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Interview: Doug Robb of Hoobastank talks new album, touring, and "The Reason"

Hoobastank have proven themself to be a prolific band. With seven albums under their belt, the band shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Hoobastank played a show at The Paramount in Huntington, NY on July 11, 2013 as part of the Big Night Out tour.
Elise Yablon
Hoobastank played a show at The Paramount in Huntington, NY on July 11, 2013 as part of the Big Night Out tour.
Elise Yablon

Best known for their mega hit “The Reason,” the band, singer Doug Robb, guitarist Dan Estrin, drummer Chris Hesse, and bassist Jesse Charland, released their seventh album, ‘Fight or Flight,’ in September 2012.

Hoobastank is currently on the Big Night Out tour with Alien Ant Farm and Fuel.

I caught up with Hoobastank lead singer Doug Robb during the band’s tour stop at The Paramount in Huntington, New York on July 11, to discuss the tour, live music, ‘Fight or Flight,’ “The Reason,” their recent trip to India, and being yourself.

So, how has the tour been going? I know it’s only been a week…

Yeah, it’s been only a couple of days. It’s been alright.

You guys are on this “Big Night Out” tour. You’ve all had your big hits in the late 90s/early 00s…

Yeah, we weren’t signed in the late 90s, so that’s probably Fuel you’re talking about. Anyways, go ahead…

There are a lot of these tours out there right now where bands that have bands from the late 90s/early 00s have been touring together. Why do you think those have become so popular lately?

My brutally honest answer to that would be that it’s probably because touring in general, it’s not like it used to be. Just like music in general; selling CDs is not how it used to be. I feel like there’s less incentive nowadays for people to go see concerts. Obviously you still go, but you can watch 100 different concerts by your favorite band on YouTube if you want from every perspective possible. And so that kind of satisfies some of the hunger for a lot of music fans to go see bands, where in the past they would drive for hours or whatever, you know, wait in line because they wanted to see their favorite band live. Now it’s like “well, I like this band, but I can kind of watch it, you know...” So I think that’s part of it, and that kind of feeds into the whole culture of touring. But I also think that bands like ourselves and like Fuel and other bands that you were talking about that had most of their success in the past ten years, it’s kind of a way for us to get together and, I don’t know, put together shows that aren’t just… It’s like, if you’re a fan of one of the bands, you might come to the show, but if you can put three or four bands together that you are a fan of, even if it is just casual, I think it makes it a lot more enticing. I think that’s why a lot of bands do that, whereas, if they went out by themselves, it would be tougher.

To what you were saying before, there isn’t anything that beats the live experience though…

There isn’t, but that doesn’t mean that people will still substitute… I mean, there is no substitute, like, watching something on TV than there is… But, you know, when I was younger, I hadn’t seen my favorite bands period, you know. I had to track down import VHS tapes to even get a glimpse of some shows. You couldn’t just go online and find a billion shows. So going to see it live was imperative. It was something that distance, or the ticket was a little too expensive, or whatever. It wasn’t going to stop me as a fan. I was going to show up because I wanted to see it. Whereas I feel like there’s still no replacement, having… You can, like, talk to band members now, email or Twitter... you can literally be in touch with your favorite band members now. It kind of takes away the urgency to go see them live, you know, like, “oh, whatever, sorry I missed your show, you know, I didn’t want to drive three hours” or whatever it is. I just think it’s… There’s so many other ways to get to us rather than coming to actually see us.

You recently released a new album…

Yeah, it came out at the end of last year. Some of my favorite songs that we’ve ever done are on this record. It’s unfortunate by the nature of music that more people either won’t have the inclination to listen to it or just won’t get it somehow, won’t know about it, because I think some of our best work is on it.

What was the songwriting like for the album?

It was pretty much how it always is, except I think it was a little bit more collaborative within the band than usual. Sometimes it’s just myself and the guitar player, but this time it was kind of equal parts everyone. Even lyrically, which is usually something I hold close, but this time I kind of let people throw in their two cents.

It’s kind of hard to believe that “The Reason” came out ten years ago.

It’s a trip, right. That album came out in 2003… And then in 2004 is when we released that song…

That song was everywhere…

It was large, yeah. That’s crazy. I can’t believe that was ten years ago. Time flies. It may seem like a long time to you guys, but to me it seems like… I remember it like it was just yesterday.

What was it like hearing it everywhere?

I don’t really listen to the radio or watch MTV at all, so all the avenues on which I would hear it, I never heard it. But people would tell me all the time, like “It’s on! It’s on! It’s on!” And, so that’s cool.

Did you ever feel pressure to write more hits like that?

Yeah, you do. It’s hard to not, you know. When so much success happens with a certain type of song that… It’s hard to not want to go back to the well. But, the truth is that there’s no real formula to it, you know. We didn’t try to write that song, like “oh, we need to write a specific type of song,” or like that, so… All the success we’ve had with singles has been purely circumstantial, you know. It’s not like a formulaic thing. I think if you try to repeat it, it’s just not going to work.

You recently went to India.

Yeah, like, last week.

What was that experience like?

It was crazy! Took us, like, 35 hours to get there from, like, doorstep to hotel. It was ridiculous. It’s like 15 hours from LA to Hong Kong, then a 6 hour layover, then 4 hours to Calcutta, then a 6 hour layover, then an hour flight to a smaller airport, then 3 hours in a car through the mountains. It was nuts!

It’s an interesting country. Even though we were in the Northeast corner of it, really mountainous and very green, there’s so much poverty there it’s unbelievable. Yet everybody’s so friendly and so happy, you know.

But the show itself is interesting. I think the generators broke, and we had to stop the set. It was a big show too; it was like, fifteen thousand people. But everyone was great, the show went on, we finished it. I would go back again knowing now what to expect. It’s definitely a different type of touring.

Do you have any advice for new bands just starting out?

My advice has always been to find your own voice, that’s all. I know all of us, everybody who plays music at all, are inspired by other music that they listen to. But it’s important just to not try to emulate your favorite bands. Take what you can and then use your own voice, metaphorically, you know. Because if you just go out there and try to be exactly like your favorite band, then you’re never… One, new music is never made that way, and two, if you want to do it for a living, you probably won’t be able to because people will be like “these guys are a rip-off of this or of that.”

‘Fight or Flight’ is available now. To find out more about Hoobastank, and to see where they will be playing next, visit their website.

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