By Lori Majewski
It's a week before Thanksgiving, and the members of Hanson-Isaac, Taylor and Zachary-are really, really busy. How busy? So busy that they're contemplating doing their Christmas shopping aboard a 747 during their next transatlantic flight. "We can just buy all the duty-free stuff on the plane," says Zac, 12, leaning back in his chair in a Miami dressing room.
"Yeah, but it's all crud-unless you want perfume or cigars," says Ike, one day shy of his 17th birthday.
Judging from the frequent-flier miles the brothers Hanson are racking up these days, the airlines would be wise to expand their duty-free selection to include sneakers, CDs and video-game cartridges. In the past week, the platinum-selling siblings have flown from Paris to Amsterdam to Los Angeles to Miami. Their schedule includes playing in radio festival concerts (like the one scheduled for today), presenting at MTV's Europe Music Awards and taping their ABC prime-time special, "Meet Hanson." That doesn't leave much time to recover from jet lag.
But like three Energizer bunnies, the boys from Tulsa, Okla., just keep going -- and with few complaints. "A lot of people don't get to leave the country or even their own state," says 14-year-old Taylor. "So for us to get to see so much of the world is pretty amazing."
As their home video "Tulsa, Tokyo & the Middle of Nowhere" documents, the band has done some serious globe-trotting since hitting it big last spring with the album Middle of Nowhere. These days, it's hard for them to pin down their favorite country. "Bali is, like, oh-my-God!" yells Zac.
"Yeah, but Italy is really cool," counters Taylor, "for the girls and for the food."
"And Australia is really, really cool," adds Ike.
All three agree, though, that there isn't an exotic local on earth that can compete with the comforts of home: friends, family and paintball. Unfortunately, they don't get to enjoy the simple pleasures all that often. "We were home for a couple of weeks not too long ago," says Taylor. "But that's the longest we've been home for the last year."
If they're a little homesick, you can hardly blame them: Conditions on the road are less than comfortable. Today the band's dressing room, which is actually a trailer behind the stage, is practically bare except for a mirror, four folding chairs and three Hanson brothers. Although it's nearly 85 degrees on this November morning, the windows are shut tight and sealed with green plastic for privacy. The only reminder that there's life outside is the fans' steady chant of "Hanson! Hanson!"
"Why do girls scream?" Zac asks. "We need to know."
Probably because just moments earlier Zac threw open the dressing room door and did his best to stir up a group of girls waiting on line to get into the venue. "He loves to drive 'em crazy," says Taylor, rolling his eyes. Think of Hanson as modern-day Three Musketeers: All for one and one for all. The brothers spend almost every hour of every day together. They eat together (fried chicken today -- the guys love fast food), go through sound checks together and sign autographs together. They do interviews as a group. And don't even consider taking a picture of just one of them. "We don't take solo shots because we're a band," insists Taylor.
The only time you'll catch the boys alone is at night, when they retire to separate hotel rooms. Doesn't hanging out together all the time get to be a bit much? "People always stress about that," says Ike. "They're like, 'Don't you feel deprived of individual time?'"
"[When we're at home] it's not like we go, 'Okay, I'm going to go hang with my friends now,'" says Taylor.
"We're always around each other," says Zac, "even when we don't have to be."
Around noon, the boys barrel out of the dressing room to rehearse "Run Rudolph Run" to the shrieks of thousands of Hansonheads who arrived at the park early. (They're not scheduled to perform until 5:30 p.m.) Close behind is their dad, Walker Hanson, a former international finance exec for an oil-drilling company, who travels with the band and captures their every step with his video camera. (He shot a lot of the behind-the-scenes footage in "Tulsa, Toyko & the Middle of Nowhere.") The rest of the family -- sisters Jessica, nine, and Avery, seven, and brother Mackenzie, four -- would normally tag along, too, but today they're home with their mom, Diana, who's seven months pregnant with a seventh Hanson sibling.
With (almost) seven children it could get pretty competitive in the Hanson household-or so you might think. But Ike, Taylor and Zac swear that's not the case. "I would never really say we're competitive," says Ike. Unless, of course, you're talking video games.
"Zac's the best at video games," says Taylor.
"He kills us," adds Ike.
"That's because I've been playing since I was three," Zac says. They're even diplomatic when dishing out assignments for lead vocals.
Although Taylor is widely regarded as the band's lead singer, the threesome insists that Hanson has no such thing. Asserts Taylor, "Whoever sings a song best sings lead -- that's it."
Nearly six hours after teasing the crowd at the sound check, Hanson takes the stage for the half-hour set. As the guys walk to their places, the crowd erupts into a loud rendition of "Happy Birthday to You" in honor of Ike's 17th.
Earlier backstage, Ike received his presents from his little brothers: 17 birthday punches. What will he wish for when he blows out the candles tomorrow? "Our own tour," he says. "A full, 90-minute set of our own songs. Because that's what it's all about, really: playing our music."