“MMMBop,” the 1997 mega-hit by Hanson, established the band as a cultural phenomenon, though the Hanson brothers—Taylor, Isaac, and Zac—were barely teenagers when the song was recorded; drummer Zac wasn’t yet 12 when the multi-platinum Middle Of Nowhere hit stores. The brothers’ precociousness, breeziness, and tween-heavy fan base earned them a reputation as teenyboppers, but in stark defiance of the cynics, the Hansons have turned a hokey hit into a carefully planned career. Twelve years later the boys are still releasing records—now on their own label, 3CG—and touring the country. Oh, and they’re all married with children, too. In advance of Hanson’s show tonight, Oct. 3, at the Ogden Theatre with Hellogoodbye, The A.V. Club spoke to Zac about growing up in a band, music’s evolving business model, and the roadie that wrangled him a wife.
The A.V. Club: Many people think of Hanson as three young brothers, but now you’re all married and have children. What’s it like touring with three different families?
Zac Hanson: I don’t think that it changes the way we tour as much as it just changes the personal perspective on wanting to get finished with the tour, or the reason you’ve got to go out and bring home the bacon, that kind of stuff. For me, I just have one one-and-a-half year old so it’s a relatively fresh experience for me. It’s a little crazy, especially when we bring all the families out on the road. You’ve got a bus full of kids and wives and you’re trying to balance load-in and sound check and everything that has to go with the business stuff with the little kids wanting to play video games or “Oh, I wanna do that!” It does become kind of a circus. I don’t know, we’ve been doing this for so long and people ask me every once in a while, “What’s it like working with your brothers?” and I go, “What’s it like not?” Our first paying performance, I was 6 years old, you know? I almost don’t know anything else, so I guess it feels pretty normal to me.
AVC: You and your two brothers started families of your own fairly young. Was this sort of a happy accident, or something more intentional, maybe a need for grounding after being on the road for many years?
ZH: I think it’s several things coming together at the same time. One is that desire to find relationships that you can lean on and trust. When you become a band and you’ve got people who want to be a part of your experience or want to get close to you for what you are, not who you are, you have that challenge of trying to find out who’s genuine. I think some of it is a response to that, but I think mostly it’s just the fact that we started the band so young. We’ve been doing what we do for a really long time. I’m about to turn 24, but I’m probably closer to the average 34-year-old in a lot of ways. I never had the problem of, “Who am I and who do I want to be?” I’ve known for so long, so I think that’s why [getting married] made sense early. And then the biggest factor is just finding really incredible women. I think that’s the part about being in a band with female fans: You get to meet so many women, and you figure out pretty quick which ones stand out in the crowd and which ones are really connecting with you.
AVC: Is that how you met your wife—was she a fan?
ZH: Well, technically we all met our wives at concerts. It’s funny to say that—I never thought I would meet a fan and marry her. She was at a show, and somebody from our crew brought her backstage. He was like, “You gotta meet this girl,” and I was like, “Dude, come on.” The guy who brought her backstage, his crew name was "Romeo." He was kind of known for bringing back a certain kind of individual that was not for any kind of longer-term relationship. It ended up being something much more long-lasting, but we still took about five years to get married.
AVC: You mentioned a search for people to trust. For many years now, Hanson has run its own record label. Did the band feel like it was hard to find people to trust in the record industry?
ZH: It’s hard to find people to trust in the record industry, always. It’s an industry with a lot of bullshit. There’s a lot of people who are in positions of power that really know nothing and care for nothing. So I think, yeah, you learn pretty early on that you’ve really got to trust yourself more than anybody else, and that nobody’s going to care about what you do more than you. There’s always people who say, “Oh, do that Britney Spears special” and “Go on tour with Miley Cyrus.” We’re like, “But that doesn’t sound fun at all.”
AVC: Do you feel more in control with your own label?
ZH: We’re definitely in control. For us, being a label, we took out the whole aspect of the business that goes into sifting through people who don’t care, who don’t get what you’re trying to do. We can just hire and work with people who get it—the people who understand what this project is about. When you’re on a label, you’re just hoping somebody will stick their neck out and work for you. Most bands are just like, “I hope they do it. I hope they promote it.” But being a label, we know exactly what’s happening. We know what interviews we’re getting. We know what the people at radio are saying, what the guy at MTV did. We know every conversation that’s happened.
AVC: Would you consider releasing other bands on your label?
ZH: We have considered it. I think for us, we don’t feel like the future of music is in the act of being a record company. We feel like the future of the music business is in empowering artists to have better and better tools to communicate with their fans. We want to be people who are saying to artists, “Look, you don’t need that company over there to release your album. You can do it this way.” Almost more of a band partnership than a label-artist relationship. Not about ownership of content, but about empowerment.