Thursday, June 16, 2011

hoobastanks shadow...

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Growing up in Incubus’ shadow, Hoobastank distinguishes themselves by rocking hard their own way. by Brian Baker Since their inception in Agoura Hills, CA in the early ‘0s, Hoobastank has suffered from something of an identity crisis. When you grow up in a community where the local-band-makes-good story belongs to Incubus, and you play a similarly toned brand of shredding pop with a pummeling beat, comparisons are bound to arise. Hoobastank’s claim to singularity is an amazing sense of melodicism that transcends the volume that accompanies it and with their eponymous sophomore album the band is proving that they have outgrown the comparisons to their hometown friends and mentors.

“I’ve known them since ‘,” says Hoobastank lead vocalist Doug Robb of Incubus. “We used to see them at backyard parties and bar mitzvahs, and not coincidentally, they saw our first show in my backyard. They’ve been super good to us.”

Robb and guitarist Dan Estrin impressed each other in their respective high school bands, and in the early ‘0s decided to combine their talents in a single band. Adding bassist Markku Lappalainen and drummer Chris Hesse solidified the lineup and strengthened their resolve to avoid the crop of rap metal that was flooding the scene. Hoobastank’s first album, the self-released They Sure Don’t Make Basketball Shorts Like They Used To, was released in 18, but the band took three years to make it, and their evolution is all over the album.

“There’s a real obvious maturation on that album,” says Robb. “If you listen to it from song 10 to song 1�with song 1 being recorded in ‘8 and song 10 being recorded in ‘5�you can tell how the band was growing in a certain direction.”

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For almost two solid years, Hoobastank toured obsessively at home and across the country, building a devoted fan base. The band began the process of writing the songs for their next album last summer, intending to self-release their second indie album. Having previously shopped their first album to majors, they decided against that route for the second album, although they didn’t discourage labels from calling. After fielding a few contacts, the band settled on Island as their label. Earlier this year, they entered the studio with producer Jim Wirt, who Hoobastank met through Incubus and who produced many of the band’s early demos, and a pocketful of strong songs that have surprised a lot of the band’s longtime fans.

“We recorded six or seven songs between ‘8 and 000 that, if we had put them out, I think would have bridged that gap,” says Robb of the difference between Hoobastank then and now. “Some people think the new one sounds so different than the other one.”

The ability to write and record in a relatively short time frame coupled with a decent budget made for a more cohesive recording experience, according to Robb. He also credits Wirt with teaching the band how to “trim the fat from a song,” giving Hoobastank a leaner sonic presence in their recent opening slots with Incubus and Sum 41.

And what about the name? Robb admits that it’s a nonsense word made up by the band in high school, although they and their fans have compiled a number of explanations over the years.

“Everything from Jesus H. Christ’s middle name to a stuffed animal that you find in those little machines with a claw,” says Robb of the various versions he’s heard. “It doesn’t mean anything. Whatever it means to you is fine with me.”

SEATTLE � Hoobastank opened their spring tour with 11 Monday with all the stage presence and salesmanship of a band bursting to ditch its warm-up act status.

During their 45-minute set at the Paramount Theatre, singer Douglas Robb glad-handed the crowd at the front of the stage, hyped an upcoming show on a bill with Incubus and reminded the audience of his bands name not once, not twice, but four times. (As if you forget a handle like Hoobastank.)

That was lovely, Robb declared after several songs. It was a surprisingly Martha Stewart-ish term for a band pounding out kick-to-the-head mosh music.

On Up and Gone, from their self-titled sophomore disc, guitarist Dan Estrin and bass player Markku Lappalainen bounced and spun in unison as if theyd just earned certificates from a Motown metal school. Robb, meanwhile, spent much of the show with his feet seemingly duct-taped to his monitor. During the pummeling opener, Pieces, he balanced tall above the crowd for the entire song. For the hit Crawling in the Dark, currently resting at #5 on Billboards modern rock chart, he crouched down and threw his head back during the chorus, as if he were howling at the stars.

The Emerald City certainly supplied a sympathetic audience. Though the theater floor was only half full, half of that was ready to mosh at the drop of a drum beat. The band stuck to material from Hoobastank, though they did also resurrect Earthsick from their little-known 18 debut, They Sure Dont Make Basketball Shorts Like They Used To. Save for the rhinoceros charge of Remember Me, the show was all stomp-and-nod rhythm.

Although 11s 0-minute headlining set touched on several songs from their recent disc, From Chaos, the band also reached back through their dozen-year history for some old fan favorites, such as Freak Out from their 1 debut, Music.

Though it can be a bit jarring to see fellas from Omaha, Nebraska, toasting like they were rocking a Jamaican dance party, 11 used their reggae affection to graft good times onto rock-raps standard all-anger-all-the-time M.O. On All Mixed Up, rollicking grooving from singer/guitarist Nicholas Hexum and rapper S.A. onstage sparked loads of dancing on the floor. During You Wouldnt Believe, bassist P-Nut did such an exaggerated jig you had to look at the ceiling to be sure there werent marionette strings attached to his ankles.

Throughout the set, seizure-inducing light spectacles kept fans eyes blinking and heads spinning. Bubbles blasted the front rows during Champagne. The effects only chilled out for the pot paeans Hydroponic and Whos Got the Herb? (the latter a cover of a tune by Bad Brains singer H.R.). Then, with the crowd on the verge of slipping into the munchies, drummer Chad Sexton reeled them back with an intricate drum solo that climaxed with the other four band members laying heavily into the beat on their own floor toms.

Aside from brief song intros, Hexum and S.A. seemed to operate on a mums-the-word stage banter policy. Perhaps it was opening-night tour jitters. Or maybe they were instituting an energy conservation plan. Their high-stepping songs demanded plenty of calories to burn, particularly for S.A., who kept his rooster strut going throughout the -song show.

Read about all of the shows weve recently covered in Tour Reports.

�Chris Nelson

For more on Hoobastank and 11, check out the MTV News Archive

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