Q&A: Taylor Hanson Talks New Album, Old Songs and Tie-In Products

The middle Hanson brother chats with TIME

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Taylor Hanson
Jason Merritt / Getty Images

Taylor Hanson at the 2013 MTV Movie Awards on April 14, 2013 in Culver City, Calif.

Yes, that’s as in Hanson, the Oklahoma-bred trio that’s now in its third decade of pop-music production. Middle brother Taylor, 30, is still making music with Isaac and Zac: their latest album is out June 18, and that’s not all they’ve got going on. He recently spoke with TIME.

TIME: I wanted to ask you about the album title  — why Anthem?

TAYLOR HANSON: Picking an album title is always somewhat treacherous because you have to live with it forever. When making this album there were several themes which we could never put aside, and one of them was the sense of size, that the whole album had this sense of being an album that we felt was meant for an audience. Sometimes you write a song and it just feels epic. Or you imagine it in a certain type of venue and you can hear the voices of the audience singing along.

So is this album more epic than your past work?

We hope so. The other aspect of the word anthem, if you look at the definition, it’s an uplifting song. And what better message to send when you’re putting out an album? Our goal has always been to write and create songs that become anthems for others.

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How does producing your own work affect what you end up making?

It’s much like the question of how does running your own label affect what you come out with. It requires a discipline where you force yourself to genuinely be your worst critic — which, most of the time, can be very painful. As the record label-producer-artist, you’re wearing three different hats on — and the ultimate question has to be, is this the best song? You can’t let one hat outweigh the others. It’s challenging, but the thing that I find now more than ever, as a resource, is the ability to really pull on your experience.

I have to ask you about “MMMBop.” What are your feelings about the song today?

I’m proud of it, more proud now that ever.

How often do you hear the word? Every day?

It comes up very often, let’s say that. Thankfully, it’s a calling card we’re not embarrassed of, and never have been, because it’s our song. It’s three young brothers that performed in a garage and recorded this very simple song that then became a little more shiny and polished and was heard by millions of people. When we perform it now and we see people singing it, it has a whole different life and we’re more proud of the fact that it has maintained a kind of freshness.

It was just in Hangover III.

Exactly. Which we love.

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How did you decide how many Ms would be in MMM?

We were very specific about that actually. There is the quality that there’s three of us, which is always kind of nice, and it’s a timing thing. The rhythm feels like three.

Doesn’t that change with the tempo?

No. Even if you speed it up, the percentage which the MMMs are lasting is the same percentage it would be in a shorter time. Basically it’s math.

That’s very well thought-out.

It’s funny, like, “isn’t ‘MMMBop’ just a throw-away thing?” But, like a lot of stuff in our wheelhouse, we’re craftsmen first.

Speaking of craft, you now have a beer called Mmmhops. Have you had this idea from the beginning, just waiting for the right moment?

I won’t say it’s not somewhat calculated that we’re releasing it the year of the band’s 21st birthday. It really genuinely resonates to say to yourself, oh my God, Hanson’s 21?! Here’s a beer! I’m in the band and even I think, talking about it with other people, when you say to somebody, ‘that’s my age,’ all the sudden when you go “we’ve got a beer, it’s called Mmmhops,” people’s brains just squeeze and release, like, “what are you saying?” I think there’s something about the association that freaks people out. We  do lots of other side products—we make Hanson games and we roast Hanson coffee and we do all kinds of little things that cater to the most passionate fan When we began to pursue this particular idea, it just resonated at a higher frequency than any other particular idea had. And people are genuinely excited about it.

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You could have a whole line of products that rhyme with bop.

It’s probably other beers—if this goes as well as we hope—that are references to other songs. We take our music very seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. So we joked about a pilsner and we have a song called “Penny and Me” so “Pilsner and Me.” Or “Where’s the Lager?” Again, if the beer is great, then we feel like that ultimately will win out. That’s what we want, the same way you want people to love your song. You might like the idea of the band, but once you actually see a show or hear a record, do you go “wow, this is really solid”? It’s the same thing with beer. It can’t survive by the kitsch alone.

Do you have any plans for your other band, Tinted Windows?

We’ll probably be doing some writing this summer. The short answer is yes, there are some Tinted Windows plans. It’s a side project for everybody, so it fits in in between.