Hanson swap the Mmmbop for hard rock

Last updated 05:00 04/08/2014
Hanson

BOYS TO MEN: Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson have just released their ninth album.

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"Don't misunderstand good manners for passivity,'' Isaac Hanson says firmly down the phone from his kitchen in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

Isaac is, of course, from that family band - the clean-cut, blond-haired brotherly trio who burst onto the scene in 1997 with the poptastic MmmBop, the catchy earworm that rocketed to No.1 in 27 countries, including Australia, and saw the band nominated for two Grammy awards.  

''People misunderstand our kind of jovialness and our good-natured conversations and whatnot, with happy-go-luckiness - and there is no amount of that,'' says Isaac, the eldest, tallest and lankiest of the brothers.

''Anyone who knows us, knows that we are all three very intense people and there is no lack of passionate disagreement among us, and it has always been that way.''

Guitarist Isaac, 33, and his brothers, frontman Taylor, 31, and drummer Zac, 28, are heading to Australia spruiking their ninth studio album, Anthem. On it, Isaac says, is a never-before-heard intensity. The ''aggressiveness'' is reflected in the album's cover, he says, which is dark and broody, and very un-Hanson. The mood reflects the heightened emotions in the making of the album, during which they'd nearly come to blows. That was the result, he says, of the strain of charging straight into the studio after two years on the road.  

''Frankly, we almost had a 'I'm going to kill you' kind of moment,'' he says. 

A ''creative hiatus'' of a few months eased the pressure, but songs such as Fired Up, which he says bear hints of AC/DC, reflect the fraught beginnings of the album, which has scored bigger on the charts than their other recent efforts. 

Hanson, however, will be irrevocably tied with their mega-hit MmmBop and that success, while remarkable with 16 million albums sold worldwide, was never really replicated. Does getting drawn back to a song from 17 years ago ever get tiresome?

''Even the biggest artists in the world have that particular challenge,'' he says. "Even people like Paul McCartney still get references to 1964 all the time,'' he says with a chuckle. 

He says it's a challenge to connect with an both an established audience that dates back to 1997, and continue to grow. ''You know every book has to start with a first chapter and I think that Middle of Nowhere, Mmmbop and Where Is the Love are good places to start for us. I don't think it's a bad place.'' 

He does believe, though, that the band get perceived incorrectly - that their worth as musicians gets lost in the ''blond hair'' novelty.

''We are good-natured guys but our pleasant nature might have in the past made people think that what we did musically was a bit less rooted in being the band than we are. 

''It's interesting to me still that many people will often be surprised that all of that music was stuff we wrote and played. I think those details are lost on people."

He says having an audience discover or rediscover Hanson as a band, even fans from 1997, is an interesting part of the band's evolution.  

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Also evolving is their marketing. Hanson have broadened out into beer making, with the genius brand name of Mmmhops. 

''I'm glad you feel that it's good marketing,'' Isaac says. ''Honestly, it's come from passion. We love beer. We have for a long time.''

He says the band are proud of their tipple. 

''Hopefully people's pop culture curiosity gets them to try the beer. I think people will be really pleasantly surprised by the artistry and complexity of the beer that we're creating, because it's a beer that I would drink every day - and I do,'' he says.

Hanson play Auckland's Powerstation on 17 August.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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