Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The 'Mmmbop' boys still rocking, releasing 5th album

By Amy Kaufman
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES Whenever the band Hanson is introduced, there's always one word that's included in the primer, so let's get it out of the way: "Mmmbop."

"Hanson burst onto the scene about 13 years ago with their 1997 Grammy-nominated song 'Mmmbop,'" "Today Show" host Ann Curry said earlier this summer, before the band played a set on the morning program.

That the band - Hanson brothers Isaac, 29, Taylor, 27, and Zac, 24 - has never stopped playing music after "Mmmbop,' and in June released its fifth studio record, "Shout It Out," is something most aren't even aware of.

Perhaps more surprisingly, the brothers insist the repeated point of reference doesn't bother them.

"I guess you decide at some point in your career whether you're going to run from it or embrace it, and we've embraced it," Zac said recently. "So many people who know nothing about this band still know 'Mmmbop,' so it's like this incredible tool to open the door to so many people.

"That song was No. 1 in 27 countries at the same time. That doesn't happen almost ever."

Indeed, Hanson has yet to replicate the commercial success it had when its members were barely teenagers. In the '90s, the three boys from Tulsa, Okla., with long blond hair and high-pitched voices provoked a reaction not unlike the one teen star Justin Bieber incites these days.

Now, they seem to embody the antithesis of all things pop. They've shortened their golden locks. They dress like hipsters, sporting suspenders, fitted blazers and skinny ties. And they release their music via their own record label, 3CG.

Having their own imprint has allowed them the creative control to try new things. They recently purchased a device that enables them to live-stream a video feed from wherever they are so that they can stay in touch with their cult-like fan base. For the music video of their latest single, "Thinkin' 'Bout Somethin'," a choreographer created simple dance moves to post on their website, so fans could partake in Twitter-fueled dance flashmobs with the group.

Other things have changed for Hanson, as well. All three men are now married with children: Isaac has two kids, Taylor has four, and Zac has one and another on the way. Themselves a product of a big, religious family - they have four other siblings - the band members say they've been perplexed over criticism that they married too young. ("Married at 20 years old? I would have smacked you right in the head," Howard Stern chastised Zac during a 2007 interview with the band on his radio show.)

"I actually don't think that we're off the majority of this country's standards. I think it's mostly a coastal thing," Isaac said.

"I'm the one that throws everything off," said Taylor, laughing. "I've got four kids and got married at 19."

"But he has also beat the national divorce average," Isaac said.

"I can hear a little bit of married-ness in the record, actually," Taylor interjected.

Band members said the album harkens back to the music they listened to as kids - '50s and '60s rock 'n' roll, Motown and R&B, like Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin.

"We're Midwestern guys who grew up listening to soul music," Isaac said. "I've also realized on this record how similar our sound is to when we first started. Our songs all carry the same way. Well, with different keys. Taylor's no longer a soprano."

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