Hoobastank. It has got to be one of the most unappealing band names in rock ‘n’ roll.

Depending on who’s telling the story, it’s either a family name of a band member, a reference from the movie “Menace II Society,” or what the “H” in “Jesus H. Christ” stands for.

But the group with the ugly moniker is making another kind of name for itself as one of three hard-rocking bands with familial roots in the west San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles.

Agoura Hills and Calabasas, Calif., are becoming as well known for being the home turf of Hoobastank, Incubus, and Linkin Park as they have been for their abundance of gated communities and equestrian trails.

Stories that have circulated placing all three bands and their members at the same high school aren’t entirely accurate, Hoobastank lead singer and songwriter Doug Robb told POLLSTAR.

“Actually, I didn’t go to the same high school as Incubus. Incubus went to Calabasas High; I went to Agoura High School. Members of Linkin Park went to Agoura High School. We’ve known Incubus though, and our guitar player, who lives in Calabasas but went to Agoura High, he’s known the Incubus guys since they were 11 years old.”

We’ll take his word for it and figure it’s close enough. As Robb describes it, the two suburban enclaves are “one freeway exit apart” along the Ventura Freeway.

But the relationship doesn’t end there. The members of Hoobastank and Incubus have not only grown up together, but toured together and shared a producer. Their styles are quite similar, a resemblance not lost on critics and fans.

“We’re not too worried about it,” Robb said. “A lot of people who make the comparisons don’t really bother to realize why there are a lot of similarities. [It’s] simply because we did grow up in roughly the same area, we have a lot of the same influences and we’re tutored by the same producers. So, obviously, there’s bound to be some similarities.”

There’s bound to be distinct differences, too. After all, Hoobastank has been playing together for seven years, despite the appearances of an overnight success story. The group released its indie debut, They Sure Don’t Make Basketball Shorts Like They Used To, in 1998 and Island/Def Jam came calling to sign the band in 2000.


Hoobastank’s manager, Bret Bair, admits the major label contract was a long time coming.

“Yeah, they were probably a little frustrated,” Bair told POLLSTAR. “They packed out places like the Whisky, where they played about once a month, and it would always be sold out. And they were right there in the middle of Hollywood, selling out clubs. There would always be all these young kids going crazy at their show, but yet they couldn’t get a record deal.”

And that’s where those childhood pals from the Valley came to lend a hand.

” … [Hoobastank] made a demo that Mike Einziger from Incubus, the guitar player, actually helped them get signed with. He gave the demo to friends in the industry that helped out as well. And, obviously, they put Hoobastank on their tours.”

The band has certainly come a long way since its inauspicious live debut in 1995.

“Our first show ever was in my parents’ backyard in Agoura Hills and it was all for fun,” Robb said of Hoobastank’s genesis. “I mean, I didn’t even know what the record industry was all about. I had no idea of the business aspect of music. After that first show, if somebody said, ‘You wanna get signed?’ it was like, ‘What do you mean?’ I had no idea what was going on.”

The “backyard parties” came complete with stages, sound and lighting rigs and were drawing a few hundred kids. Hoobastank quickly took the act to the next level. Their third gig was at West Hollywood’s vaunted Roxy nightclub.

“I know definitely after that first show, I was hooked; it was like a drug. It was the coolest thing ever and I had so much fun performing,” Robb said.

“We played the Roxy, the Troubador, the Whisky, Key Club, the Palace, everyplace we could, you know? … We played as much as we could, as much as we can,” Robb said.

The group has been on the road nearly non-stop, as usual, doing radio festivals and playing large clubs and arenas with bands like Incubus and skate-punk faves 311. Hoobastank’s eponymous debut album has been on the charts for close to 40 weeks, and remains solidly among SoundScan’s top 100.

Currently, the band is out on the Sprite Liquid Mix rock and hip-hop caravan into September with 311, N.E.R.D., Jay-Z, Nappy Roots, and Talib Kweli. Bair acknowledged that the Liquid Mix tour, coming after a string of radio shows and overseas appearances, will put the band in front of more diverse audiences.

As Hoobastank’s popularity has grown, one thing that hasn’t faded away are the questions about the source of that darned name. So what is it, really? Robb sounded faintly bored with the question before giving POLLSTAR that day’s definite answer to the question:

“Our bass player (Markku Lappalainen) is Finnish. It’s his middle name.”