If things keep going well, Markku Hoobastank Lappalainen could have the most famous middle name in rock.
Lappalainen is the Finland-born bass player in the Agoura Hills, California, rock quartet that dared to take on the Hoobastank name. With their first single, "Crawling in the Dark," climbing into the Top 20 of Billboard's Modern Rock Singles chart, they're hardly damaging it not that the name is sacred to Lappalainen's bandmates.
"We were going to change it because it's dumb and hard to pronounce, but we ended up keeping it," guitarist Dan Estrin said. "Names are so hard, and any name you come up with that sounds cool is a band already."
Estrin, who founded Hoobastank with former high-school classmate and singer Doug Robb nearly seven years ago, called last week from a hotel room in Northern California where the band was trapped after a surprise blizzard. It was supposed to be the first night on their first headlining trek. "Kind of a sh--ty way to start off a tour," Estrin said.
Luckily, Hoobastank have avoided this kind of bad luck since their inception. Things have mostly gone the other way. Lappalainen just happened to call Estrin at the same time he and Robb had decided to recruit a bass player. Drummer Chris Hesse just happened to answer the right newspaper ad at the right time. "Chris was the last drummer we auditioned, and we were going to take him anyway because we were so tired of looking for people," Estrin said.
Hoobastank also just happened to break into the Los Angeles music scene when it was starving for something new and different. Their melodic hard rock fit the bill.
"I've watched the music scene in L.A. get better," Estrin said. "When we started playing, it was '95 and there was no scene out there. It just sucked. I've watched it grow, and it's really cool now. There's all these bands that I know that have record deals and that we grew up playing with, and everyone is just doing really well. It's awesome."
One of those bands, from nearby Calabasas, is Incubus. Better known in Hollywood than Hoobastank, Incubus put them on their shows at high-profile clubs like the Troubadour, the Whiskey and the Roxy. Incubus also introduced them to their producer, Jim Wirt, who produced Hoobastank's collection of demos, They Sure Don't Make Basketball Shorts Like They Used To and their new, self-titled album, which hit stores last week.
"Those guys helped us out a lot," Estrin said. "Nobody knew who we were. Everyone knew who Incubus was. This was before they had a record deal, but they still had a really hardcore following in L.A."
The results of Hoobastank's Incubus association haven't been all positive, however.
"We have a lot of people that bash us because they think we sound just like Incubus," Estrin said. "A lot of people don't understand that we're all the same age, we grew up in the same neighborhood and we're influenced by the same bands. Both our singers were heavily influenced by Mike Patton from
Faith No More or Mr. Bungle." (Robb and Incubus singer Brandon Boyd also happen to look alike, but that's beside the point.)
Hoobastank, who recently spent a few weeks on the road with Incubus, have also toured with Dave Navarro and Live and have tour plans with 311. They're also making a name for themselves on radio and video outlets with
"Crawling in the Dark," a catchy rock anthem that is more Papa Roach than Incubus. The tune expounds on the many major decisions a young band is forced to make blindly. "Is there something more/ Than what I've been handed/ I've been crawling in the dark/ Looking for the answers," Robb sings in the song's chorus.
"Crawling in the Dark" was the last song Hoobastank wrote before finishing pre-production and entering the studio with Wirt.
"I was having some amplifier problems, so I went back to the studio really late one night," Estrin explained. "I went in and was messing around with my sounds and pedals and started playing that riff, which I had written like three months earlier, but never knew what to do with it. I started coming up with other parts and thought, 'This is cool.' We had all this recording gear in there, but I didn't know how to use it. So I sat there with a cordless phone in one hand and called my voicemail at home so I wouldn't forget it."
Hoobastank are currently touring across the country with fellow Southern California rockers Pressure 4-5. They will play some East Coast dates in January before heading to Europe with Incubus and 311.
Hoobastank tour dates, according to Island Records:
- 12/5 - San Jose, CA @ Cactus Club
- 12/7 - Las Vegas, NV @ Tremors
- 12/8 - Phoenix, AZ @ Big Fish Pub
- 12/10 - Colorado Springs, CO @ Colorado Music Hall
- 12/13 - Cincinnati, OH @ Bogart's
- 12/14 - Cleveland, OH @ CSU Convocation Center (WXTM show)
- 12/17 - Detroit, MI @ The Shelter
- 12/18 - St. Louis, MO @ The Galaxy
- 12/20 - New Orleans, LA @ House Of Blues
- 12/21 - Houston, TX @ Engine Room
- 12/22 - Dallas, TX @ Trees