“Yesterday I’ve learned from/Tomorrow is uncertain/So why can’t I just/Make my turn today.”
When a band has as much success as Hoobastank, the motivation to top itself must come from within, and that renewed desire can be heard from the very first notes of “My Turn,” the first single from the band’s fourth Island Def Jam Music Group album, Fornever.
The track, a self-motivational anthem that marks the band’s return to the airwaves in a big way, was #1 Most Added at both Active Rock and Alternative with an alphabet soup of the country’s leading stations putting it in their rotation.
“We’re very hungry this time,” says vocalist/songwriter Doug Robb of the band, which came together in 2001 when he joined with Agoura Hills high school classmates, Dan Estrin on guitar and Chris Hesse on drums. “Maybe there is a chip on our shoulder, because we have that fire in the belly again. We’re ready
to do whatever we have to in order to get back to where we want to be. Even if we won’t come out and
Fornever was once again produced by longtime collaborator Howard Benson, who helmed the band’s last two albums, 2006’s gold-certified Every Man for Himself and 2004’s two-million-plus selling The Reason.
The latter earned three Grammy nominations, including Best Rock Album as well as Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group for the title track, an international smash which went to #1 at Modern Rock, Adult Top 40 and Top 40 Mainstream and #2 on the Hot 100. The song was featured on the final episode of Friends, where it was heard by an audience of tens of millions, as well as on The OC. In fact, the song was so huge, it tended to overshadow the band itself. The band’s self-titled debut, released in 2001, was also a million-seller, producing a pair of Top 40 Mainstream hits in “Crawling in the Dark” and “Running Away.”
“We’ve accomplished everything we’ve ever dreamed about, including platinum albums, touring the world and getting nominated for awards,” says guitarist/songwriter Dan Estrin. “But getting a chance to do it all again is really exciting. We all have brand-new eyes and ears going into this, as well as an appreciation for what we’ve been through.”
Fornever, an album Robb describes as “about either the best aspects of relationships…or the worst. It’s either ‘I love you’ or ‘I hate you,’ and ‘What am I doing here?’ captures that return to the band’s bold, post-grunge, hard-edged sound. “My Turn,” inspired by a poem written by Doug’s older brother, is an ode to everyman or woman, someone who has worked all their life and is just looking to get the rewards they deserve, like the band itself.
“Don’t Think I Love You” starts with Dan’s piercing guitar riffs, a tale Doug describes as dealing with a couple growing apart because one partner suddenly realizes the other has changed beyond recognition. “So Close So Far” was inspired by watching the war in Iraq on television, and imagining the anguish of being separated from your loved one, fighting in a foreign country. “You’re the One,” a song Robb wrote about proposing to his now-wife, started with a chord fingering Estrin never used before, a song inspired by some of the guitarist’s current listening faves, such as U2, Coldplay and Portishead. Another potential single is “The Letter,” which may end up becoming a duet in some future form, while “All About You” is already a live favorite. “Tears of Yesterday,” with a string arrangement by Beck’s father, composer David Campbell, is the curveball in the batch, based on Estrin’s piano riff, which he claims was inspired by his love of “quirky, cheesy ’80s television sitcom themes like Bosom Buddies.”
“The biggest difference is our mental attitude,” says Robb of recording the album. “The five years of constantly recording and touring honestly killed us. We were absolutely burnt. We had gone through a lot of band turmoil on our last album. We had to get our heads back to where they needed to be for the writing process on this record.”
“A successful band is like a puzzle where the right pieces have to fit together,” says Dan. “And our pieces weren’t fitting properly. We were beginning to take our success for granted.”
Taking almost 18 months off, Hoobastank went through a pair of management changes, and a few false starts before starting work in earnest on their fourth album.
“We just needed a break,” agrees drummer Chris Hesse. “When we came back, we were interested in being a band and playing music together.”
“It was a reeeeeeeeally long process,” says Doug about writing the songs for Fornever. “Nothing sounded or felt right at first. Maybe we were too relaxed, too self-satisfied with the last album. On this one, we wanted Howard to police us more, be more opinionated, force us to come up with our best stuff. We fought with him tooth and nail on The Reason, and those turned out to be positive, creative arguments which made the songs better.”
“It took a bit longer, but at the end of the day, what we came up with was worth it,” says Dan. “With time, the stuff got heavier and heavier.”
“Dan has a kind of love-hate relationship with Howard,” explains Doug. “But I think we all respect one another, which is what matters.”
“We did what was necessary for each song,” nods Dan. “If it turned out to be a heavy song, that was great. If it’s a slower, mid-tempo ballad, then that’s what we did.”
With Fornever’s in-your-face aggression and multi-layered songs, Hoobastank are playing to their fan base, not those fair-weather followers who flocked to “The Reason.”
“It’s like a make-or-break record for us,” says Hesse, describing the group’s urgency. “We approached it as if it were our last.”
“I just know what we’re capable of, when we’re not being lazy,” says Dan. “If all our pistons are working, we can do a lot of really good things in the future. Our tires may need a little air, but once they’re pumped up, it’s going to be sick. I’m confident in what we have the potential to do and what we will do.”
“At some point, you kind of have to check your ego at the door,” agrees Doug. “We’ve let go of any false illusions or swagger. We’re just grateful our true fans have remained with us.”
With Fornever, Hoobastank have gotten in touch with what originally motivated them, which has made them stronger than ever.
“It’s not all as novel as it used to be,” adds Chris. “But this point in our career is definitely something new. I don’t know if I’ve ever been this happy with an album. I’m more excited and proud than I’ve been since our first album.”