same age when we came out. From what I’ve heard, I believe they’re relatively talented, writing a lot of their music. So in that respect you just go, ‘I hope these guys really are doing their music and their vision for it.’
“We were lucky enough to not be a part of a Disney or ‘American Idol’ machine, where you end up getting told what to do, what to wear and what to look like. When you’re in those kinds of worlds, sometimes you end up not knowing who you are. It’s an image that someone else created for you and when that other person disappears, you suddenly become yourself. You have this weird dichotomy of artists that basically disown their own music — the reason why their fans became fans — and become something else. It kind of destroys that relationship.”
Oddly enough, there are three generations of boy bands currently touring. Along with the Jonas Brothers serving the tweener market, there’s Hanson playing for the late-teen and early-20s fans (the group comes to Cleveland on Monday at the House of Blues), along with NKOTB (New Kids on the Block) and its current reunion tour targeting 30-something moms.
Though the link between all three groups is basically screaming female fans, Hanson tries to put it all in perspective.
“I’d say the majority of our fans are our contemporaries, who are generally younger than we are but have grown up with us since the first record,” Hanson said. “I don’t think our fans are the fans who are going to the NKOTB show. With NKOTB, it’s been 15 years since they stopped doing it and are bored and are coming back to make some money off of the new parents, who are more successful. Their audience now has more disposable income, and somebody decided it was a good time to do a reunion tour.
“Our fans are a hard-core music-loving audience, people singing every word of every song. It’s not a spectacle. It’s an experience.”