elle.com.au, June 2014
It's hard to believe it's been 18 years since that lovable long-maned trio of teen-dream Oklahomaians 'MMMBop'ped their way into our hearts and school books. In almost two decades, a lot has happened; ICQ is now considered a typo, Geocities only exists in Japan, Britney shaved her head, and Jason Biggs landed an acting gig beyond American Pie (yet, is still painfully irritating)... However, against all odds, Hanson have managed to stay in the game. They’re still touring, selling out venues and have an impressive nine albums under their belts. They also have their own beer range called Mmmhops, believe it or not.
With the trio to hit our shores in August, we decided to call up middle bro Taylor Hanson to giggle at him talk survival skills and play a quick game of True Or Fan Fic.
Congratulations on your new(ish) album, Anthem. Can you tell us a bit about it?
“Our records are always pretty eclectic, sure, they’re driven by pop melodies and harmonies and stuff, but it’s a very organic thing. We’d been on tour constantly and we were pretty exhausted, we paused for a couple of months and when we got back together there was such a defined sound - there’s some ACDC in the first song - just a simple guitar riff, not to say we’re by any means scratching the surface of that band [laughs], but then you get some straight up Motown-like throwbacks.”
The band's influences have often been more mature than most people would expect from a teen pop band. Was it hard to ride that line of things you were actually interested in and the teenage world that you were a part of?
“Yeah. It’s interesting to me because often when someone is young, people tend to associate them with youthfulness or a lack of maturity. But it actually should be the opposite of that because if you’ve got a person who’s that young, and they’re already doing something with it and they’re dedicated, they’re probably more mature than average. With us, music was always first, we were music nerds, and we were passionate about songs and song writing and performing. I think what a lot of has gone into our band’s career is that our fans can connect in a deep way to the songs. A lot of our songs have joy in them, they don’t bring people down but it’s not because we ignore the negative, it’s because we sort of push through.”
“Even songs like 'MMMBop', and that song is actually about holding on to what matters because few things last and it talks all about that, that was a song about losing friends, you know, and realising you don’t get a lot of life long relationships and friendships.”
You are all fathers now, would you want your kids to follow in the same path as you did?
“I don’t think I would encourage them to follow in our path, but if you see that somebody wants to make music, which they are probably destined to that, we certainly would support that… You have to wake up in the morning and be like, “Oh my gosh, yes, I’m going to do that,” and live and die by it. I would encourage them to follow things they are passionate about.”
What advice would you have for the teen bands of today, like One Direction?
“Well they’re in a totally different situation because they were literally a group of guys that went on a talent show, but they are talented. What I would say, to them particularly, is capture the connection that they have, crystallise it, and focus on making a lasting impression. Find a way to make a direct connection with those fans, so that you can keep that. I think anybody trying to figure out how to navigate through the long term you have to decide that you are in it for the long haul, and then make decisions based on that.
You have been playing as a band for 22 years now, what is the key to survival?
“Survival is key. [laughs] Putting your music first and continuing to push yourself, not coasting. Staying hungry, staying driven - that is key.”
Back in the day your fans were famously, um… adoring; all it takes is a Google search of Hanson+fan+tattoo to see that. Are they still just as passionate?
“[laughs] We could say some extraordinary things about that. If I could step outside of myself, I’d love to write a book about what it’s like to see people just feel such admiration for something, it’s extraordinary. We’ve been amazed at all the crazy situations, so I guess the short answer is yes. We do see people who are absolutely over the top and kind of almost lose the regular idea of communicating with people, you kind of lose perspective… Especially when tears or excitement takes over. But I mean, most of our connections with people we still see, just like cool people, that are like, "Hey I love your band," or, "I’ve followed you." and you know, they're the majority.”
OK. Speaking of fans, we’re going to play a quick game of True Or False based on some tabloid cuttings from my parent’s attic!
Let's go! Number one is you can all play the bagpipes.
“I wish that was true! I don’t think we have the breath control for that. We need to drink more whisky and then we might be able to do that.”
The squeals at your concerts were so loud you had to carry industrial earplugs wherever you went to prevent hearing damage.
“That’s kind of true. We held the Guinness World Record for the loudest concert captured… So in that period we literally couldn’t perform. You couldn’t hear yourself at all, let alone your monitor. So early on we switched to industrial monitors which are basically big earplugs that can be sound in to your ears directly.”
Heather Locklear once sang a Marilyn Monroe-style rendition of 'Happy Birthday' to Zac on the set of Melrose Place.
“That is true. That is definitely true”.
Amazing. Your baby photo was once used as a prop on the set of a Metallica video.
“[laughs] I don’t even know the answer to that question! We do have very odd culture of cameos, you know Hanson cameos, and placements… for example, there’s multiple Family Guy references to Hanson - there are lots of different things. We’ve had bizarre situations like that. I’ve never even heard that one but I hope that’s true! Awesome.”
You used to have to have every room you entered cleared by a team of security guards because your fans were prone to breaking, entering and hiding.
“[laughs] Again, that’s kind of a situational thing. There’s definitely been situations where that’s true, absolutely. Especially during our tours, we’ve had people get in to hotel rooms and be inside those hotel rooms when you come in. We had that happen more than once. So that probably stems from a part-truth.”
The band almost broke up because Zac attempted to cut off your famous rat's tail.
“[laughs] Not true, though I wish it was. That would be hilarious. There were a lot of people who wanted to cut off my rattail though. That was definitely an, erm, I don’t know if it was ever actually in style, but it definitely was not in style when I had one.
I remember so many girls at my school having a rat's tail or undercut because of you.
“[laughs] Well it was quite a thing. I was very attached it too, I don’t know why particularly but I had a very strong affinity for it. I’ve always worn necklaces and always had some kind of thing that is around my neck, sort of a keepsake, and I think the rattail was probably some weird extension of that.”
Last one. At one point, the band had over 50 restraining orders out against various fans around the world.
“I don’t remember the number, but the short answer is no, that’s not true. But we definitely have had many, you know, scary situations with fans… at that point I don’t think it’s a fan, I think of it as a person who has issues. Um, we had some scary situations with those types of people… we try not to hold any restraining orders against people if possible.”
Hanson will be touring nationally August 5-17, head to hanson.net for more information. Anthem is out now.