You already know act one of the Hanson story. Three long-haired brothers from Tulsa, Oklahoma, turned down by every label in the country, before eventually striking gold with the Jackson 5 influenced MMMBop in the spring of 1997. Sandwiched for three weeks at the top of the US Hot 100 between The Notorious B.I.G.'s Hypnotize and Puff Daddy's I'll Be Missing You, it was like no other musical release that year. A Les Paul driven sound signalling an allegiance closer to garage band than boy band (not to mention a production value nearer to Beck's Odelay or Black Grape's It's Great When You're Straight… Yeah, than the comparably patchy oeuvre of *NSYNC).
The second half of the story is, admittedly, less well known -- six studio albums, a successful independent label and a beer range pleasingly named MMMHops. They may have failed to match the commercial reception of a song that reached No. 1 in 27 countries, and yet! 25 years since forming, Isaac, Taylor and Zac are still very much together, celebrating their quarter century with new single, I Was Born and an extensive world tour, Middle of Everything. Oi, Hanson! Don't you think it's about time for a chat?
Hello Hanson! We've only just met but you seem like fairly well adjusted members of society. When people speak to you, do you find they're often looking for signs of child star breakdowns?
Zac: I think it's a fun narrative for people. I think people like to look and see choices that they wouldn't have made. But the reality is we're not the eccentric Andy Warhol artist. We are the carpenter, the craftsman. The guys you would go and have a drink with rather than the guys you'd read a tabloid article about.
What are your memories of when Middle of Nowhere came out and everything first kicked off for you?
Taylor: Two ends of the spectrum. Being incredibly excited at seeing the potential happen. And, at the same time, a constant feeling of being underestimated. It's like being an architect that built a house and then everyone walking up and going, "Did you think you'd be able to build this house?"
Isaac: "You couldn't have possibly built this house! Do you realise how cool this house is?".
Taylor: And we're like, we're the architects! We know every nook and cranny.
Zac: We were basically the same guys then, just smaller and with less baggage.
Isaac: And more hair.
Were you at all worried that you might lose your songwriting ability when you cut your hair?
Isaac: Yes, actually. I had a false start for exactly that reason. I partially cut my hair off and then went, oh no, I might lose my powers. Told him not to cut it off, then the next day did it… That is actually the best hair question we've ever had.
Zac: It was well phrased and well posed.
Isaac: We got our superpowers from our hair!
Now, we did some digging around online and found some old Hanson facts from 1998 that we'd like to ask you if they're still true or not.
Taylor: They were never true.
Let's find out! Here's the first one: "Taylor's voice broke during the recording of Middle of Nowhere. Now, whenever Hanson perform MMMbop live, it has to be played in a lower key than on record."
Isaac: That's true.
Taylor: I was 13 when we recorded it and so I was 14 when it came out so we actually never performed it in the original key.
What was the thing that you said the other week about how people have been singing it wrong?
Zac: Most people don't sing it right!
Taylor: Which is strange because it's a song that so many people know.
Isaac: They get the melody, but all the other stuff in between, they kind of make it up.
Is it ever frustrating to have one song that big?
Taylor: The only way that it's frustrating is more just that in any career you want a narrative going forward. There's a natural desire to tell more stories. It's like, you're Toyota. If your biggest success is your first car, of course you want, 20 years later, to launch the... Corolla. But you're proud of your icon. You're just still working to build a brand beyond the icon.
Okay, next Hanson fact: "Hanson don't have girlfriends but are always talking about their most fancied females. Ike likes Gwen Stefani and Renée Zellweger, while Taylor fancies Cindy Crawford. 'She's hot!'"
Isaac: I think we all fancied Cindy Crawford.
Zac: I still fancy Cindy Crawford!
Taylor: I mean these kind of facts are just… I'm not even going to answer that.
This one's interesting: "Whenever Hanson see cows they all sing "Cows! Cows! Everywhere! Cows are all around me!"
Taylor: Where did that even come from? So that actually is kind of true. We were working on a Christmas record in 1997 and we would go on excursions between sessions just to kind of break up the monotony. And one time we stopped on the side of the road right next to this huge field of cows and this very simple song came out. It became a running joke for a while.
Isaac: [Singing] Cows, cows everywhere…
All: Cows are all around me!
Text Matthew Whitehouse