Hoobastank are not a perfect band—and quite frankly, they don’t give a damn.
Twenty years since making their eponymous major label debut in 2001, the American rock group with the curious moniker have experienced their fair share of triumphs and tribulations. But oh, what a ride it’s been, and their latest (albeit accidental) accomplishment—going wildly viral, thanks to the teens on TikTok—is so unexpected, it almost makes perfect sense for the band.
In January, Hoobastank’s hit 2004 single, “The Reason,” took off on TikTok, becoming the unofficial soundtrack for a viral challenge in which users show off their less-than-perfect moments and life choices. At the time, Hoobastank didn’t have an account on the app. According to lead singer Doug Robb, he didn’t even know all that much about TikTok to begin with—but when the band’s song was suddenly being used in millions of viral videos, he knew it was time to pay attention.
So, on Jan. 27, Hoobastank uploaded their own entry in the #NotAPerfectPerson challenge, dropping the proverbial mic with a hilariously meta dig at their own admittedly funky band name. The clip has since racked up 2.8 million views.
Even all these years later, Hoobastank is totally in on the joke.
Below, Hoobastank’s Doug Robb talks to PopCrush about misconceptions, going randomly viral on TikTok and why “The Reason” still resonates after all these years.
When and how did you first find out that “The Reason” was going viral on TikTok?
It was not too long ago. I heard a little bit about it from some friends, saying that there was something going on on TikTok. I didn’t really hear how big it was until a week or so ago. They were telling us there were 300 million plus people doing this thing with our song, so that was enough for me to go check it out.
How familiar were you with TikTok before?
Not very. [Laughs] That’s the most honest answer. I have a 10-year-old daughter whose friends use it, but she doesn’t really use it that much. So I kind of see what’s going on, but I didn’t have the app on my phone or know what it was really about. It’s all new, really.
Do you have a favorite #NotAPerfectPerson video you’ve watched, that you can recall?
There’s been a few. There was one where a dog basically tore up a house when the owner was away, and they came back to the dog singing that it’s not a perfect person, which I thought was funny.
How did you come up with the idea to spoof the hashtag by roasting your band’s name?
Honestly, that was the first thing that popped in my head. I don’t want to say there’s a misconception out there about the band taking itself very seriously, but if there is, I want to [show] the way we clown each other all of the time. We’ve been around for long enough to be on the receiving end of amazing things on the internet, and also terrible things on social media. We’ve been the butt of every joke and we’ve also been on the mountaintop. I wish people knew that we joke about our band probably more than anybody has ever joked about our band.
Like, we get it! Some of the jokes and funny things that have been said about the band, to some it may be like, “Oh, that’s kind of harsh.” And for a second it might be, but then honestly, we’re those guys who start laughing. We see the truth in certain things. We’ve been lucky enough to have been around for long enough that here we are twenty years later, still talking about the band and our music. I consider that pretty fortunate.
How do you plan on using TikTok moving forward?
Our other social media outlets are used more seriously, for the band. I don’t want to say it’s more business-like, but it’s more business-like. When we [made our first TikTok], we thought, “Holy s–t, this might be the avenue to just mess around and show who we really are,” instead of like,” Yo, this is me behind the mic and this is me playing drums.” It can be something a little more honest because, like I said, we spend as much time goofing off with the band as we do being really serious about the band.
We’ve been holding back, but if we’re going to use TikTok, we just have to be more of our normal, stupid selves. There’s this natural hesitation to let it fly. We’re going to have to break through that a little bit. We’ve been talking trying to figure out what we want to do next and we’ll come up with these ideas and then we always end up going, “Oh, I don’t know. Is that too dumb?” There’s a lot of self-censoring going on that we have to get over.
Your viral video earned more than 2 million views its first five days, and it racked up a million in its first 24 hours. Have you seen any impact on Spotify streams or YouTube views?
Somebody smarter than me would have actually gone to look at that stuff. [Laughs] Instead of checking out what having 2 million views on a TikTok in a few days could mean for the other platforms, I’m just the guy who’s trying to figure out what kind of stupid joke I can do next. I haven’t been paying attention. I don’t really know where the bar is for TikTok, what the metrics are. If somebody came up to me and was like, “Doug, your TikTok video got a hundred likes,”’ I’d be like, “Woah! A hundred likes!”
Our TikTok got 2 million views and one million likes or whatever, and that sounds like a lot, but then you’ll see a video of someone folding a towel that’s got a million likes. I don’t really know, it’s a good way to knock you back down. That being said, I don’t think I’m going to be rushing off to YouTube to see if it changed anything. I think we’re just going to have some fun with it and let the chips fall where they may.
“The Reason” came out more than 15 years ago. Why do you think that song still resonates with so many people?
If I really knew what it was, we would have made a bunch of different songs like that. [Laughs] I don’t know. In hindsight it’s such a simple song. Lyrically, it’s not ambiguous, it’s all out on the table. Obviously, it’s a pretty universal emotion to feel: regret, sorrow, love, all of that kind of stuff. I think musically, while it is indicative of a certain genre from a certain period of time, I don’t think it’s too specific. It’s not so obviously like, “Dude, that song is so 2004.” With little tweaks here and there it could be from earlier or later. It’s not so era-specific, because there are some songs that you could be like, “That’s 2002 hard rock,” and so on and so forth. That song transcends the specific sounds of the era, because it’s so simple.
This year you’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of your debut album. Looking back on the past two decades, what has been the standout moment for you?
It’s hard to pinpoint one specifically. I usually gravitate towards these big festivals and shows that we’ve played in front of 50,000 people and stuff like that. Every once in a while someone will send me a clip and it’s weird because in one breath, it feels like it was yesterday, and in another it seems like that’s not even me. That’s a different life, prior to kids and being a husband and father, which is a whole different [experience] than playing shows all the time. There have been a lot of awards and a lot of achievements but if I think about what I am thankful for the most, it’s just that this ridiculous job has provided for my family. It’s enabled me to help my family outside of my wife and kids, too. You get cool gifts and get to travel, which to me is equally as cool as playing at the Coliseum. What the job enabled me to have has been… wow. I would have never dreamt that it was possible. Still today, I can’t believe it’s real.
How do your kids react to those old Hoobastank videos and moments?
Whenever my kids see any type of accolade or old video with me in it, or I get recognized somewhere and they want an autograph or photo, they look at me like, “Huh?” They don’t see that as being their dad at all. “That’s not you, that’s not my dad on stage, that’s someone else.” There’s really a disconnect, so it’s fun to be able to show them that stuff and see their reaction. It makes me think about the way I saw my parents when I was their age and how much I didn’t know about their life prior to me being born. My kids know so much more about me and what I do, and did prior to them being born, than I did about my parents because it wasn’t documented. It’s kind of cool to see that because I never got to do that. I don’t know what my parents did before I was born.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome as a band?
I became a better singer. [Laughs] Being in a band for so long is like being married to three other people. The fact that we’ve been able to navigate egos and problems—it’s not like we haven’t had our share of problems, we’ve had serious problems that we’ve overcome. I think that says that we were such tight friends before we were a band.
However, I never had anxiety until I started playing music. It’s something that our guitar player, Dan, used to tell me about ‘cause he has anxiety … Low and behold, it strikes me at some point. But I don’t feel special because almost everybody I know deals with it. You either go, “Dude, I’m too nervous to go on stage and I can’t even breathe,” or you go out and do what you do somehow. There have been times, for all of us honestly, where we’ve had to take a deep breath and just jump in the pool. The more I think about it, it’s such a natural, human response to the pressures of being in the spotlight.
What’s next for Hoobastank?
It’s the twentieth anniversary of our self-titled debut album. I’m pretty sure [our guitarist] Dan spent a large chunk of last year transferring a bunch of analog taped footage onto digital format—tours, recording of the album and so much other stuff. There are hundreds of hours of unseen footage revolving around the album that we will be putting out in some way.
As far as music, there could be some new music in the works. That wouldn’t be a bad idea. All of the shows that got canceled last year pretty much got pushed to this year, some in the States and some internationally, but they’re not going to start until June which gives us a little bit of time to get this crazy situation under some semblance of control. But we’ll see: I’d hate to say, “We’re going on tour in July, August and September,” and for it to not happen. Best case scenario there will be a lot of shows starting from the summer out, along with the twentieth anniversary stuff. And hopefully a lot of dumb TikTok videos. I was literally trying to make one a second ago before talking to you.