On a violently windy afternoon in Tribeca, the all-grown-up brothers Hanson—Isaac, 29; Taylor, 27; and Zac, 24—are inside the Odeon, debating how déclassé sliders are. “Tay, did you see these?” Zac asks with a laugh. “Sliiiders,” Taylor says, perplexed. “Don’t sliders just sound kind of … gross?” he ventures. “Like some sort of, like, white-trash barbecue thing, right? We kind of grew up around that, a little bit. We’ve got some redneck past … ” “Hicks!” Zac declares. “My wife’s from Alabama, and they have rednecks—we have hicks in Oklahoma. She explained this to me.”
It’s been thirteen years since the brothers from Tulsa MMMBopped their way to a fame they’re both grateful for and trying to live down. “We’ve definitely spent the last decade somewhat living a double life,” Taylor says between bites of croque monsieur. “And this is true of the absurdity of being lucky enough to succeed early: So many people know you almost more as a pop-culture reference, and it’s a blessing and a curse. When Will Ferrell is on Saturday Night Live mocking your song and it’s funny, it means people know what the reference is, which is a compliment … But there’s something about first impressions.”
They spent the last week playing five sold-out gigs at the Gramercy Theater, and have a new record, Shout It Out, out next month.
The band just released the video for the single “Thinking ’Bout Somethin’ ”; it’s a candy-colored, hip-shaking homage to fifties and sixties pop, complete with a dance routine in the streets of Tulsa based on a Blues Brothers scene, with a cameo from their friend Weird Al Yankovic. It required surmounting some old fears. “We never danced,” Taylor explains, because they didn’t want to be considered like the “boy bands.” “But the idea of the dancing here is, whether you can dance or not, you can do this,” Isaac adds. Zac pauses in a rare moment of reverie. “You can’t just sit there going, ‘This suuuucks, this suuucks,’ ” he muses. “The best way to motivate people to incredible feats is to excite and inspire them … ” To dance in the streets? “Exactly! What better way to help save someone’s life halfway around the world than to go dance in the streets with 500 of your friends?”
Chalk that up to maturity. Surprisingly, the brothers know the city: Back in 2004, when they were first starting their record label, they lived in a loft nearby on Church Street. “We feel like we earned our stripes surviving a New York winter,” Taylor recalls. “There was a 30- or 40-year blizzard or something!” Zac exclaims. “Literally, we had to stay inside for a week,” Taylor says. “We thought we’d make a fire, but then you’d have to walk five blocks carrying firewood, and by the time you got home your fingers were like the size of a sausage.”
Nonetheless, Taylor and his wife, Natalie, who’s at lunch with us, are considering moving back. (The brothers are all married with children: Taylor has four.) “I found a great school in Brooklyn!” she declares. “Our kids go to an immersion school. Right now one’s doing only Spanish, another’s doing only French. And the Brooklyn International School, they have the same program. Dan Zanes is on the board, so it can’t be bad!”
The boys discuss their precious little time away from each other. “I’m hard-core about video games, and I have another hard-core activity that I can’t talk about in public,” Zac says with a smirk. “He doesn’t want to lose his anonymity,” Taylor explains with an eye roll. “It’s this extreme sport, and it’s really growing but it has a really small community … ” “It’s curling, Zac! Just tell her!” Taylor says.
“Taylor’s the corrupting one,” Isaac says. “He’s the uncle we’ll have to worry about giving the kids, like, Heinekens.” “It’s good to lift your tolerance early,” Taylor jokes. “By the time they’re 18 they’ll be drinking us under the table.” “If I’m with my brothers, I’m drinking whiskey and smoking a pipe,” Isaac says. “It’s my wife’s fault, too.”
“Old Man Hanson,” Taylor says, sighing.