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Contra Costa Times Article

MMM-mmm good
By Lynn Carey
Contra Costa Times 
Published: Wednesday, July 8, 1998 

Let's put it this way; your daughter could do a lot worse than bringing one of those Hanson boys home for dinner.

Earning capacity aside (their first album for Mercury Records, "Middle of Nowhere," has sold 12 million copies in a year), these boys are just plain nice. They're well-spoken, intelligent and not sassy to the press. Well, maybe the youngest, Zac, is a little, but he's only 12.

They're also darned cute, with all that long blond hair and those rosy cheeks.

But they're not just three pretty faces. Amazingly, critics aren't necessarily writing off Hanson as just another bubble-gum brother band. Reviewers admit - a little grudgingly - that there's a glimmer of talent in the lyrics, the music and the voices, despite the ravages of puberty.

If your daughter is between the ages of 8 and, oh, 14, she's already taken scissors to this article and put it on her wall. With any luck, she's going to the Hanson concert Wednesday at the Shoreline. And you'll probably be driving. (Be prepared for screaming hysteria on a par with the Beatles.) But if you've got to go to a concert, you can feel good that it's being put on by three boys steeped in Christian ethics - though they don't talk or sing about it - who enjoy traveling around North America with their mom, dad and four other siblings in a great big bus with 12 bunks.

These boys are so nice, in fact, that they wouldn't dream of being less than positive about anything. They don't even sound bored when they're answering questions they've probably been asked by a zillion other reporters in a zillion other cities around the world since they first burst onto the charts in April 1997 with "Middle of Nowhere" featuring the catchy "MMMBop." Last month they began a tour of nine U.S. cities, two in Canada and three in Europe. (Their newest album, the just-released "3 Car Garage," is actually songs from their first two independently produced albums, Hanson in its purest form. It's the stuff that knocked out the execs at Mercury who signed them to a six-album deal.)

And last week the brothers were on the cover of TV Guide, in honor of their VH1 special that aired June 27.

A lot has happened to the boys from Tulsa in just over a year. It's no wonder that on the phone a few days after their tour began, Zachary, the drummer, sounds a little confused when asked where he was.

"I don't know ," he says, slowly. "Oh, Washington, D.C. It's hard to keep track. I woke up in England one time and thought, 'Why are we in Germany?' You get confused."

Zac likes traveling on the bus with his family, he says. "They're better than planes; planes mess with the time. Planes aren't that great for voices, either."

The Hanson parents, Walker and Diana, are still very hands-on where their sons are concerned. Zac admits that if he wanted to do something like, say, pierce a body part, he'd still have to ask permission.

The idea of piercing seems to gross him out, however.

"I think about it, but not seriously, and not right now." His voice drops to a melodramatic hiss. "I don't want something stuck in my body!

"And I would never get a tongue ring," he adds, explaining that a woman in their "Where Is the Love" video had one and during the taping, "her tongue ring got stuck on her teeth and just ripped down her tongue!"

With that, Zac smoothly passes the phone to Taylor, 15. He's the group's lead singer and main heartthrob, which he shrugs off.

"That's what it's about. You have fans, people come to the show. Whether they're girls or whoever, they're your fans and they're there to see the music."

And those fans want to get their attention.

"They throw all kinds of things. Once someone threw a huge box; it was really heavy and landed on the stage with a thud. We were like, 'Man, what are they throwing up there?' It's kind of a joke; we're always having to dodge flying objects. Once someone threw a huge bag of jelly beans that almost hit someone. They throw stuffed animals."

These young fans tend to dress in skimpy shirts with bra straps showing and presumably are fantasizing about Hanson in ways that are probably at odds with the band's very moral upbringing.

Taylor says briefly, "You kind of get used to all that. It's part of the package."

He's more excited about the next day's outing, a visit to the Smithsonian. "There's one thing everyone, the crew and our front band (Admiral Twin, friends from their hometown, Tulsa), wants to do, and that's see the 'Star Wars' memorabilia exhibit. It sounds pretty interesting."

So - despite this being a major tour, it really is more like a summer vacation with the family and friends?

"When we were in Detroit, we got to see the house where Motown Records began," he says. "When we're in San Francisco, we want to go to Alcatraz."

For Isaac, 17, newfound fame brings other perks to the party. "We've met a lot of cool people. We met Neve Campbell, that was very cool. And we're meeting a lot of rock 'n' roll people. Aerosmith, for instance. We've hung out with them pretty frequently."

Aerosmith frontman Steve Tyler is friends with Mark Hudson, one of Hanson's songwriters. Ironically, Hudson was also part of a brothers band in the early 1970s.

And, speaking of brother bands, Hanson was compared at first to the Jackson Five; not only were they siblings, like the Jacksons, but the peppy sound and the youthful voices were reminiscent at first of, say, "ABC" or "I Want You Back." (In fact, Hanson did a Jackson song, "The Love You Save" on "Boomerang," their first independent album in 1995.)

Isaac - who goes by Ike, usually - is unfailingly polite when asked if he ever gets scared when he sees Michael Jackson.

"I don't ever even think about that, actually. He really makes exceptional music. He continues to break barriers," he says. "We're a band, playing music we make, doing what we've always wanted to do. We get along really well. If anyone was to get weirded out, we'd all, say, chill out for a second."

As the oldest Hanson, Ike - who turns 18 in November - might be the one who wishes the boppers in the audience weren't quite so teeny. "Actually, I think most people would be surprised for the most part there are definitely younger kids there, but also a good amount of older ones. But that's not what we're focused on, really. Frankly, everyone's going to grow older. You hope everyone grows along with you."

When he's older, like, 10 years from now, Ike says Hanson will still be making music. "We might expand into other things. We're very much into producing records and all that."

Courtesy: San Jose Mercury News.