May 25, 2018 Interview – Dan Estrin of Hoobastank
Back in the early 2000s, long removed from the Grunge movement, the Rock scene was feeling a bit stagnant. Filled with copycat and nondescript acts, Hoobastank emerged from Southern California with an energetic, fresh sound that helped give Hard Rock a new identity. Attacking the airwaves in 2001 with songs such as “Crawling in the Dark,” “Remember Me,” and “Running Away,” their sound/style was a much needed shot of adrenaline for the scene, thus capitulating Hoobastank into stardom. Attaining platinum selling status with their self-titled debut, the stakes were even higher in 2003, and their follow-up, The Reason, would not only affect Rock, but make them a household name across the board.
Now, nearly 2 decades since their emergence into the spotlight, Hoobastank are still going strong, returning with their fifth studio album, Push Pull, out on May 25th. Their first studio record in 6 years, seasoned vets, the band continues to evolve artistically without reservation. Recently we caught up with key songwriter and guitarist, Dan Estrin, to talk the success of the band, the work put into Push Pull, plans for touring, plus much more.
CrypticRock.com – Hoobastank built a great deal of success in the early 2000s with platinum-selling albums. Now over two decades since the band initially came together, what has the experience been like for you?
Dan Estrin – It’s been amazing. We had a lot of success in the early 2000s on the first two records that was mainstream, television, and all over the world. We were young guys, that happened to us, we didn’t expect that, and we didn’t even know that could happen! We got to roll with artists such as Kanye West, before he is the Kanye West he is now, as well as The Black Eyed Peas. Whatever we did was working! Times change, the music scene changes, the world changes, and new artists come up – there is new sounds and new music. We have had our ups and downs, I think where we are at now is, we are really stoked that we have had this career in music. We can still do what we do without having to go get 9 to 5 jobs – we can create music the way we want to do it because we have done what we have in the past.
It’s just different, things are just different now. It’s still pretty rad that we are now 20 years older. We can still have our cake and eat it, then come home to be with our friends and family for much longer periods than we ever were. Some of the guys have kids and are married, we just don’t enjoy being away from home as much as we used to. It kind of works out for us because we go away for a couple of weeks or a few days at a time, then we come home for a couple of weeks at a time. It’s been a roller coaster and we all love roller coasters, there has been highs and lows. At the end of the day now, in 2018, when I stand on a stage with these guys in Peru with 50,000 at a festival, I just look over and see the singer who I have been friends with since we were kids! It hits me, the reality of it all, and I am extremely appreciative of what I have and everything we have been through – whether it is what it is now or what it was then.
CrypticRock.com – It has been a wonderful run of success. When you look at the band’s rise of success first with your self-titled debut in 2001 and The Reason in 2003, many would argue that you were doing something a bit different at the time with Alternative Hard Rock. Was it important for the band to create something uniquely their own and standout from the crowd, or were you doing your own thing and not really thinking about it too much?
Dan Estrin – We didn’t think about it as much as maybe you just said it. I never really thought about it to be honest with you, so it’s a nice thing to hear. The first record specifically, we had our whole lives to write that album for the most part. There was a young energy that just comes off on the album. We were young, excited, and it was new! It was different.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and it is something special to look back on. When we spoke with Doug back in 2013, he reflected that no one really ever picked the song “The Reason” as a 1st single for the album – maybe a 2nd or probably a 3rd single. What was your reaction when you saw that song take off like it did and really open the band up into a whole new mainstream fanbase?
Dan Estrin – It was weird, it was like baby steps. When the first record came out, that was our first experience of hearing our music on the radio, seeing our videos on MTV, and going on MTV. All these things that we got to do on the first record, by the time we got to the second one, we were in a position where we said, “We want to maintain this and keep it going.” No one picked “The Reason” to be the first single off the record. We were sitting in a big meeting with our record label playing the album for them for the first time. We got to that song, you could just see everyone’s faces of all the heads in the company, and by the time it got to the third chorus, they were singing it! That is pretty rare that you can start singing a song the first time you hear it.
They said, “This is going to be big!” We brushed it off saying, “Cool, we are stoked that you are into it, but whatever, if it happens it happens. We are not going to get our hopes up.” Then it just started happening. We saw our manager at a television performance and he has this smirk on his face, and we said, “What?” He just told us you guys sold 90,000 records this week, 100,000 last week, and they are projecting another 90,000 next week! At that time that was huge, we were selling 90,000-100,000 records for weeks on end. That was a big deal, I just remember having this, “Holy shit! This is happening!” feeling.
We made the video for the song, and that took off and it was everywhere. I would be in the mall on a day off on tour, I would walk into a store such as a skate shop, they would have TVs on and there’s the song was playing. It was just nuts, everywhere we went, there was the song! There was people who knew the song, there was people that didn’t know the band name, but there’s “The Reason,” they thought we were called The Reason. Yea, it was crazy.
CrypticRock.com – Wow, that is all really wild! Fast forward to present day, the band is back with Push Pull, your first studio album in 6 years. What was the writing and recording process like this time?
Dan Estrin – The writing process usually starts with me and Jesse (Charland), who are creating the music and bringing the music ideas to the other guys. We all have equipment at home, and over the years, we just casually make our music. I will sit at home, come up with a guitar idea, start dressing it up with drums, bass, or whatever else I need, send it off to Doug, he starts writing lyrics and a melody, next thing you know we have this idea, the outline for a song.
For this particular album, we did it that way, but then when we entered the studio with the producer, Matt Wallace, everyone just went to their own room in the studio with their own equipment to come up with ideas for songs. Then we would reconvene in the master room with all those ideas and see what we felt work the best in the songs – some stuff we would keep, some stuff we wouldn’t. It was just a completely different way to make a record for us. I am not saying it was great, I am not saying it was bad, it was just different. That is kind of how it went down.
CrypticRock.com – The end result is very good. This is quite a diverse record with various styles throughout. Overall, the feel, musically, is upbeat. Was that the tone you were going for?
Dan Estrin – I don’t know, I don’t think so. I don’t think we had a conscious thought as far as – let’s do this or that – as far as tempos and the feel. I just know we wanted to approach it differently and have it be obvious that it was something for us that sounded different, I think that we have accomplished that. We are not going to sit here and say we nailed it, and we have this hit record, we just wanted to make music.
The story I told you about the record company back in the days talking about “The Reason,” all that shit gets into your head the more people say it. You start to write music with voices in your head, at least we did. It’s hard not to when you have people that are funding everything and supporting you say, “This is going to be huge!” or, “You need another song like ‘The Reason’ or ‘Crawling in the Dark.'” After a while, I hope people understand why you would bite the carrot dangled in front of you, because things are working. At some point we said, “We don’t have those voices in our head so much anymore, let’s not be concerned about that.” Let’s not try to focus on, “Is this the best line or lyric to get us on the radio?,” We are not doing that, if you like it cool, if you don’t, that’s cool too.
CrypticRock.com – That is the way to be – stay artistically true to your vision. Amidst it all, you guys do a really cool cover of Tears for Fears’ “Head over Heels.” What prompted the decision to cover this track?
Dan Estrin – We had always talked about doing a cover song on an album. While we were in the studio with Matt Wallace, we were talking about it, so what we did was all 5 of us, the 4 members and Matt, all choose 10 songs we personally loved or would like to cover. “Head over Heels” was one that came up in it. There was 50 ideas, and we graded them 1 to 5, added it up, and it worked out that was the song. It was almost was “Crazy” by Seal.
CrypticRock.com – Interesting. It seems “Head over Heels” worked well as the selection and mixed well with the rest of album.
Dan Estrin – As you said, there is diverse music on this album, and we are 100% aware a song like “More Beautiful” or “Push Pull” sound nothing like or first 2 records, or even our 3rd record. We understand, and we honestly know we are going to alienate some people, and that’s a bummer to us. At the same time, if you are stuck in 2003-2004, and that is the only music you care about, there is plenty of that music out there, just go listen to it. We want to grow, evolve, and be able to try whatever we want to do.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and progression is important. Speaking of growth, you have exhibited that over the years. For example, 2012’s Fight or Flight showed that growth. The last song on the record, “A Thousand Words,” could be one of the most beautiful songs the band has ever recorded.
Dan Estrin – Thank you! We used to play that song live, in Japan specifically, because they loved it. The way we play it live is a bit more of a journey. It starts off the way it starts, but then we get heavier toward the end, more epic and climative. I have always wanted to do a proper live recording of that. It’s the same song, but a slightly different journey.
CrypticRock.com – That would be interesting to hear. With Push Pull, each song sounds different, and that is a good thing. That said, with this new album out, can we expect more tour dates to be announced?
Dan Estrin – We would like that. We are trying to get some stuff going on now or for the future. We do have some more stuff lined up that we haven’t released yet. There has been some discussion about some package tours. Some of them just have not worked out because financially they didn’t make sense. I don’t say that because we weren’t going to make a ton of money. It was simply, if we were going to do it, we were going to have to pay out of our own pocket, because it costs a lot of money to tour.
We are trying to work on things now and hopefully we have some stuff. We have this new album and we really want to get out. If the right thing comes along, if it’s an investment in our band, we will go out for a month if that is what makes sense. We love touring, we love being together, and love playing shows, it’s just, we get a little accustomed to being home because we are home so often now.
CrypticRock.com – That is very understandable. Once you get into that “home mode,” being with family, kids, whatever it may be, it is hard to want to leave that.
Dan Estrin – Well, I have had anxiety my entire life, it is something I have dealt with my entire life before I ever had anything. It makes it harder to leave, and I have a dog, a girlfriend, a family here, so I get emotionally attached to them. It’s painful to leave, even if it is for 2 days. A couple of the other guys, Doug and Chris, they now have kids and are married. I know they love going away, but it’s very hard. Even people without anxiety, I feel get sick to their stomach leaving their kids. The three of us are kind of like that, but we are super down to go. Once we are out, we are stoked!
CrypticRock.com – Yes, that makes complete sense. Hopefully we will see more shows announced in support of the new album soon. Last question, CrypticRock also covers Horror and Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of these genres, do you have any favorites?
Dan Estrin – I have always said I like Horror movies, but I like it if it could be possible. Something that can really happen. I like suspense, I don’t like Horror movies that are gory just to be gory. I want to see something that scares the shit out of me because it can really happen. Something that scares me because I’ve been through it. If it’s a Horror movie that’s like that, fuck yea! The ones that are bloody to just be bloody and gross, I can go find that in 2 minutes on the internet.
CrypticRock.com – Right, sometimes the overly graphic Horror films lose their effect.
Dan Estrin – Yea, and Sci-Fi, I sometimes believe it’s Science Faction.
CrypticRock.com – A lot of it is. A lot of what you see in older Science Fiction movies. that seemed far-fetched at the time, becomes a reality 20 or 30 years later.
Dan Estrin – I think it’s because the human race has been in touch with an alien race since forever ago and it has been kept a secret to the mass population.
CrypticRock.com – Let’s put it this way, if we were to think we are the only lifeforms in all the galaxies out there, which there are many, that would be pretty narrow-minded.
Dan Estrin – Yes, I think there is intelligent life out there beyond us who knows exactly who we were. We are definitely not at the top of the mountain, there has to be something way smarter than us.