You might laugh at the memory, but it’s been more than 17 years since Hanson burst onto the ’90s pop scene and took over the world with the infectious single, MMMBop, from their breakthrough album, Middle Of Nowhere.
Since then, the three brothers from Tulsa, Oklahoma, have garnered an immense fanbase – and no, it’s not just screaming pre-teen girls – released seven further studio albums, and even launched their own beer company, appropriately named Mmmhops.
“It’s definitely full-bodied, high alcohol content pale ale,” laughs the eldest of the Hanson tribe, Isaac. “It has a lot of malt and has a nice hoppy mellow finish. We’re not sure whether we’re going to be able to bring it down to Australia or not, but we’re working on it.”
Hanson’s approaching foray Down Under comes off the back off their latest album, Anthem, a record heavily inspired by the energy of their live shows.
“It’s the kind of music that might scare away certain people,” Isaac jokes. “But luckily, we have a really great connection with our fan base. I think they understand the eclectic-ness of who we are. On our records, even on Anthem, there are a lot of variations from the beginning to the end, stylistically speaking. I think we’re never afraid to be who we are, no matter what that entails.”
Being true to themselves has been an imperative factor in Hanson’s lengthy career. The fresh-faced youngsters exploded onto the scene in 1997, when Isaac was only 16 and his brothers Taylor and Zac were 14 and 11 respectively. Given their subsequent departure from the colossal limelight cast upon them, it would be easy to assume the group must’ve experienced the same falling off the rails that so many young people within the entertainment industries suffer. But they didn’t – according to Isaac, Hanson worked hard to ensure they didn’t become another washed-up pop star cliché.
“We’ve made a point to always take responsibility for what we’re doing,” he says. “I think we’ve been lucky that in the process, we kept our heads down and moved forward. Because the managers, the labels, the merchandise companies… they can go on to do other things, but forever and ever your name is on that thing you’re creating, and you’ve got to own it.
When they’re not touring the world, recording albums and brewing beer, Hanson invite fellow artists to join them in writers’ workshops: a week of creating, songwriting and recording. Since 2005, they have collaborated with a stream of big-name artists such as Ben Kweller, Jason Mraz and even Weird Al Yankovic. Some of the songs recorded on the musical retreat form an annual fan club EP, which contains music that is often left of centre compared to their other material. According to Isaac, the retreat helps the artists to stretch their musical muscles.
“The primary purpose of the event is to create, without preconceived notion, without concern if it’s the right song for a record,” he says. “We are songwriters first, we are music fans first and we very rarely say we can’t do something, at least on a creative level. A good hook is a good hook – we’re just not afraid to chase that down, and it’s a lot of fun to do that.”