It’s been almost 25 years since a scrappy Blink 182 burst out of the San Diego punk scene and defined the angsty punk pop that is now quintessential to the late 90s. Within a matter of years, the trio ensnared a cult following of fans with their hybrid of raw punk and anarchic anthems sprinkled with toilet humour.
Blink’s history hasn’t been all success and laughs about dick jokes, though. In March last year, lead singer and guitarist Tom Delonge called it quits and left the band to pursue his obsession with alien conspiracy theories (yes, really). This meant that bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker were left to either pick up the pieces or leave the Blink legacy behind. It turns out that this wasn’t a difficult decision to make.
Dusting themselves off, Blink quickly recruited Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba as their stand-in frontman and teamed up with producer John Feldman to create their seventh studio album California.
Due for release on 1 July, which happens to be the 182nd day of the year (eh, see what they did there?), Blink goes back to their roots on the new record. While it may lack Delonge’s iconic whine, the melancholy lyrics and rabid guitar riffs on debut single Bored To Death hint at the undeniable Blink sound we can expect from the rest of California.
If 2016 wasn’t massive enough, Blink has also teamed up with A Day To Remember, All Time Low and The All-American Rejects for a massive US tour over their summer. In the calm before the storm, we had a chat with Mark about the new dynamic in the band, when we can expect them down under, the inspiration behind the record and, of course, will it still sound like Blink 182?
Music Feeds: You started working on the album in mid-January, it’s crazy to think that it’s May and the album is already finished. Do you guys usually have such a quick turnaround when making a record?
Mark Hoppus: No! In fact, when we were starting to write this album, we started probably six or seven months ago and we’d been writing, Travis, Matt and I had been writing for several months and we’d come up with about 30 different songs. We contacted our producer John Feldman and said “hey, would you come listen to these songs? See what you think. Maybe we’ll collaborate on a couple of songs. Maybe you’ll take over these songs and get them into shape to release an album.”
And we met up with him and we played him all of the songs and he said “Cool. There are some cool ideas here. Why don’t you guys come to my studio tomorrow and start an idea from scratch and we’ll see what we come up with.” So we went over to his studio the next day and started writing a song which became Bored To Death and we wrote that song and another song the first day. We went back the next day and wrote two more songs.
We kept writing and writing and writing and, in the period of about a month and a half or two months, we’d written 26 brand new songs from scratch and those became the California album and the other songs are just sitting on a hard drive somewhere still (laughs).
MF: Woah! 26 songs in two months? That’s crazy! What was some of the inspiration that helped you chug out all of those tracks in such a short time span?
MH: Well, everybody was really creatively inspired. Everybody was excited about working with John. John was just throwing us in the studio and saying “Write something! Write something!” And we’d show up in the morning with no idea of what we were going to do that day and have an idea first thing in the morning and work on that idea.
Normally I take a long time to write lyrics and I kind of um and ah over things and I overthink things or whatever. But John just kept saying “write something down!”. He would literally say “I’m gonna go and get a coffee and I’m gonna come back in 15 minutes and you better have a chorus written by the time I get back.”
So, he just kept pushing us to work and work and not overthink things. It was kind of first thought, best thought. That energy ended up transcending into the record with this real vitality and this energy and this angst that really comes through on the songs.
MF: That’s cool. What about Matt? Do you think him joining the band had anything to do with this new burst of creativity?
MH: Yeah, I think it was kind of the confluence of a lot of different events. Matt joined the band and the positive energy that he brings to it and his song writing style and having John as our producer at the helm, kind of guiding things and pushing things.
He just kept saying “What do you love about Blink 182? What is Blink 182 all about? What is Blink?” And he kept pushing us back to our very beginnings, which I think is energetic, fun, angsty, troubled kind of anthemic songs, which this album is all about.
MF: Yeah, I think you can hear you guys tapping into some of Blink’s old roots on Bored To Death, but you’ve also said that the album explores new directions for the band. How did you guys arrive at this duality?
MH: I think that lyrically and melodically, the genesis of the songs is always rooted in this energetic, catchy thing that we’ve always done and that I love about Blink 182. But we’re also always trying to do different things, so this album has like a ballad song with clean guitar and strings underneath it and there are songs with electronic programming and synth and there are a lot of guitar heavy songs as well. So there are a lot of different elements on the record. But I think there’s a common core in all of the songs.
MF: In Bored To Death, there are lyrics like “it’s a long way back from 17” and “life is too short to last long”. Meanwhile, track titles like Los Angeles and San Diego touch on your Cali roots. Were you guys feeling nostalgic when writing the record?
MH: I don’t know if we were feeling nostalgic, necessarily. Without trying to or without meaning to, we ended up referencing California quite a bit. It’s where we grew up and where we live. And obviously we were recording in California in January, which means sunshine and palm trees and gorgeous weather.
John’s studio is surrounded by palm trees and we kept referencing California punk rock bands and Bad Religion and Rancid. And in the studio we were talking about bands we love and things like that and it kept coming back to this theme of California. Like you said, we have songs referencing Californian cities and it kind of ended up being a love letter to California without us setting out to do that.
MF: Yeah, I can imagine it’d be hard not to be inspired when you’re surrounded by palm trees and sunshine!
MH: Yeah, it’s a great place to grow up and it’s a great place to live. And, for me personally, California, as a concept, is all about endless opportunity and sunshine and hope but there’s a dark twist underside to it as well and that’s kind of how this record feels to me.
MF: Last month you announced that you’re playing a kick ass tour with A Day To Remember, All Time Low and The All-American Rejects. I’m sure Blink inspired all of these bands when they were first starting out, but what made you guys want to tour with them in particular?
MH: Well, we’re friends with all of those bands and putting together a tour can be a very difficult thing. It all depends on who’s available when and who wants to tour with whom and album cycles and all of this other stuff. But we’d been talking with A Day To Remember about touring together for many, many months and All Time Low is actually supposed to be done touring, but we asked them if they wanted to tour and they hopped on the tour as well.
We’ve been friends with and toured with The All-American Rejects for a while now. So everybody is friends on the tour and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s kind of like a punk rock summer camp.
MF: That sounds amazing! Please tell us you’re bringing that tour down under some time soon.
MH: We’d love to. We love Australia. Australia has always been so cool to us, it’s like a second home. And we’re trying. Obviously Travis doesn’t fly (NB: in 2008, Travis was involved in an almost-fatal plane crash and hasn’t flown since) but we are looking into boats that will take us there and its just scheduling it and getting Travis there. But we love Australia and we’d love the chance to tour there again.
MF: That’s awesome! So many Aussie fans were heartbroken when Travis couldn’t make it down for the Soundwave tour in 2013, so it’d be cool to see the full lineup in action next time.
MH: Yeah, well we’ve been looking into boats and hopefully there’s something we can do that will get Travis down there. You know, Travis loves Australia as well and we love playing shows down there. So hopefully we can make it happen.
MF: Well you guys will be welcomed back with open arms whenever that does happen!
MH: (Laughs) Thank you!
MF: What are some of the songs off the new California track list that you’re most excited to play live?
MH: There’s a song called Cynical that’s really fast, really punk rock. There’s a song called Rabbit Hole that I think sounds like it should’ve been on Enema of the State (1999) that I think people will really love. Bored To Death is obviously a lot of fun to play.
There’s a song called She’s Out Of Her Mind that sounds like it could’ve been on Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001). I think people are going to be really happy when they hear the full album. I can’t wait to play the songs live.
MF: Over the years, one of the most memorable things about a Blink show was the on-stage banter between you and Tom. What’s the live Blink experience like now with the new lineup?
MH: Well, we’ve only played three or four shows since Matt’s been in the band. In the beginning shows he was awesome on stage. The reception of Matt coming in has been so positive. Before we walked on stage at some of the shows, people were chanting Matt’s name.
He’s rad and he’s really strong on stage and he holds his own and he has his own sense of humour. He’s really done a great job of taking what’s potentially a really difficult situation of stepping into a band that’s been around for 20 years and being respectful of the position that he’s overtaking but also making it his own. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
MF: That’s really awesome that so many of the fans are welcoming of Matt. Have you guys experienced any backlash over the new lineup at all?
MH: I think there’s always been speculation as to what is it going to sound like, you know? There’s a new guy in the band, what’s it going to be like? Is it really Blink 182? Does it sound like Blink 182? And there are people who are excited about it, there are people who are a little bit stand offish and a little suspicious of it.
But I think once people heard Bored To Death and once people hear the new record, they’re going to be blown away and hopefully they are as excited as we are.
MF: I can imagine if fans are worried about the influence a new member might have on the band’s sound, it must’ve been a pretty big move for you guys. After Tom left, was there ever a point where you or Travis thought “Ok, this is it. Maybe it’s time to call it quits”?
MH: Not really. I mean, Travis and I have kind of been through this situation before and he and I just love performing music and writing music together and we’re really good friends. It never really occurred to us to stop doing what we do because we enjoy it so much. We already had these shows booked once Tom had dropped off.
So, when Matt came in to fill in for those shows it was such a natural fit and a natural progression for us. The shows are awesome, people love Matt and it was such a great experience with him it just seemed like the next step to have him come in and write an album with him.
MF: Blink has been around for almost 25 years, but does the new album and lineup kind of feel like a fresh start for you guys?
MH: Oh, it totally feels like a new start for us. We kind of have this enthusiasm and energy in the band right now and an optimism and it seems like the world is wide open and we can do whatever we want. There’s a unity of purpose between the three of us. Like we go to rehearsal everyday excited to play the songs and there’s a good camaraderie.
MF: You have so much going on this year, but what are you looking forward to the most for the rest of 2016?
MH: For the rest of the year I’m looking forward to the release of the album and putting to rest all of the speculation about what it’s going to sound like. I can’t wait for people to hear the songs. I can’t wait to play the songs live and just continue what we’ve been doing for so long.
All I’ve ever wanted to do in the world is play punk rock music in Blink 182 and to be doing it now, 25 years later still, is just more than a dream come true.
MF: Yeah, not many bands can say they’ve achieved that and it’s pretty amazing to think that many of your fans have been following your band for over two decades. I think the first time I heard Blink was when I was in kindergarten and I could hear Enema of the State blasting from my then-teenage brother’s room.
MH: Ha! (Laughs) That is so cool!
MF: We’re really getting deep on the final question. As someone who has recently turned 23, is it true that “No one likes you when you’re 23” because it’s really been playing on my mind!
MH: (Laughs) I can’t speak for everybody, but I can speak for myself and nobody liked me when I was 23. Probably for good reason, though.
MF: Ok, well if I find out that no one likes me while I’m 23 at least I’ll know I’m in good company, right?
MH: (Laughs) Exactly!
‘California’ is out July 1st, you can pre-order it here.