Beyond "Mmmbop": Hanson Retains Success By Ignoring Trends

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Photo by Jiro Schneider
By Youa Vang

Although their 1997 heyday was a long time ago, the brothers Hanson have managed to avoid the boy-band curse and still make music today that actually means something. Hanson is set to play the Pageant on Thursday, and "Mmmbop" will most likely be in the mix, but the men -- no longer boys -- are excited to share some new material with their ever-changing crowd.

We spoke with the youngest member of the band, Zac Hanson, about where the group's music is today, Aerosmith and traveling salesmen.

RFT Music: Are people surprised that you guys have new music?

Zac Hanson: Yes and no. We've been a band for 21 years, so we definitely have history. That means that you have people come in and out of your sphere of influence. Being in a band for as long as we have -- this is our sixth album -- you have this strange experience. More and more, in the last couple of years especially, where you have this group who weren't there at the start. They're eighteen, and they started listening to Hanson maybe on our third or fourth album. They end up going back to our catalog. It's much like when I discovered Aerosmith on Get a Grip, because that was what came out when I was a kid, and then I went back and realized, "Oh, wow -- they've been a band for twenty years."

"Mmmbop" was such a defining time for the band, but oftentimes musicians don't see times like that as what defines who they are. How do you want to be defined as a band?

ZH: I wouldn't say that song defines us.

Why do you say that?

ZH: We're a band with a much deeper experience and culture. I'm sure for some people that song defines us, because that song was No. 1 in 27 countries at the same time. It was a phenomenon; people all around the world know that song, even if they never liked our band -- or even liked the song -- they still know it. But I think what defines our band is a spirit -- or lack of fear. When you listen to our music, it's about overcoming adversity, and it's about taking these hard or great situations in life and maximizing them. I think when you look back at our career, hopefully people will look back and say that we were never afraid to take risks and to innovate. Maybe people never knew that.

You do all kinds of things all of the time, and some are successful and some are not, but I think our fans -- the people who follow the band -- see us as a band who is passionate and willing to take risks and everything. We do it because it's worth it.

The funny thing about "Mmmbop," if you read the lyrics, there's a line that says, "You have so many relationships in this life/Only one or two will last/You go through the pain and strife, then you turn your back and they're gone so fast." It's about the fact that you have to put yourself out there for the things that you want to last, because so many of these things are going to come and go. And so if "Mmmbop" is going to define us, it may ring true, because it's talking about the same kind of things I'm saying that define us as a band.

It's interesting that you guys wrote such prophetic lyrics at such a young age.

ZH: [Laughs] I probably wouldn't have thought that at the time we wrote it -- I was eight -- but it probably has to do with the fact that we were so young. As a young kid, I probably wouldn't have recognized it this way.

There was a feeling of being an outcast, because you're the only kid on the playground or soccer team who has a job or aspirations. So many kids at that point are only focused on getting to the next level in Goldeneye on Nintendo 64, but we're going, "OK, we've got a gig next week. I'm writing a song, or we're recording an album." So you feel a certain sense of being alienated, and it gives you a perspective on the fact that so many things won't last.

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