Their band doesn’t have a normal name, but the four guys of Hoobastank are normal guys. They have normal lives, they do normal things, and they have the same sense of humor as their fans. That’s why Hoobastank—guitarist Dan Estrin, bassist Markku Lappalainen, drummer Chris Hesse and singer Doug Robb—connect with them. Their songs have that intangible ability to speak for and to the things that normal kids think and feel.
“When we’re on tour and pull up somewhere, we’re wearing shorts and flip-flops, and we look like average Joes. I like that. We don’t have to make ourselves up to leave the bus,” Robb says. “We never take ourselves too seriously and we’re not afraid to make fun of ourselves. When we talk to the kids at shows, we end up talking about ordinary things. It’s not ‘fan talking to rock star.’ The band is what we have in common, but it’s not all we talk about.”
OK, they’re not completely normal, everyday guys. Their first album went platinum thanks to the hit singles “Crawling in the Dark” and “Running Away,” and they do work their asses off to get their breaks. But with their second album, The Reason, it shows that they’re songwriters of uncommon talent, with a broader palette of songs, moods, and emotions than their self-titled debut. It’s called progressing.
Formed in the mid-1990s in the Los Angeles suburb of Agoura Hills, while the quartet was still in high school, Hoobastank has since grown into a songwriting machine. Lots of time on the road has made them tight and the meticulous nature of Estrin and Robb—both of whom holed-up in their home studios, trading demos back and forth—guaranteed that The Reason’s songs would have both muscular rock and melodic finesse. According to Robb, “the heavier songs are heavier and the softer songs became softer. If the first album was sort of middle-of-the-road, this one rides on both side of the road.”
“Yeah,” adds Estrin. “Some of the songs might come off as cheesy at first when I write them, but then Doug takes them and makes them…even cheesier.”
Cheese jokes aside, the record benefited from the holistic approach of producer Howard Benson (P.O.D, Cold, and Crystal Method). “Howard focused on the lyrics and melodies and song structure, not individual parts,” Robb explains.
The album’s first single, “Out of Control,” presents the more aggressive side of the quartet. It was the last song the band recorded for the disc, and was written after they thought they were finished. The track touches on a common theme of the album.
“A few songs on this record are about religion and my complete lack of interest in it,” say Robb. “A lot of it is about asking questions or questioning all that people see. It’s not all about religion. ‘Out of Control’ was based on that and about opening your eyes after being blinded by being devoted to something. It could be about the person who devotes their life to their job and ends up feeling lost and, well, out of control.
There’s plenty of hard-ass rock on The Reason, from the torrential guitar and lofty hook of “Just One” to the blast of “Same Direction” and the near-epic “Disappear,” there’s a lot to rock about. As for the softer side, there’s the sweeping grandeur of the title track, which features a circular guitar arpeggio and Robb’s soaring vocal line, it’s an apology cum love song that they don’t make too many of these days. They also recorded a version of Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” which didn’t make the record. They were originally asked to cover it for Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo “It’s not something we want to be known for, but we’re holding it for something good. Maybe for the sequel…Deuce Bigalow, Electric Boogaloo.”
It hasn’t been all fun, games and Pro Tools, however. In August 2003, the guys were riding miniature motorcycles outside of the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach. Estrin, who bought the bike that day, was going about 10 miles an hour when he ran into a chest-high rope and hit his head on the pavement. It didn’t look that bad at first. He got up, got back on the tour bus, but it was obvious that it was getting worse, so they went to the hospital. Estrin had a tiny skull fracture, with a blood clot forming underneath it. If it hadn’t been removed that night he could have died.
The guitarist calmly explains, “It wasn’t a real motorcycle accident. If I’d been wearing a helmet, I would have gotten up and everybody would have laughed at me. My head wasn’t even five feet off the ground. It was such a joke, but it freaked me out that something that simple could cause something so serious.”
It didn’t slow him down too much though. “I’ve realized that I’m one of those people that can’t wait for things to be handed to me. When I was injured, I should have been resting and getting better, but I was working just as hard as I would have if I had been fine. Aside from canceling a few dates, I kept working.”
So in less than a month, it was back to normal. Because the music is the reason they do everything else.