Those cute blond teens who sang ”MMMBop” and paved the way for Britney, the Backstreet Boys, and the rest of the gang are all grown up (kind of) and are taking over the world — or at least the Internet. In March, Taylor, Isaac, and Zac Hanson made the first single from their new album, ”This Time Around” (now in stores), available on the Net and even have plans to start their own Internet service provider. Recently, EW Online spoke with 16-year-old Taylor about the rockin’ new album, the screaming girls, and how it feels to be an Internet wunderkind.
Why release your new song over the Internet, and why offer an ISP?
We have a really strong Internet fan base, so we’re trying to cultivate it a little bit. Recently we met up with some people who set up David Bowie’s Bowienet, and we decided there’s no downside to setting up an ISP, so let’s throw it out there. It’s a way to bring fans together, and say, ”Here, you can be part of this thing.” But it’s not about going out there to become some huge ISP and rule the world. It’s more like an Internet fan club almost, about letting fans create their own sites at Hanson.net.
The new album has a harder rock and R&B edge than ”Middle of Nowhere.” You not only brought in John Popper and Jonny Lang to play along, but you’ve even included a choir. Why the change?
I would say as time goes on, you try different things as a songwriter, you expand your horizons. I think the music has definitely evolved to be a little more rock & roll, and that’s just been the natural progression for us. But I wouldn’t say the new stuff is way different. In a lot of ways, it’s still Hanson.
Since your first album came out, teen pop has exploded. What do you think of the current scene?
It’s kind of weird. In some ways, it’s funny because when we first came onto the scene in ’97, we were a lot poppier than the grunge scene that was thriving right before that. And now, we’re just a little more rock & roll than a lot of the stuff that’s out there. It’s been interesting to see it evolve, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens. As far as how it affects our music, we just try to get it out there and if people take to it, that’s great, but we’re not going to be untrue to ourselves just to fit in.
Why have we had to wait three years for this album?
We made the decision to tour in ’98, and that’s what pushed it back, to be honest. I’m not really sure why it ended up taking so long, but we never really stopped working. After we finished touring at the end of ’98, we took a little break, then pretty much through ’99 it was the process of writing songs, meeting with different producers, and trying to pull it all together. But I can say the timing feels really right. It wasn’t a conscious decision to let the attention die down and come back as a new Hanson or something like that. It was just the way the dominos fell.
Have the hysterically screaming fans stuck around?
The fan base is definitely growing up, but the phenomenon of the screaming girl thing is very, uh, present. It’s very largely female. We love our fans, because they’re as loyal as they can be, and they’re really awesome. But we take whoever we can get. We’re not picky. We’re lucky to have people be into the music, period.
How has all of the attention affected your lives?
As far as the teen magazines, first of all, nobody knows everything about us. But at times we’d wonder, how did they know that, or even why did they CARE to know that? It’s kind of like, why does that matter? But the truth is you don’t let any of it go to your head. It’s kind of whacked out. But we’re the same guys we always were. We’re about as normal as it gets.
Do you think with this album you’ll be able to shake your cuddly image?
I think we’ve definitely had a little bit of that struggle. When we released our first album, there we were, these three young brothers with long blond hair, really young, singing this really poppy song. I totally understand why there would be a negative backlash. Because it’s almost like, Wow, it’s too squeaky clean. But you have to throw yourself out there and say, Here’s the music, focus on what it’s really about, not the image. But because it’s been a little longer and we are a little older, hopefully there will be a little less of that, ”Wow, they’re young kids!” thing. Hopefully.