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Back in 1997, three flaxen-haired Oklahoma brothers named Isaac, Taylor, and Zac harmonized their way to the top of the charts with the platinum-selling smash “MMMBop” — and became school-locker pinups for millions of teenagers around the world.
Ready to feel old? Twenty years later, the guys (now 36, 34, and 31, respectively) are settled down with wives and kids and still as wholesome as can be. Well, sort of. As Hanson get set to celebrate their landmark anniversary with a world tour launching June 1, EW took the guys out for a raucous night on the town in NYC. (And if you’re curious: Yes, they still get mobbed by fans.)
Whiskey shots for Isaac and Taylor, hard cider for Zac
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You guys released a beer called Mmmhops in 2013. Do you drink it when you’re out at a bar?
TAYLOR: It’s a bit of a faux pas to walk into a bar and order your own beer. It’s like music…
ISAAC: If I went over to the jukebox and I’m like, “Yo, ‘Look at You’ from Middle of Nowhere — that’s a rockin’ jam!”
TAYLOR: We’d have to punch you in the face.
You played your first show in 1992. What do you remember about the band’s earliest days?
TAYLOR: We lived in South America for a year. Our dad had taken this job working for an oil company — it sounds really glamorous, but he was an accountant. We didn’t have that many things to listen to, just a little bit of music that was a sampling from early rock & roll.
ISAAC: [We had] a tape of a bunch of singles from 1958. And Bobby McFerrin’s album Simple Pleasures.
TAYLOR: So the idea of singing and harmonizing was very much around us. [Isaac] got interested in replicating things.
ISAAC: I just started memorizing songs.
TAYLOR: For me, it’s more like a disease, it’s not even really a talent: If you sing something, I just hear a harmony.
ISAAC: Our mom used to joke that Taylor didn’t say a word until he harmonized. He was a man of few words back then.
ZAC: That’s changed completely.
What’s one of your craziest memories from being teenage rock stars?
ZAC: I don’t know if we technically still hold this, but in ’98, we held the record for the loudest concert of all time. It was in Toronto, over 140 decibels.
ISAAC: The loudest concert ever recorded!
ZAC: It was so loud, it felt like my ears were about to start bleeding.
That was from the screaming fans?
ZAC: The screaming. You could feel the audience physically. You’d finish a song and it would be like, “Ahhh!” There was, like, a pressure. It was amazing. And scary. And awesome.
ISAAC: I still can’t hear properly. I have long-term damage in my right ear.
Beer for Isaac, old-fashioned for Taylor, whiskey shot for Zac
Four women interrupt to ask for a group selfie with their friend, who is celebrating her birthday across the room. Hanson happily oblige.
Is it annoying to still get stopped by fans?
ZAC: I’ll say this: If it’s not happening, that means you’re failing at certain parts of your job, because we’re not known for being married to supermodels or being partying drug addicts or whatever. We’re not known for anything except for our music. So for people to recognize you, they have to know about your music.
So you never indulged in rock-star behavior? Come on…
ZAC: It’s not that we don’t drink beer, or that we weren’t smoking cigars at 15. We just never did that on camera.
The women come back with the birthday girl.
Does that happen everywhere you go?
ZAC: Um…yeah! We’re never really surprised by it.
Whiskey and Coke for Isaac, beer for Taylor, Coke for Zac
Are you sick of talking about “MMMBop”?
TAYLOR: Usually we close that door, like we want to talk about the new album or whatever. But this year we’re opening up the floodgates to talk about history more.
Can you live on “MMMBop” money forever?
ISAAC: Especially not with Spotify.
ZAC: Everything we’ve done with our [makes air quotes] “MMMBop money” is invested into the band. Nobody owns Ferraris.
ISAAC: I own the same car I’ve owned since I was 18.
ZAC: Isaac owns a ’98 4Runner. He never wants to sell that car.
ISAAC: It’s like my leg!
ZAC: The things we’ve spent money on are, like, building a world-class studio. Buying the equipment we use on tour that most people rent. So here’s a $100,000 board, here’s a $20,000 microphone that we’re going to record on because it’s from the 1940s.
Was that your parents’ guidance or your own savvy?
ZAC: It’s a mix of two things: One, when you’re 15, you don’t have to spend that much money. Fifteen-year-olds are like, “I want four Xboxes.”
TAYLOR: And a foosball table!
ZAC: People want to say that [getting famous as] kids is a bad thing, but in so many cases I think it was a benefit, not only in meeting our fans young, but in the experiences we had. Like, when you’re 12 and girls are screaming at you, you’re like, “Gosh, what’s wrong with them?” And by the time you’re 18…
ISAAC: You’re like, “What’s up?”
ZAC: You’re like, “I’m really over you screaming at me.” Like, “Do you talk? Because your voice has got to be hoarse.”
TAYLOR: What he’s trying to say is there’s something wrong with him.
ZAC: What I mean is, we already knew we wanted to invest in the kind of things that would help us continue [making music]. We didn’t ever expect success to come easy, or to stay.
Wait — even at that time in the ’90s, you felt that your success wasn’t a permanent thing?
ZAC: Oh, not at all! It’s more like “Hey, you have an opportunity to keep this. But it’s not yours.” Growing up listening to old-school rock & roll, we weren’t listening to the hippest thing of the moment. We were listening to artists who had already come and, in many cases, gone. So we already saw this as a job that you work at to keep.
TAYLOR: We’re known for being pretty wholesome. There’s no stories of us going to rehab and stuff like that.
ISAAC: I wish I had those stories!
TAYLOR: We grew up listening to music, loving great songs, admiring people that did great work…and we still love that. My point is, the journey continues.