Hoobastank Is Huge on TikTok—and Loving Every Minute of It
The early-aughts nu-metal group’s song “The Reason” has become the hottest thing on TikTok, garnering 145 million views and counting. And lead singer Doug Robb has no idea why.
When people used to ask Hoobastank where their band name came from, they’d reply, “The ‘H’ in ‘Jesus H. Christ.’” It’s oddly fitting, then, that the nu-metal outfit, who rose to fame in the early aughts with hits like “Crawling in the Dark” and “The Reason,” are experiencing a second coming of sorts—and in the unlikeliest of places.
Over the past few weeks, users on the video-sharing social network TikTok have generated some 48,000 videos set to the Hoobastank tune “The Reason”; those videos in turn have received more than 145 million views, according to metrics provided by TikTok.
The phenomenon began on Jan. 19, when a user by the name of “ido_coke” published a TikTok video using the song’s famous line “I’m not a perfect person” to underscore how she’d only recently learned it was not true that “hibernation meant the animals go to sleep for literally 4-6 months.” The video has garnered 1.7 million likes and inspired tens of thousands of others in which young folks shared embarrassing facts about themselves to the song line—including That’s So Raven actor Kyle Massey, whose version was liked more than 258,000 times. The song’s popularity prompted Hoobastank themselves to join TikTok and get in on the fun, posting a video of lead singer Doug Robb staring at a plaque of the band as the song plays, accompanied by the caption “Realizing 20 years later that you named your band Hoobastank.” It’s received over 2 million views.
This isn’t the first time an old song has scored a TikTok meme; last year, Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” returned to No. 1 on the Billboard charts after a video of Nathan Apodaca skateboarding down the highway and chugging cranberry juice to it sparked a viral craze.
“Nostalgia is a frequent inspiration source for video creations on TikTok. When a song’s lyric or hook provides an occasion to share a memory, the community will often find a way to participate,” explains William Gruger, TikTok U.S.’s music editorial lead. “In the case of the Hoobastank, ‘The Reason’s’ unforgettable line, ‘I’m not a perfect person,’ is fueling a text-on-screen trend with users sharing a memory from the past that they find personally embarrassing. Since initially gaining traction, the trend has evolved to include myriad revealing behaviors, making ‘The Reason’ a forum for people to share and have a laugh at their own past decisions and perhaps regrettable actions.”
Despite selling well over 10 million records, and “The Reason” reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earning them a Grammy nod for Song of the Year, this isn’t the first time the rockers have been used as a punchline—though this time at least the band is very much in on the joke.
The Daily Beast caught up with Hoobastank frontman Doug Robb to discuss why, 20 years after the release of their self-titled debut album, the youths are loving them some Hoobastank again.
Well, the new generation has discovered Hoobastank and “The Reason,” which must be exciting for you. What’s it like to have these kids, who must have been fetuses when the song came out, discover your music?
A generation of kids that probably happened because of the song. [Laughs] You know what? Honestly, we’re on enough social media platforms that we weren’t actively looking like, “Hey, how do we get on more platforms?” But friends, management, and other people told us there was this thing on TikTok where they were taking “The Reason” and making these videos. And at first we were like, “Oh, cool…” and at some point there were like hundreds of millions of people doing this thing, and they were like, “Dude, maybe you should chime in.” It’s something that sought us out, and we made one just for fun, really. And the reaction was awesome. I just wanted to clown our name a little bit. As a band, we make fun of everything—and we make fun of ourselves as much as everything else, so I wanted people to know that.
Why has this particular song caught on, do you think?
I don’t know. The first line of the song is so well-known that for years people have literally said, “Oh, it’s the ‘I’m not a perfect person’ song,” almost as if they didn’t know the actual song. Maybe that song is so familiar, and that line is so familiar, that it lends itself to a lot of creative TikTok videos.
Do you think there’s also a general nostalgia for the early aughts that’s perhaps fueling this?
It must seem that way. I don’t know what it is! I just think that music, pop culture, style, and fashions—all of the things that get encompassed there—it’s cyclical, and it comes back around. I remember in the ’80s and ’90s when certain aspects of the ’60s and ’70s came back, so I think it just might be that time. A certain generation is a certain age where they’re yearning for something that felt good, because it happened when they were a certain age. But I did get that vibe just scrolling through all the videos, that there’s a nostalgic vibe, and a lot of people sharing stories like that. But you know, our debut album came out 20 years ago. Time doesn’t mean anything anymore.
It seems like kids might also be attracted to the band name, which seemed like trolling before the term “trolling” existed.
We made the mistake of getting asked about the name from media early on, and instead of just being upfront and like, “We were 17 when we made it up. We were dumb, it doesn’t mean anything. Everything else was taken, or we over-analyzed to think it was too cool, or too tough, so literally as a joke, we conjured up this name and started putting it on fliers, because we were going to play a show in my parents’ backyard.” Instead of being honest, we were like, “Oh, it’s the ‘H.’ in ‘Jesus H. Christ.’”
I’d also heard that it came from a German word you’d mispronounced.
Exactly. Every interview we gave a different answer, and that was our version of trolling people back then. But instead of killing the question, it perpetuated it and kept that question alive for 20 years.
You fed the mythology.
I’ve heard fans get in lengthy debates about what the name really is, and both answers they’re giving are not real. [Laughs] So it’s kind of funny in that way.
You said that your debut album came out 20 years ago, but the real debut album was Hoobastank’s They Sure Don’t Make Basketball Shorts Like They Used To.
They don’t. And it was still pronounced “Hoobastank.” But yes, we formed as a band in late ’94 and started playing shows in ’95, and yeah, we started compiling demos on cassette, printing out fliers at Kinko’s—which seems like a total lifetime ago—and I think it was ’97 that we compiled all the demos that we’d recorded in the studio, and we put out that CD, They Sure Don’t Make Basketball Shorts Like They Used To. Which I don’t even own! Our guitarist has a crate of CDs somewhere in his house.
And you hadn’t yet landed on your sound. It was funky and with a saxophonist in the band.
Yeah! Some of us were still in high school—or fresh out of high school—and there was this ska element, even though none of us were really into ska. Our guitar player brought the funk, he was way into Red Hot Chili Peppers and earlier Fishbone, while I was into heavier stuff. And our other buddy was a great saxophonist. Even if it got super funky and I may not have been stoked about it, I let it go, because I knew later in the song it was going to get heavy, and he let it go. It made for some interesting music. It was this sarcastic, Fishbone-like thing. We got thrown into a lot of ska shows back in the day, which never really fit.
It’s an aggressively ’90s album, when you factor in the sarcasm, the saxophone, the funk sound, and the Jerky Boys’ element of you guys prank-calling people on it.
I guess! You can’t hide it. It’s very dated.
There’s a song on that album called “Naked Jock Man.” Who is the horror villain known as the “Naked Jock Man?”
Oh dude, that just encompasses the stupidity of where we were as teenagers—and to be honest with you, that’s kind of our sense of humor anyways. He was a buddy, a close friend of our guitar player’s, and everybody has that one friend who’s willing to do anything to make people laugh. I was more the creative director, but he was willing to do anything to get a laugh out of people. I was telling the guys, “Maybe TikTok can be an avenue for that side of us?” It could be the 2021 version of “Naked Jock Man,” where we can kind of get that shit out of our system now, because we don’t use Instagram, Facebook, and all these other outlets. Maybe that can be the one where we screw around a lot and show this other side of the band.
Other bands of the era have used their Twitter accounts in fun ways, like how Papa Roach really clowns on Trump and the Trump administration, which has gotten them some attention.
Yeah. I’m not short on opinions with the Trump administration, but I’ve never been too comfortable wading into that forum—at least as a spokesperson for the band. But I don’t think we chose TikTok—I think TikTok chose us. We found out about it and then hopped on and made fun of ourselves a little bit. But I think TikTok is a more creative outlet than Twitter and Instagram. There’s a lot more you can do, and a lot more fun you can have. Plus, at least from what I’ve noticed so far, people on TikTok seem to be nicer than people on Twitter.
What was the inspiration for “The Reason”—the song itself?
It wasn’t about anyone specifically—and when I say that a lot of people get bummed. I had a lot of journal entries, and at the time, our guitar player sent me some music that he liked—which was almost the song, about 90 percent complete—and I grabbed it, rifled through some notes, and it came together very fast. Within a couple of hours, I gave him back lyrics and melody, and it was about 90 percent of what it came to be. There’s only been a handful of songs that come out that way, where there’s not a lot of rewriting involved, and it comes together quickly. I had no idea at the time that it was going to be a life-changing song.
And the original video to it, before TikTok, involves a ruby heist. And then that ruby heist sort of became an ongoing series in your music videos. How did you land on that?
[Laughs] That was like 2004, and a lot of the videos were performance-based with a lot of choreography, glitter, and glamour. The record company wanted to do a love video that was very on the nose—boy meets girl, girl meets boy—and it made me throw up in my mouth a little bit. I wanted to do something so not the song. I wanted to do a Matrix-style bank robbery that’s full-on violence, and MTV didn’t like that, and our record label didn’t like that. So we settled on this story that has nothing to do with the song, because I wanted something different.
Although you didn’t pop your shirt off in this video like in some of the other ones. It’s funny because, in the “Crawling in the Dark” video, the shirt-pop is almost in a quick cut—like boom, he’s shirtless.
I’m trying to remember how that happened! I remember shooting that video, and that was like our first real video, and we shot it so many times. At some point, I was like, “Dude, I’m sweating and dying, I’m gonna take my shirt off.” And they were like, “OK, we’ll do five takes with that”—not knowing that they were gonna splice them together, so it’s like, “He has a shirt on! He doesn’t have a shirt on!” I remember seeing the edit and being slightly embarrassed by that, like dude, can we just have it be either one or the other—on or off? But I was talked into keeping it off. Also, I remember during the shoot that I hit my head on the camera pretty bad, without a shirt on, and had to be tested for a concussion. Shooting videos is violent!
So Comedy Central really took the piss out of you guys. After 3 Doors Down was announced as Trump’s inauguration-concert headliner, they tweeted, “3 Doors Down will perform at the Trump inauguration, which can only mean Hoobastank said no.”
I remember that! See, there’s a part of me that goes, “Fuck.” Because like, Comedy Central, we’re on your team! It feels like your own team’s turned against you. But at the same time, we’re self-aware. I get it. I get it. I understand where we fall within the musical spectrum of certain people.
And I think 3 Doors Down’s crowd is different from your crowd.
Well, you do—and I do. I don’t see myself as a 3 Doors Down equivalent. I think there’s a certain amount of crossover demographically, but I don’t think our base is the same. We toured with 3 Doors Down and those are nice guys, treated us great, but we’re not those guys. They own guns and tractors and live in Mississippi. Those are good ol’ boys, and I mean that in a good way, but I’m still skateboarding around Southern California. We’re not the same band. We’ve gotten lumped together with a lot of musicians where I’m like, “Really?” But then I go, whatever. People are allowed to have their own opinions.
Was it just a silly tweet—or did you actually turn down an invite to perform at the Trump inauguration?
It was a silly tweet, but I would have turned it down! Who did perform at that thing? God, I’m trying to not remember the last four years.
What’s the deal with the Hoobastank logo, which is sorta located inside the band name? And also: Do you have the logo tattooed anywhere embarrassing on your body?
[Laughs] Me and our guitar player are maybe the last two dudes in music who don’t have any tattoos. So no, I don’t. But I’ve seen some pretty embarrassing Hoobastank tattoos over the years! And the logo itself, we just signed a record deal, met with artists, and they started coming up with ideas. After trial and error we kind of landed on that. I know that’s the least sexy explanation, but it’s the truth.
On a more serious note, when I was growing up you were one of very few Asian frontmen in bands.
Somebody else told me that recently, I think on Twitter. Somebody who was half-Asian said, “It was you—basically that was it. You and Mike Shinoda. You guys were it.”
And Hoobastank and Linkin Park toured together.
Yeah. We actually went to the same high school! It’s so funny—I think in our guitar player’s yearbook, Mike signed the yearbook saying, “Hey, I’ll do the artwork for your band!”—because we have a couple of years on them in age. I never looked up in the mirror and went, “Dude, you’re half-Japanese! It never occurred to me that I could be holding the flag for being an Asian-American in music. It only dawned on me later, and I thought, “Oh, shit! I should probably start acting better!” [Laughs] I was so unaware of that early on, but I’ve become very aware of it since over the last 20 years—especially when we go overseas to Japan or South Korea, I get the “You’re one of us,” basically. It feels very welcoming. I would love for an Asian kid in the U.S. or wherever to see me and go, “Damn—it’s totally normal to be in music and look like I do.”