Mon. Mar 4th, 2024

Fight Or Flight? An interview with Doug Robb from Hoobastank.

Every so often a band comes along that for whatever reason, really makes an impact on their fans and radio in general. Hoobastank is one of those bands. After paying their dues for years, the band finally had that break-through success with their hit Crawling In the Dark. They followed that up with an even more successful release in Running Away. In 2004, The Reason was released as a single. That song really vaulted them towards the top of the Billboard charts, scoring them their first number one single on the Modern Rock Charts. Since then, the band has sold over 10 million records and continued to spread their brand worldwide. Recently, Hoobastank released their newest effort, Fight Or Flight. It’s a great album, and features their new single, This Is Gonna Hurt.

Stream the entire Doug Robb interview below:
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Joining me today is Doug Robb. Doug is the vocalist of Hoobastank. First off, thank you so very much for joining us today, and welcome to the UnsungMelody.Com family. We’ll get started talking a little about the new album. It’s titled Fight Or Flight. Album titles are always one of the toughest things for a band to settle on. Give us a little insight into Fight Or Flight.

It was a working title for a song on the record called, No Destination. Honestly, I’m a fan of albums that have titles that are actual songs. So, that was one of the first criteria where I thought, ”Oh, okay, this could be cool.” I just thought the phrase “Fight Or Flight” was kind of neat. Honestly, when we were all choosing the name, we all thought, well it’s a song on the record, it falls off the tongue. The more we thought about it, the more we were asked about it. Meaning really just started popping up. We’ve been doing this for a long time, and have had all the ups and downs of any band you can name. I feel like we’re at a point, as a band, when I think of the title now where, do we fight on, or do we retreat a little bit? Obviously in this case, we’re moving forward. That’s what I think of now, when I think of the title. The long journey that we’ve been on. You come to a fork in the road, and you have to make a choice.

I felt that maybe, there was a little bit of that meaning behind it.

I think it kind of feeds into it a little bit. Like I said, the more we thought about it, we’re going yeah. There’s been a lot of changes externally, as well as internally, and this was certainly a pivotal point. It’s not the same as it used to be. Do we evolve and keep going, or do we call it a day?

You guys ended your relationship with your former label Island Records. The industry itself is in a tailspin, unfortunately. You’re doing it as sort of an “Indie” band now. How has that experience been for the band so far? Also, how important is a label to a band in this day and age, with all the social media available?

What’s strange is, I don’t really feel like an indie band. I’m not even sure what that means, to be honest with you. I know technically, it means you are not on a major record label. We took an interesting route, and formed a partnership with something that is now called Open E Entertainment. It’s hard to say indie, because right or wrong, the first thing that I think about when you say indie is like, “Well, you don’t have the big money to push you that a major label would,” to advertise, or do whatever. You don’t have that monetary backing that a band on a major label would. At least, right or wrong, it’s my initial reaction. I feel like in our case, we still have a substantial amount of backing, if need be, BUT we also have the creative control that I feel comes along with being “independent.” That’s really something that is refreshing. Not that we didn’t have creative control on Island, but there’s a lot of decisions that are made on your behalf that you may not realize on a big label. Honestly, it could be just that you are so busy. You might be touring a lot, there’s a lot of choices in things. From artwork, to whatever, to video directors, are chosen on your behalf because you are part of this big machine, where they have a way of doing things, and that’s the way it’s going to be. Whereas now, every minute detail comes across our table. We have to say yes or no. Obviously, there are a lot of things from the past, that maybe you had never had to think about. You have to bring up to management and say, this needs to be done, this needs to be done, and this needs to be done. How do we do it? You just have to take more responsibility for the band as a whole, which is nice. It’s kind of a throwback to when we weren’t on a big label, and we did everything ourselves.

That would have to be refreshing to be able to do a lot of the things that you maybe didn’t have the chance to do before.

Right. It’s nice to be able to live and die by your own decisions, rather than go, “Man, I wanted to put this single out, but the label was so persuasive about it, they made us go this route. I like it, but it’s not how we wanted to do it. I just wish we could’ve done it our way.” There’s definitely none of that anymore.

This Is Gonna Hurt is the first single. The video is one of my favorites this year. Where on earth did the concept for that one come from?

The video treatment went through a few different stages. Originally, it was going to be in the vein of the movie Falling Down with Michael Douglas in it. Where he’s basically this disgruntled office worker, who just kind of loses it and goes on a rampage through L.A. Listening to the music, it sounds like a break-up song. So, we didn’t want it to be like guy breaks up with girl, and yadda, yadda, yadda. We’ve always been fans of videos that don’t exactly line up visually with the lyrics. We haven’t done that all the time, but we’ve always been fans of that. There was some debate within the band. We decided that if we wanted the video to be a different visual from what you hear in the song, then let’s go completely to the other side of the spectrum. Making something like Mr. Rogers Neighborhood or something. Something totally off the wall. I feel like, after much debate, that was the middle ground. It’s going to be dark, but it’s going to be kind of ironically funny and strange in a way. It’s the same concept, this guy hates his job and goes crazy, but his job happens to be being a giant puppet on one of these kids shows. I won’t lie, I have a two year old daughter now, and we watch Yo-Gabba-Gabba quite frequently. So, it seemed like a perfect fit.

I read the story about the song Magnolia. How the whooshing sound in the beginning is actually an ultrasound of your daughter’s heartbeat. As a parent myself, I know that each and every time you hear that song, you get a big old cheesy smile on your face. How has being a parent changed your perspective when it comes to writing?

I think it’s freed me a little bit, to be honest with you. I don’t want to say this in the wrong way, but the parents will understand. I don’t want the hardcore music fan to go, “WHAT?!” I feel like up until being a parent, music was my baby. It was the single most important thing. You put everything into it. You were always riding on it. If I don’t make this song a hit, or to the best that I can, what else is there? I just think now, with my daughter and having a family, it just plays second fiddle to it. It’s like, if tomorrow all of a sudden I didn’t have a voice, if I couldn’t speak, I woke up and just couldn’t talk anymore…I’d still have my daughter, and that’s okay with me. I think that attitude has freed me up musically. It’s allowed me to take a little bit more risks, because if things don’t work out, whatever.

It’s really freed you from the stress of writing, and it’s put you at ease as to who you are, where you are, and what you’re going to be.

Yes, that’s exactly what it is. Having her in my life was a huge part of that. Like I said, if I couldn’t sing tomorrow, I’d still be a dad. That’s awesome.

We are always looking to interact with our readers and let them know that they are as big a part of our site, as we are. I was waiting on the perfect band to pull ideas from our readers. Since you guys have sold over 10 million records in your career, I figure you’d be the perfect band to sort of share with our fans. I have a few questions from them that I want to drop in here.

The first one comes from a twitter follower. Forgive me if I butcher anyone’s name here.
Guido Polinessi (@GuidoPolinessi) asks: Are you guys ever going to play any of the songs from the “Basketball Shorts” album?

Well, that album was the first thing we ever recorded. It was never recorded as a whole album. It was recorded in chunks. Not like when you go in and record 10 songs, then release an album. It was basically demos. We’d scrounged up enough money to do two songs, then a couple months later, we’d do two more, and so on. Eventually, we had enough material to put on one cd to sell. Honestly, only our hardcore fans know about that cd, because we sold probably 2000 total out of our trunks, and a few on the internet. Right when the internet was just being born really. I don’t know, I bet if we went into practice and somebody asked us to play a song, we probably couldn’t get through a song because it’s been so long since we’ve played it. I don’t know when that opportunity is going to pop up. (laughter as Doug’s daughter Maggie makes an appearance.) I don’t know when that opportunity is going to arise again.

She made an appearance on the podcast, I like it.

Yes she did. She’s wearing a Metallica T-shirt.

Awesome, awesome. Raise her right. (laughter) I chose that question because I felt it would be a hardcore fan question.

Yeah, I feel like we have so much material to play, and so many fans that want to hear so many things, that the opportunity to play a song off of something so old that maybe one person would recognize it, the chances are going to be few and far between. I do think it would be a lot of fun, if we could.

Dolly Downing asks: Which of your songs are you most inspired by?

Oooff…that’s a good one. I don’t know. I think there were a couple songs on our album, Every Man For Himself, that I still really enjoy, and enjoy listening to. One is The First of Me. The other one was moving forward. The First of Me encompasses where I was at the time, but honestly, just how I feel in general. People are always trying to mold you into the next so and so. I remember reading a review from the last album, saying, “Oh my God, they’re the next Journey.” I’m like, that’s great, but everybody knows how that feels. You’re yourself, and to put you in a box, a mold, before you even have a chance to have a say, is a frustrating thing. The song turned out really well. Those are a couple of my favorites. Obviously, Magnolia on this latest record, like you said, always brings a smile to my face, even when we’re playing it live. It’s kind of hard to conceal my smirk.

Oh, Dolly also wants to know if you guys will play her daughter’s 16th birthday party. Hey, I just relay the questions. Don’t shoot the messenger here!

I can just wish her a Happy 16th Birthday from here, right?

That’ll work. Alright, I always end on a random question. So, here goes yours; I thought I’d pose the question in your album title. So, here’s a scenario for ya. Chuck Norris is glaring at you from across the room, he meets you in the alley and wants to fight. Fight Or Flight?

I think I’d laugh at first. (laughter) But, then it’s definitely a flight. Because, I’ve made it my entire life without ever being in a fight. I’ve never thrown a punch at anybody in ill will. I’m going to throw a little disclaimer in there, that my older brother does not count. (laughter) I have thrown some punches at him when I was young. Like single digit young. But besides that, I’ve never been in a fight. I’ve been able to either walk away, or diffuse any type of situation where physical violence was imminent. Whether it’s through humor, or negotiating or something. I don’t know if that’s a great quality or not. At the same time, I don’t feel like I’ve compromised any of my principles either. So, I think that’s a good thing. I would definitely say flight, then I’d ask Chuck Norris about his hairpiece.

That would be a really good question, but then you’d better be able to run is all I can tell ya. (laughter)

Doug, I thank you so very much for your time. The site and myself, wish you and the band absolutely nothing but the best. Hopefully, we can catch a show sometime soon.

Hoobastank members:
Doug Robb – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Dan Estrin – Lead Guitar
Chris Hesse – Drums
Jesse Charland – Bass, Backing Vocals

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Check out the video to This Is Gonna Hurt by Hoobastank below: