The kids are all right Gentlemen: With screaming fans and wildly popular music, the three members of Hanson might be forgiven for letting it all go to their heads. But they haven't.

July 01, 1998|By J.D. CONSIDINE | J.D. CONSIDINE,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

So there I was, on the phone with Taylor Hanson -- who, with the rest of Hanson, was on a tour bus somewhere near Boston -- when suddenly, a little girl started singing in the background.

These days, it's not unusual for touring pop stars to do their interviews from a mobile phone on the band bus. Nor is it strange to hear odd noises in the background when talking to them. Sometimes it's traffic, sometimes the TV, sometimes another band member.

But a little kid? That's not your typical tour bus fare.

"Oh, well, the whole clan is with us," says Taylor, sounding very used to such things. "Who knows what's going on in the background."

By "the whole clan," Taylor, 15, isn't just referring to his brotherly bandmates, 17-year-old Isaac and 12-year-old Zac. He also means his parents, Walker and Diana, plus sisters Jessica (9), Avery (6), Mackenzie (4), and baby Zoe. The usual entourage, in other words.

That the whole Hanson family would be along for the ride as the boys set out on their first-ever American concert tour (the group plays the Nissan Pavilion tomorrow) is hardly out of character. The Hansons are home-schooled evangelical Christians whose musical career started out as a family affair and seems likely to remain one.

Maybe that overwhelming wholesomeness explains why, of all the teen sensations currently working the circuit, Hanson has attracted the least amount of controversy. Not only has the group sold more than 4 million copies of its 1997 debut, "Middle of Nowhere"; the group's ultra-catchy single, "MMMBop," topped the Village Voice's annual poll of American rock critics -- a feat that previous teen phenoms New Kids on the Block or Debbie Gibson never managed.

Moreover, the three are appallingly well-mannered and considerate. For instance, when Isaac is asked what he and his brothers would most like to see happen this year, he modestly suggests that he hopes people would continue to enjoy their music.

"We just continue to be amazed by the fact that people are embracing the band like they are," he says. "It's very, very cool. You really can't ask for much more than what has gone on."

True, there is a dark side to the Hanson phenomenon. The mere sight of the band has been known to send pre-teen girls into bouts of shrieking, crying hysteria. Parents have sometimes spent hours on line to buy tickets for their Hanson-obsessed children. There have been reports of hair-pulling, as fans argue over who's cuter, long-haired, soulful Taylor, or lean, lanky Isaac.

But the Hansons are used to fan frenzy. What they don't get is the rest of the fame game.

"It's kind of weird to even think of yourself as famous," says Taylor. "You go to all kinds of different countries, and no matter where you are in the world, people recognize you. And that's pretty weird."

Taylor is also disturbed by the way he and his brothers are sometimes misrepresented in the press. "A lot of people write things about you that really aren't you," he says. "Like you read an article that you did a week ago, and it's totally not what you said. So that kind of throws you for a loop."

Despite being occasionally annoyed at being misrepresented in the press, Taylor hardly seems thin-skinned. In fact, he and his brothers seem to have a remarkably well-developed sense of humor about their public image.

Take the time they were matched against the Spice Girls in MTV's claymation comedy show, "Celebrity Deathmatch." The gimmick was supposed to be that the three Hansons would have it out against the five Spices to determine which would be the ruling teen sensation. But before the boys could defeat the girls (or vice versa), Marilyn Manson -- who had de-

feated Charles Manson earlier on the show -- cut cables to send the arena's lighting rig crashing down on the eight combatants, "killing" them all.

"We actually thought it was really funny," says Taylor. "Our fans they were upset about it. But we thought it was hilarious." He adds that they were particularly impressed by the use of Manson, who has talked in interviews about how much he hates Hanson, to end the match.

"We thought that was creative," he says.

Besides, they understand that being the butt of jokes is, as Taylor puts it, "part of the package."

"It's kind of like if Howard Stern talks about how much your music [stinks] and makes fun of you," he says. "That's a compliment, because Howard Stern is talking about you. And besides, he makes fun of everybody."

Still, being made fun of by Howard Stern is nowhere near as much fun as finally getting to do a full-fledged concert tour. "I mean, we've been wanting to get out on tour for the last year," says Isaac. "For six or seven years, we'd been doing three shows a week. And for the last year or whatever, we hadn't been doing near as many shows.

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