From the cover of Tiger Beat to fatherhood and marriage, the Hanson brothers have come a long way since MmmBop topped the charts.
The music industry was complete different with the absence of iTunes, iPods and the internet.
Their first album Middle of Nowhere – which was released in 1997, 15 years ago – was released on cassette.
“We really did come out… at the last chapter of one world,” Taylor Hanson told the Star. “Our first record came out on cassette and there were LPs and obviously CDs, and the whole Internet development was really at it’s infancy then. There’s been some sad moments looking at the overall industry and realizing how frustrating it is for all the music world to not have thought ahead and made plans for the future.”
Taylor, Isaac and Zac released their ninth album Shout it Out in 2011, which even though Taylor said he avoids storytelling lyrics, reflects the change in their lives.
“Aside from being in a band period, anyone who has kids knows that it changes your life,” he said. “Your whole perspective on the world and kind of existence changes because you see yourself in your kids, and then you also realize that you’re turning into your parents and it’s all just bizarre.”
All three brothers are now married with children. Taylor has four kids of his own.
“I’ve never particularly written in a super autobiographical way,” he said about how his songwriting has changed with kids and marriage. “The songwriters I’ve always admired are the ones that write things that are cloaked in metaphor and are super approachable. What people hear isn’t so much ‘I’m so happy, I have a family.’ But it does influence your thinking in fact the love songs on Shout it Out are more of a reflection of being in a relationship and making it through life.”
The Hansons have been making it through life and the business world together since they were children.
Aside from creating their own music, they have in a sense become a brand with their own label and extensive merchandise.
“It can be challenging to spend so much time with my brothers, that’s for sure,” said Taylor. “But what’s it like, it’s a lot better than it is hard. We have so many things in common and so many common interests. We work well together. We’re not the same though.”
The brothers, like all siblings have their clashes, but Taylor said they don’t run from the fights, they face them head on.
“It requires a lot of respect for each other, you really have to have a mutual respect for each other,” he said. “Sometimes we’ll have people look at us after [we clash] and say ‘gosh that was really intense,’ and we go ‘yeah, whatever.'”
The brothers have travelled from the stages of Carnegie Hall and Hollywood Bowl to the lecture halls of Oxford University where they talked about the Hanson business.
“One of the things about the Hanson business, especially for the last five or six years, but especially since we started the label our whole model is the idea that we sort of do extra special things for the devout fans,” said Taylor.
Those “special things” include custom chocolates for Valentines Day, and a custom Monopoly board game called Hansonopoly.
“In all of that the whole idea is just sort of realizing your fans and the people that like what you do, how do you connect with them on a bigger way and make a bigger statement about your culture,” he said.
But while at Oxford the brothers let a secret slip, a new product was in the works which would play tongue-and-cheek tribute to the song that got it all started.
“We sort of let the cat out of the bag a couple months ago… and mentioned that we were developing this idea and it sort of caught a lot of ears and ended up all over the place, ‘Hanson is doing a beer,'” said Taylor.
“There beer is going to be called MmmHop and it’s clearly tongue and cheek, it’s a joke, but it will probably be a pale ale or an IPA, a stronger flavoured beer.”
Even though the brothers weren’t legal drinking age when MmmBop hit number one in 27 countries, Taylor said that him and older brother Isaac enjoy a good beer.
“There’s room for alcohol and substances in art. Definitely you need a lubricant to keep the creative juices flowing,” said Taylor.
It has been 20 years since Hanson played their first show which included songs like Rockin’ Robin and Splish Splash, but Taylor said he can’t really imagine doing anything else.
“There are a lot of things that we all enjoy, and I know for me when we started doing a lot of activism work on the last album and focusing on poverty relief in Africa and we started doing these one mile barefoot walks and encouraging our fans to get involved in that effort to look at poverty,” he said. “That to me opened up a whole new aspiration and a whole new realization that is something that I could imagine doing that and being fulfilled, focusing on all that effort.”
But in the end Taylor said, “The core of who we are and why we do it really hasn’t changed. We do genuinely love making things. We love making music. We love playing.”
Hanson will take the stage at the Capitol Theatre on Sunday night at 8 p.m. Ticket information is available through the Capitol Theatre.