Wed, 28 Jan 2009 11:32:52
Hoobastank appreciate style. "You're definitely the most sharp dressed interviewer today. You've got your dud's going for sure, man," says Hoobastank vocalist Doug Robb as he compliments this writer's suit. The remark elicits laughs all around the conference table the band's sitting at. More important than their heightened appreciation for fashion, Hoobastank have a keen sense of how to create a hook. In fact, they're more adept at crafting catchy rock gems than most of their peers are, and it's "The Reason" why they're still around after almost a decade in the rock n' roll game. New hooks abound on ForNever, the band's latest opus due out January 27th.
However, ForNever is a lot more than just catchy songs. It's some of the band's most simultaneously ethereal and emotional output to date. Doug explains, "The album revealed itself to us thematically after it was done. Going over the lyrics at the end, it was very black and white. That may sound cliché, but a lot of the songs sat at polar opposite ends of the spectrum—love/hate, black/white, etc. At first, it honestly made me a little nervous. It seemed kind of schizophrenic to me. I asked, 'Do you love this person, or do you hate this person?' Since all these feelings are not directly related to particular moments, it felt okay in the end. It was very powerful emotionally—but on two sides of the spectrum."
At the same time, Hoobastank touch on some very tangible subject matter throughout the course of the album. "It is tangible because I don't think we're dealing with very exclusive emotions here. They're so universal," Doug continues. "Although there are songs that have very specific, particular meanings to me personally, a lot of the songs were taken from conversations with friends and family and stories that I thought were very emotional, deep and even tragic in some senses. 'I Don't Think I Love You' isn't about me. It's about somebody I know, and I think it's extremely sad. The story moved me enough to write about it. The stories themselves are either bummers, or they're really touching. The album doesn't dive into a lot of overly complicated emotions."
“The stories themselves are either bummers, or they're really touching.”
In order to create ForNever, guitarist Dan Estrin pushed himself even further as a player as well. He aimed for a tone that was both timeless and fresh at the same time. He says, "I pretty much used all vintage stuff to record this album. You automatically sound ten percent better if it's vintage [Laughs]. You just do. I didn't want it to sound like what we had done before." Drummer Chris Hesse follows, "I think we challenged ourselves more. We second-guessed the shit out of everything."
The band's first video for "My Turn" also shows a different side of them. It's both funny and refreshing. "That side of us is probably truest to who we are on a regular basis," says Doug. "It's not something we show a lot of people. People that hang around us, even for a little bit, realize the only thing we take seriously is the music. Everything else is fair game for a joke. The video shows that side. I don't even know if it's something that we'd want to explore. We're so goofy half of the time, at least with each other, that if we were like that all the time, as far as how people saw us, we could be like the next Weird Al Yankovic."
"So you're saying we'd have a killer career and we'd still be touring after 20 years?" Dan laughs, and everyone else in the room follows suit.
They don't necessarily need to go the Weird Al route because Hoobastank are already well on their way to solidifying a legacy of their own. When asked about the story behind "Sick of Hanging On," Doug laughs. "The guy's named Zach. He's a great friend of Dan's, since infancy. He's basically his cousin. He starts the story, and I think, 'God, that has happened to me so many fucking times.' He's going out with this girl. The girl breaks up with him. He hangs out with her because she still wants to hang out. Watching him go through that was brutal. I just wanted to grab him and go, 'Fuck, dude! Leave!' When you're going through it, you're stuck waiting in limbo. That's lyrically where the song came from."
Hoobastank have created some sonic stories that allow the listener a reward for coming back for more. "Music now is like a commercial," Doug sighs. "The mentality is, 'We have a 30-second spot we bought. What kind of shit can we throw in there to make people remember what it is?' People want instant gratification right now, from food to everything—the faster, the better. Anything done really fast isn't conducive to quality. The reason we're still here—I don't know. Either we're really smart or we're really lucky—or both."
In the end, Chris puts it best though, "Good music is good music. I like to think that. I might be idealistic. If you're a good band and you keep putting out good music, you're going to be okay." Thankfully, good tunes are always in style.