We catch up with the band, more than a decade after Mmmbop
Hanson celebrate 15 years in music in 2012, and while it's already been 13 years since their global number-one hit Mmmbop stormed the charts, the brothers are still going strong.
We met up with them this week at the end of their UK tour in London, and caught up with older brother Isaac on music, adulthood, their appearance in Katy Perry's Last Friday Night video, and Janet Devlin's disastrous X Factor performance of their huge hit.
You guys are touring on your fifth studio album, Shout It Out. What’s different this time around?
When we first came out in the late 90s, a lot of people would draw - I think appropriate - comparisons.. saying things about some of the Motown influences and R&B influences.
With this record, Shout It Out, I feel like maybe - moreso than any of the previous records since then - this one kind of draws on a lot more of that late 50s, early 60s rock and roll influences. We’ve kind of rediscovered some of those passions in a more obvious way than ever before.
How has the creative process changed since you’ve all gotten married and had kids?
I think the only thing that’s really changed about our creative process is the added level of required focus, just because time is precious. You know, we’ve run a record company for the last eight years, doing self releases since 2003. So that process, as well as the personal element - now I’m married, and now I have kids, and stuff like that - you’re conscious of time.
That being said, if you actually talk to our wives, they’d say ‘what time’, cause unfortunately our job is all-consuming. You’re either all on or all off.
It’s an unusual life. I mean, when your four-year-old is asked what your Dad does, and he says ‘my Dad plays the rock n roll guitar’ it’s a pretty interesting job description. But unfortunately - and fortunately - it’s true.
Are there any aspirations amongst you three to have another family-grown band with your kids?
Oh - no, no, no, no. Not aspirations to do that, the question would be ‘do my kids have aspirations to do that’. We did it just purely out of raw desire and passion for music, and we kind of lucked out that our parents were supportive enough that when they saw us pushing and asking loads of questions.. they saw what we were actually capable of doing. They weren’t patting us on the head saying ‘oh no, no, no - wait, wait’. When we said ‘hey, we want to make a record’... they said ‘okay’ and they figured out a way to help us do that.
It’s too hard of a job, and I would never volunteer anyone for it. If they want it, they’re gonna show me they want it. And if they don’t want it? All the power to them, we’ll find something else that they’re passionate about.
What is it like performing Mmmbop and songs from Middle Of Nowhere all these years later?
Performing songs like Mmmbop, Where’s The Love - anything like that - it’s no different than performing any other song. As far as musically speaking, it’s not any different to me.
If this music wasn’t ten years old, you wouldn’t know it was ten years old.
You guys appeared in Katy Perry’s video for Last Friday Night. How did that come about?
We happened to be in Los Angeles at that particuar convenient time. We got a call from the people that were involved in making the video, and then Katy called us as well and said: ‘hey, you gotta do this!’
And we said ‘hey, what’s the schtick?’
And she said: 'Well, here’s the concept: I’m at a party... and I get a makeover, and you guys are like the band at the party, playing in the backyard. So you’ve just pretty much gotta be yourselves.’
It was fun - it was perfect timing and she was really sweet, and we’re glad that she called us. And they gave us instruments that were plugged in, so we spent a good amount of the time actually bringing the party to the backyard between the takes.
Do you think you’ll ever collaborate with her in the future?
Well, honestly the call was kind of unexpected. It was kind of out of the blue. So, I wouldn’t rule that out - no. I think she’s got a really nice voice, and she’s clearly capable of writing very popular, successful songs. And she’s on the top of her game right now, she’s doing very, very well for herself. I think we’d be very open to that opportunity if it were to show itself.
Have you guys watched the X Factor while you've been in the UK? Did you seen Janet Devlin's performance of Mmmbop?
We heard about our recent Mmmbop cover and we saw a clip of it. I feel bad for her, because she seemed nervous. And she definitely forgot a significant amount of the lyrics. I don’t want to be saying something mean, because it’s not really appropriate. Because clearly she was caught in a situation where she was not fully in the moment, able to fully execute it. I feel bad that it went down that way, but lyrics are really, really important. Preparation is key.
How does it feel to have your songs covered like that?
It’s cool, when people ask. I think Mmmbop is actually a little bit of a difficult song to cover because you really need to have more than one vocalist. And there’s a rhythmic element to the chorus that often can be misinterpreted.
But it’s an honour that you have a song like that, ‘cause most artists never have the opportunity to ever have a song - or multiple songs in any shape or form - in that kind of category. So to have a song in that kind of category for people to be able to cover it, it’s a great thing. So we’re glad that they asked about that, and I feel bad that it went down that way. But it is what it is.
How has your UK tour been this time around?
UK audiences are great - they’re a lot of fun. They style of audience in Edinburgh - this was our first time playing in Edinburgh - and they were ridiculous. And Birmingham and Manchester - there’s always a really good energy to it.
There’s something about UK pop culture that I find really interesting. I feel like the genres are not quite as wide in the UK, in some form or another. It just seems like a lot of people just like a lot of different things - that people can have a wide music taste.