Girls Life Magazine
The true story behind the Hanson brothers--the hottest act since, well, they'd prefer we
don't say it. It's 2 p.m. at the Sam Goody record store, and there is screaming. It starts
when over 1,500 fans who have overrun the store to catch their first glimpse of the teen
trio from Tulsa. It gets louder when they come on stage and grab their instrument--Isaac
(Ike), 16, on guitar; Taylor, 14, on keyboard; and Zachary (Zac), 11, on drums. As they
launch into their soon-to-be No. 1 hit "MMMBop," the masses just keep screaming.
Taylor looks out at the crowd and smiles, "All these screaming girls. You just gotta have
fun with it." No one could accuse Hanson of not having fun. With a hit album, a No. 1
single and another on the way, appearances on The Rosie O' Donnell Show and Late
Show with David Letterman, and the video for "MMMBop" airing like at least once an
hour on MTV, fun should be all three Hansons' middle name. Why is Hanson the hottest
thing since the Beatles? "Oh no! Don't go there," says Ike, "you never want to say that!"
Says Zac, "The Beatles, I mean, they were the Beatles. We're just ladybug size." It helps
that Hanson has some resemblance of musical talent. Critics have compared Hanson to
past bubblegum fad bands like New Kids on the Block, calling them everything from a
slacker Partridge Family to the '90's version of the The Osmonds. But an equal number
have been won over by the group's honest lyrics, musical depth and beyond-their-years
intelligence. Home-schooled by their mom, they talk knowingly about pioneers in rap,
rhythm-and-blues, and rock-n-roll. Where did they get all this knowledge? "Our Dad,
Walker, moved from country to country with an oil drilling company. We grew up in the
Caribbean and South America." Evidently, there wasn't much to hear on the radio--at least
in English--so the boys sent away for the rock and soul collections from Time-Life
Records. For years, the guys were consumed by the music of the '60's, when artists like
The Jackson 5, to whom they have been compared, were huge. That early influence may
explain how Hanson has managed to avoid the shoe-gazing angst rock of other teen
rockers, like Radish and Silverchair. Says Taylor, "The alternative thing is fading. People
don't hate their parents as much anymore." Their own parents certainly played a part in
Hanson's success but, contrary to popular belief, the guys truly did it on their own. The
idea for a group started one night after dinner. The guys were singing and realized they
were pretty good at harmony. That led to their first gig at an arts festival in Tulsa in 1992.
They did a capella, finger-snapping doo-wop versions of classics like "Splish Splash" and
"Johnny B. Goode." They cut their first album Boomerang with professional musicians.
After that, "we decided to learn the instruments ourselves." Taylor started out on a a
borrowed keyboard. Ike bought a guitar at a pawn shop, and Zac found some drums in the
attic. They did early versions of three songs on their new CD Middle of Nowhere
(including "MMMBop") and sent it off to record companies. It caught the attention of an
executive at Mercury records, who flew out to a fair in Kansas to hear Hanson for himself.
Expecting to see a bunch of adults pulling the strings and hear vocals that had been
altered, the man from Mercury instead heard them play and sound just like the tape they
had sent. "There wasn't one adult," recalls Zac,"except my dad, who loaded our
equipment, and my mom who was sellling T-shirts." "Our parents didn't push us into this,"
says Zac. "This is our thing. But they helped us with it. They said, 'I'm going to drive you
to where you want to go and get you what you need.'" Which isn't to say that help hasn't
come in the form of some star songwriters and scratchers, most notably the super-trendy
Dust Brothers. "We hired them before the Beck album came out [Beck's Odelay was the
major album of '96]," notes Ike, "They liked our tapes." But the Hanson boys wrote most
of the songs themselves. While girls are a major topic ("Zac just got over his 'I hate girls'
phase but he's not girl-crazy. He's more into burping all the time, he talks and burps") so
are more weighty issues like teen suicide ("Yearbook") and the trio's dead grandma ("With
You in Your Dreams"). And, yes, they did write "MMMBop." In case you are wondering
what "MMMBop" means (if Zac has a fondness for burping, Taylor has one for blurring
his word): "An 'MMMBop' is a second, like appreciate the people you have around you,
they could be gone in a second." Hanson is somewhat aware that they, too, could be gone
in a MMMBop. "We'll keep doing our music whether we sell one record or 1 million,"
says Ike. But for now, as Taylor says, "Everything is exciting. Who knows what will