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Published: Friday, 8/13/2004

As Hanson matures, so does its music


Don't call Hanson a boy band.

For one thing, the members aren't boys anymore. Zac Hanson, the drummer, is the youngest at 19, an age when many young adults are getting ready for their sophomore year of college.

The three brothers from Tulsa, Okla., own an independent record label, for which their most recent release, "Underneath," was recorded, making Zac, Isaac, and Taylor Hanson music executives before a lot of guys have their first steady jobs.

And, perhaps most importantly, after exploding onto the pop music scene with classic boy band good looks and a ridiculously infectious hit single "MMMbop," they've achieved critical respect and forged a solid career based on their talents as musicians and composers.

Where the Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync and the rest of the gimmicky acts of the mid-1990s for whom Hanson helped pave the way have fractured and lost all creative relevance, the brothers are on tour playing the music they love to fans who return the affection.

Which is just fine with Zac Hanson.

"Having critical acclaim is just the icing on the cake," he said by phone from a tour stop in Kalamazoo, Mich. "Obviously the thing that matters is the connection with your fans."

The band's quick success in 1997, when Zac was all of 12, seemed like a classic meteoric rise that was bound to quickly burn out. Most teen music phenoms have a creative shelf life of about two years.

The band has always had a strong independent bent, however, and the brothers' talent was recognized by musicians like Matthew Sweet, Jonny Lang, and Blues Traveler's John Popper, all of whom recorded with the band. And big-time songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil were eager to work with Hanson crafting songs.

The brothers took four years to record "Underneath" because a good portion of that time was spent leaving one record company and creating their own, Zac Hanson said. During that time, they wrote 80 songs, including some with Sweet, and worked on their sound.

He said it's important for the brothers to grow as people and reflect that higher level of maturity in their music, which allows their fan base to evolve with them.

"Hopefully we can take people on a journey through each stage they're going through as a person, whether it's college, or marriage, or whatever," he said.

The hysteria that surrounded "MMMbop" and the first disc - screaming girls, television performances, the usual pop mania - seemed "surreal at points," but Hanson isn't complaining.

"We'd been making music and playing shows for years at that point. Just to have something that was that successful in so many ways, you can only sit back and say, 'Wow this is amazing.' But you don't really attribute it to yourself.

"And to have the chance to speak to that many people around the world and have that many people looking to you as a musician is just an incredible experience."

The show that brings them to Centennial Terrace Sunday night is part of a summer tour throughout the country. Hanson said the band loves playing live and the brothers' passion for classic rock and roll is reflected in the shows.

To reinforce the band's music, the shows don't include any superfluous frills that accompany many pop music shows.

"You're not going to get belly dancers or pyrotechnics, and there are no Jumbotrons," Hanson said. "It's two hours of guys playing and having fun."

Hanson performs at 7 p.m. Sunday at Centennial Terrace, 5773 Centennial Rd., Sylvania. Opening the concert will be Georgia singer/songwriter Michael Tolcher. Tickets, $25, are available from Ticketmaster.

Contact Rod Lockwood at: rlockwood@theblade.com or 419-724-6085.

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