By Paul Sexton
13 December 2004
LONDON (Billboard) – Hanson is proving that there is life after teen mania.
The trio of brothers from Tulsa, Okla., scaled the pop heights in 1997 like few other acts in that decade, with global multiplatinum honors for the single “MMMBop” and album “Middle of Nowhere” (Mercury). Now, a combination of hard work, business savvy and an experienced new independent partner is creating an audience for Hanson beyond the top 40 format.
On the evidence of an acoustic London show Nov. 5 at Shepherd’s Bush Empire club, that audience comprises new admirers and original fans from the act’s teen-driven commercial heyday.
Hanson’s first album in four years, “Underneath,” was released last spring in the United States on the group’s 3CG label, distributed by Alternative Distribution Alliance. It debuted on The Billboard 200 at No. 25, its peak position.
The group has since signed a Pan-European licensing deal with London-based indie Cooking Vinyl and mounted an energetic live campaign to set up the album’s Feb. 7, 2005, European release.
“The European acoustic tour was amazing,” guitarist Isaac Hanson says. “We’re blown away by the passionate fans across Europe and the U.K., even with years between releases, so it was a great way to thank those fans for their support and, I think, inspire some new fans.”
Hanson’s November shows in London, Manchester, Glasgow and Dublin were sellouts, after which the trio moved on to play dates in continental Europe, followed by Australia, Japan, the Philippines, China and Malaysia through Dec. 9.
Cooking Vinyl has an extensive catalog of roots-oriented music, so Hanson, with its pop-oriented past, marks a new direction.
“We’re used to doing brilliant records that don’t sell, that’s our forte,” jokes the label’s managing director, Martin Goldschmidt. “This is a completely new departure for us, and it is stretching us to the limit, but it’s nice to be stretched, to be planning Europewide radio and TV campaigns and going for hits.”
Keyboard player Taylor Hanson says, “Cooking Vinyl is a company with great relationships across Europe and indie credibility, along with strong distribution and the most important thing: passion for this project.”
After leading with the “Underneath Acoustic EP” in early November, the label will release the single “Penny & Me” from the album Jan. 24 in the United Kingdom.
“So far they’ve been fantastic to work with, professional and hard-working,” Goldschmidt says. “Some of the original fans have gone away, as always happens, but some of them are definitely still there. There are a lot of Hanson fans in the media.”
Emphasizing the point, the London gig received a four-star review from the Times newspaper, which enthused about Hanson achieving “the almost impossible jump from teen poppers to credible rockers.”
Three nights later, the band played at Glasgow club King Tut’s. Michael Kennedy, a supervisor at the city’s Virgin Megastore, says, “The gig was pretty packed; there was quite a lot of interest, by all accounts. Radio stations up here will play the new stuff, on the back of ‘MMMBop,’ and say, ‘This is their new sound.”‘
Drummer Zac Hanson credits the Internet with playing a huge role in nurturing the band’s fan base during the quiet years, “especially internationally, in places we haven’t spent enough time touring.
“It has given us an opportunity not only to build a direct relationship with our fans around the world and fuel them in times of drought, but also allow them to communicate with each other and create a powerful community. Our currency with our fans has always been trust and passion, and that relationship is also our future.”