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Q&A: Hoobastank

The American alt rock band return to India with their fifth album ‘Fight or Flight’

Anurag Tagat Oct 15, 2013
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(from left) Doug Robb, Dan Estrin, Jesse Charland and Chris Hesse.

(from left) Doug Robb, Dan Estrin, Jesse Charland and Chris Hesse.

Members of Hoobastank are cooped up inside a five-star hotel and raring to get out. We meet the band’s guitarist Dan Estrin, drummer Chris Hesse and bassist Jesse Charland and ask them about their missing bandmate ”“ vocalist Doug Robb. Estrin waves off  the query saying, “He’s a bit tired. We all just got here today so he’s probably sleeping.”

Hoobastank, best known for hits such as “The Reason” and “Crawling In The Dark”, plays four shows in three cities, starting with Hard Rock Café in Pune today, followed by Hard Rock Café in New Delhi on October 16th, IIT Delhi’s annual cultural fest Rendezvous on October 18th and finally closing off by headlining the ninth edition of the Great Indian Octoberfest in Bengaluru on October 20th. They want to squeeze in as much sightseeing as possible, something they missed while being ferried across hills in Shillong, where they made their India debut in June this year.

 

How was your first time playing in India, in Shillong earlier this year?

Dan Estrin: What do you guys think?

Jesse Charland: Shillong was great.

Chris Hesse: It was cool.

Dan: I love Shillong, dude. We had a really good time. We were hanging out with the king [Pradyot Bikram Kishore Manikya, of Tripura]. All his friends and his people were great. The concert was amazing. Did we walk around anywhere?

Chris: One of the first nights, we were at his resort outside town and it was fucking phenomenal; just beautiful. And the next night, of the concert and the night after that we were in a hotel in town.

Dan: We stayed and we hung out with him a lot.

Jesse: The concert was kind of intense. We lost power halfway through and the generator shut off. It was just huge”¦

 

How long was the power gone?

Jesse: It was about half an hour. It was awkward out there.

Dan: [laughs] Yeah.

Chris: People started getting a little rowdy, started climbing fences.

 

Were you scared?

Jesse: No, but we were just bummed. Because everyone was super-excited, from what I understood. We were one of the first US bands, at least to go to Shillong and play shows. So it was just sad that happened. It was even raining and stuff.

Dan: It was raining wasn’t it? Did you film it? We have all these GoPro camera which were using to film the whole gig. I filmed the entire thing, even when the sound went down. I walked out to the crowd and the conversation and stuff. I’d like to put it all together and even the footage we’ll shoot this time and make a webisode of us in India. We’ve done ’em in Japan, Malaysia and Iraq.

 

Speaking of Japan, you guys are quite popular there, right?

Chris: I think we play once or twice a year there [in Japan].

Dan: Maybe not last year, but I don’t remember. On an average, it’s twice a year, since 2001. I think a big part of it is because Doug is half-Japanese and he’s brought it out.

Chris: The other part of it, too, is that we went there in the early part of our career, so we kinda got to”¦

Dan: Grow together?

Chris: [laughs] Yes, we grew together. It makes it a little bit more endearing.

 

Is it really tough to please that crowd?

Chris: Yeah, the crowd there is better than any crowd anywhere. It’s hard to compete with them.

Dan:  I think Japanese people just love music.

 

You guys are playing at Hard Rock Café in Pune and Delhi, and then two separate open-air festival shows in Delhi and then in Bengaluru. Are they going to be different setlists?

Dan: Now that you said that, now we will have different setlists [laughs]. We didn’t.

Jesse: Thank you for proving my point!

Dan: We didn’t, but you know what? I don’t even know if we have a straight-up setlist. We’ve been playing all those songs we’ve been rehearsing, but that was for the first time. We were playing 20 songs, thinking we were going to play for an hour and a half, but then we found we were only playing for 60 minutes, so now we gotta cut some. So maybe at one show, we’ll play “The Fallen” and such and such”¦ In Delhi, ’cause that’s special.

 

Is there any stuff? Apart from Fight or Flight.

Dan: New stuff? Nothing.

Jesse: Well, we did play like a minute of it [new songs] in Shillong. It’s this song called “The Pressure,” which we played just before the record came out, but it kinda fizzled out.

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Dan: We recorded it and it was like a B-side.

 

So there’s currently no new material in the works yet?

Jesse: When we wrote Fight or Flight, it took a year to come out. So we had this long time when it was going into mixing and we were just sitting on our butts. So we wrote new stuff, but it’s only half-fleshed out.

Dan: And shitload of ideas ”“ just guitar riffs here of a verse or a chorus idea.

Jesse: That said, we would have a headstart if we started work on a new album right now. We’re still very much on this record [Fight or Flight], trying to get that out.

 

Some artists are always surprised they have fans in India, but it’s partly because of piracy that any international band really gets a big audience in India. Is that still worth overlooking, just knowing that there are fans who want to hear you live?

Dan: [looks at Chris] We were just talking about that. The piracy thing.

Chris: I’ll tell you what, we would rather our fans download that music for free and come to the show and festivals rather than not come to the festival and pay for our music.

Dan: I totally agree.

Chris: It means a lot more to us to see them [fans] at the shows. We were just talking about it. Everybody downloads everything ”“ movies, TV shows, music. Yes, it’s a bad thing, but everybody’s doing it. So until they make it illegal, why would anybody not do it?

 

I remember listening to your albums The Reason, Every Man For Himself and For(n)ever, and when I came back to your new album, I found the last song, “A 1000 Words” much closer to your older stuff. Then I came across Dan saying that it was written five years ago. How many more songs are in the vault right now?

Dan: Well, what happened was, I went to a friend’s house for a family dinner and I borrowed his dad’s ukulele and I came up with the music part. I recorded it at home with drumbeats, and this was years ago, this is probably five years ago, and I sent it to Doug and I said, ”˜Hey can you write three different melodies for this?’ And it sat there forever. I remember playing it in the car for you guys [points to Chris and Jesse] and Doug had real scratch lyrics. I remember you guys really liked what he was saying. So I called Doug and told him, ”˜Dude, the entire band likes what you’re doing on this song, so we’re just waiting on you.’

Jesse: It’s one of the better ones on the record.

Chris: It’s my favorite to play live. It’s the slowest and sleepiest one, but I love playing it live.

Dan: It’s slightly different live too, ’cause it builds a lot more.

Chris: Japan’s the only one of the places we’ve played it and we feel like it’s one of the places where they’ll appreciate it [laughs].

Jesse: We did it as a closer before the encore.

Dan: There are tons of [song] ideas that are just there before you [points to Jesse] played with us.

Jesse: There’s an archive.

Dan: I’ve heard Doug say he’s gone back to them after not hearing them for a couple of years, and then he sees them differently and he has a different idea. You never know.

 

Speaking of doing things differently, I know you might have fielded this question before, but does the expectation from fans to make another hit song like “The Reason” or one of your earliest hits, “Crawling In The Dark” weigh down on you?

Chris: It used to.

Jesse: I’m kinda aloof from it, because I’m not really part of that thing. [Jesse joined the band in 2009, following two previous bassists] I do feel like that expectation is something other people push on the band than the band itself. You don’t think, ”˜Oh my god, I’m going to write another song like “The Reason”’ but everyone else will say that. Management will say that, fans will say that. It’s always, ”˜You guys need to write another “The Reason” and I don’t think any of us are like, ”˜Yeah, we’ll write it.’

Dan: I think we’ve always written songs like “The Reason.” We’ve always had, on every single record. If you listen to the first record [2001’s Hoobastank], there’s a song called “To Be With You.” It’s lighter than “The Reason,” more of a ballad, but it never saw the light of day, it never went mainstream. When you put out a new album, they almost demand that we have a song like “The Reason.” We did, but it’s not because we intentionally try to write a song like that. We happened to be on tour with Velvet Revolver and came up with “If I Were You” [their lead single from 2006’s Every Man For Himself]. They [record labels] said it had to be our first single, and we were like ”˜No’ but yeah, it was like people wanting to get that quick fucking dollar and we were like we were over that.

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Which was your favorite track off Every Man For Himself, though? I personally liked “More Than A Memory.”

Chris: Thank you for saying that.

Dan: It kinda goes somewhere. I don’t think we’re anywhere near the level of Led Zeppelin, but with a song like “Stairway to Heaven” or other Zeppelin songs, it took you somewhere. Even a Tool song, for example. It’s more of a journey when you listen to it.

 

What is it like living in LA, which is obviously still caught up with rock stars and celebrities? You guys are in a different popularity bracket compared to what it was even five or six years ago.

Dan: Well, I don’t know any different because I was born and raised there. I lived there my entire life. These guys moved there later on in life.

Chris: I came from a small town. Speaking for myself, I’ve thought about this before and I don’t think about it now. Like when you’re on the freeway and you see somebody driving a Ferrari. In the town that I grew up, if I saw a Ferrari, even a shitty one, I’d still be like, ”˜Oh my God!’ and probably take pictures of it. But now, you see them five times a day. You just see people everywhere ”“ actors and musicians.

Dan: If you go up to Whole Foods [supermarket], and I was there once, you could see the singer from [American New Wave band] Berlin.

Chris: The drummer of Def Leppard [Rick Allen] used to come to the nursery that I worked at. But now things have changed. I don’t think L.A is the epicenter for music any longer. There’s a shitload of music happening, but you don’t have to be in L.A. any more [to be a big musician]. Feel like there are fucking famous bands from everywhere.

Dan: I feel like the two guys who come there [points to Chris and Jesse] and the one guy who was born there [points to himself] equally don’t like it. [laughs]

Jesse: I was thinking about this the other day. I’m actually miserable in L.A. It’s only because of the volume of people there.

Dan: The type of people too. I hate it as much as I love it.

Jesse: It’s just too stressful. But being there as a music-type person, it’s the best thing possible. Tons of great material, hopefully.

 

The last time around, you played with a few Indian bands. Did you get a chance to hear any of them?

Dan: We weren’t there the whole time, but when we got there a little late.

Jesse: The band before us was doing a lot of covers. They were doing Incubus songs.

Dan: And Rage Against the Machine, I think.

Jesse: Are they a well-known band in India?

 

What was the name of the band?

Dan: See the thing is, I don’t remember the name of the band [laughs]. But I liked them. They were doing a bunch of cover songs, but the guy was singing really well.

Jesse: Are there any bands we should check out?

 

Definitely. There are a lot of great rock bands playing at the Great Indian Octoberfest, in Bengaluru.

Jesse: That’s interesting, we’ll check it out.

 

Lastly, where do you guys go after India?

Chris: After India? We have a handful of casino gigs right after we’re back from India. And after that, we’re taking a couple of months off, because Doug is having another baby. We’re supposed to go to Japan early next year.

Dan: I think it’d be cool though, man, to make India a permanent place that we come to once or twice a year, if we can. The fact that we came here the first time was awesome”¦ we got offers to come back pretty quickly. We’re pretty happy that the door is open here and to gig here again would be so cool.

 

Hoobastank India Tour

October 15th, 2013 ”“ Hard Rock Café, Pune. Entry: Rs 500 + Rs 500 (cover)

October 16th, 2013 ”“ Hard Rock Café, New Delhi. Entry: Rs 500 + Rs 500 (cover)

October 18th, 2013 ”“ OAT, IIT Delhi (at Rendezvous 2013). Entry: Free. Register here.

October 20th, 2013 ”“ JayamahalPalace Grounds, Bengaluru (The Great Indian Octoberfest). Entry: Rs 3,000 (Season pass) and Rs 1,500 (day pass). Buy tickets here.

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