Mention Hanson — that’s Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson — and it is almost inevitable that first thing that comes to mind is “MMMBop.” That’s the first single from “Middle of Nowhere,” the trio’s first full-length major label album in 1997, which blasted to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and comparable charts world-wide.
“MMMBop” went platinum in the U.S., selling more than 1.5 million copies and it was a finalist in two categories at the 40th Annual Grammy Awards in 1998.
Hanson was a Grammy finalist for best new artist in 1998 as well.
And while “MMMBop” may be where the Hanson story ends for some, the brothers were by no means “one and done.”
“Middle of Nowhere” sold 4 million copies in the United States, and it was the first of eight albums by Hanson that achieved Top 40 status on the Billboard 200 pop album chart.
The Hanson brothers have been active musically all along, touring internationally, making documentary films, and appearing as guests on an impressive list of television shows and recordings by other artists. They’ve run their own record label, Three Car Garage (3CG for short) since 2004.
Isaac, Taylor and Zac celebrated Hanson’s 25th anniversary in 2017.
Two years later they are finally playing their first ever concert in Hawaii.
“We’re excited to be coming to Hawaii,” Zac said, calling from his home in Tulsa, Okla. on Sept. 20.
Zac was 11 when “MMMBop” hit. The drummer in the band, he’s now 32, and married with children, as are brothers Taylor, the keyboardist, at 36 and Isaac, guitarist, at 38; all three brothers share vocal duties.
“You’re always trying to play new places, and this many years into it, to add new places you’ve never been to is cool,” Zac said. “I honeymooned in Maui when I got married, but we’ve never been there to play shows.
“It’s the crazy thing about being in a band who’s been lucky to have enough success that people all over the world know the music — getting there is a whole different thing.”
“And Hawaii is more than just going ‘somewhere.’ ”
HONOLULU IS a stop on a tour promoting Hanson’s newest album, “String Theory.”
The two-disc album was released in November, and it is a creative career milestone for them. The brothers recorded it in collaboration with orchestral arranger David Campbell, Czech conductor Adam Klemens and the FILMharmonic Orchestra Prague.
“We wanted to do something that adds to who we are and what people understand about our band,” Zac explained. “The project was thought of at its inception as a live performance and playing a stage show with orchestra, but as we began to pull through the material, and talk about the stories we wanted to tell and how we wanted to approach it, it became abundantly clear that making an album was not an after-thought — it was a requirement.”
ANOTHER REQUIREMENT was that the album would not be a collection of “greatest hits” rearranged for performance with an orchestra.
“We’re always trying to tell new stories — that’s what music is — and so we settled on this idea of letting the lyrics be what would actually define what songs would be picked. Some of that was brand new songs, and some of that was songs that were only released to our online hanson.net community, and then a lot of it was from our records. People would expect to hear ‘MMMBop,’ so it’s in there.”
Hanson is also looking ahead. Honolulu will also hear songs that will be released on Hanson’s next studio album in 2020.
”What we’re trying to do with this (next) album is lean into the things that make us unique as a sound, the way we sing together, the different influences that come in as writers,” Zac said. “When people hear the new album it’s going to seem incredibly eclectic but in this way that’s completely authentic.
”Sometimes when you make an album, you try and make something that sounds like one thought. I think for us right now the thought is really just to lean into that diversity, that eclecticness of having three singers, three writers, three producers and just let it exist.”
Back in Hanson’s early days, some dismissed the trio as a kiddie-rock novelty act, destined to have a short shelf life. Little did they know!
The brothers had started working on “MMMBop” in 1994 when they were recording their first self-produced indie label album. It took a while, but “MMMBop” became the title song of their second indie project in 1996. From there it was reworked into its final uptempo mega-hit pop rock form by the Dust Brothers, the producers who worked with the brothers after they were signed by Mercury Records.
Three kids — ages 15, 13 and 11, give or take a few months — have never written a song with more staying power.
“That song was like a global moment,” Zac recalled. “To have a song that’s one of these defining songs from a whole period of time is really special. That’s not something you get to just do.”
“What ‘MMMBop’ talks about is that you know in the future that most things won’t matter, that few things will last. It’s saying that in an ‘mmmbop,’ time will pass, you’ll be at a totally different point later in your life. In a ‘mmmbop,’ you’ll be at the end of your life, so don’t let the moments passively go by, be an active participant in forming your life.
“Grab on to your potential. Don’t be passive. You have to grab the things that matter.”
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