Published Jun 24, 2016At this point in pop culture history, Blink-182 are a household name thanks to their ubiquitous pop-punk hits and millions upon millions of records sold. That said, the last decade has not been kind to the band, who've struggled with a musical identity crisis and plenty of internal conflict involving their estranged founding guitarist Tom DeLonge. Last year, the band finally parted ways with DeLonge and replaced him with the Alkaline Trio's Matt Skiba.
Now, the reinvigorated lineup has a new album in tow with California — a release that sees Blink-182 revisit the simple, sunny pop punk on which they built a career. As Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus tell Exclaim!, the band are more enthused than they've been in years.
"For so long, with Neighborhoods and Dogs Eating Dogs, there was really a push and pull with what the sound should sound like," Barker explains. "Where we're at right now with the lineup and everything there was no issue with what Blink-182 should sound like. We want to sound like ourselves. We want to make a Blink-182 album. We were pretty much set on going in and recording the same fast, fun and energetic songs that we've always done."
As Hoppus explains, there are a handful of elements that make up the classic Blink-182 sound. "I think a classic Blink song has a lot of energy, angst, fun, good melodies," he says.
That said, the return to form wasn't entirely intentional on California.
"We didn't go in there thinking we were going to go back to our roots, but at the same time, we weren't afraid to go back to our roots," Hoppus says. "If something sounded like old-school Blink, we didn't mind. We were happy about it. If the song was great we were just happy to have a great song. I think there's songs on there that totally sound like classic Blink, there are songs that sound like new Blink."
The group were greatly assisted by John Feldmann, the former Goldfinger frontman who has since emerged as an invaluable producer for stadium-sized pop punk acts like Good Charlotte and 5 Seconds of Summer. A friend of Barker's, he's the first outside producer to work with the band since the passing of frequent collaborator Jerry Finn in 2008.
"When a producer's in the room, they have that producer hat where they're allowed to say things that if a band member would say maybe someone's feelings would get hurt," Barker says. "It would be wrong for me to say, 'I don't think that chorus is that great.' [The band would respond with] 'But hey man, you don't sing.' Whereas if John Feldman goes, 'Uh I think you could write a better chorus'…. He has that power, and I think that was very necessary…. I love having that person that's extra eyes and ears that can have that opinion and it's neutral, they're not in the band but their opinion counts. It's very valuable."
Feldmann encouraged the band to side-step their initial song ideas and instead write the bulk of the album in the studio.
"Travis, Matt and myself had been writing songs for this album starting about last September, and we had gone into Travis's studio and come up with I think about 30 different demos," Hoppus recalls.
Feldmann liked the ideas, but he wanted to try an entirely different approach. "The next day we went into John's studio and wrote two songs that day. Then the next day we wrote two more songs. And just kept going in and writing more and more music that we never even really went back and listened to the 30 songs that we'd written prior to walking in with John."
Barker adds: "It was very much, we're all in the same room, we're all in the same studio, everyone having fun. It was just great vibes man. There was never ego, or anyone just hating on a song. Everyone had great ideas, we saw them through. If we felt like we were working on something that we didn't think was heading anywhere we would stab it right away, just kill it, squash it and erase it from the computer."
Feldmann also encouraged the band to work at a lightning-fast speed, demanding that they finish songs on the spot. As Hoppus explains, the pressure to complete ideas helped him get over writer's block.
"For me personally it makes it so that I don't overthink anything," he says. "I don't overthink lyrics, I don't overthink melody, I don't overthink song structure. John wouldn't allow that. He would literally say things like, 'I'm going to go make myself a cup of coffee. When I come back, I want you to have a chorus written for the song or lyrics done for the song.'
"If I'm left alone with a song long enough I will just beat it to death. I'll pick at it and try to improve it and whatever, and sometimes it's not the best. Sometimes for me, what's best is first thought, best thought."
The positive studio experience is a far cry from the band's Neighborhoods sessions, which were pieced together over email as DeLonge recorded in San Diego while Hoppus and Barker recorded in Los Angeles. As such, the members of Blink-182 view their California sessions as something special.
"For me, it was probably the best it's ever been," Barker says.
Hoppus agrees, adding that California sees Blink-182 as a reinvigorated unit. Despite nostalgic themes on California tracks like "San Diego," he's perfectly happy with the way things are right now.
"As opposed to pining for the old days, I feel like right now is the old days," he says. "There's kind of a unity of purpose, an enthusiasm, an excitement in the band that hasn't been there for a few years."
Naturally, the conversation turns to the subject of the band's estranged founding guitarist Tom DeLonge, though Hoppus and Barker have nothing negative to say about him.
"I don't have any ill will or bad feelings," Hoppus says. "Tom's a very talented guy and I wish him the best. But he didn't want to be in the band, and we moved on without him."
Barker is even more open to the possibility of reuniting with DeLonge one day.
"Obviously he's my friend," he says. "I never say never. You know what I mean? I can't say that someone I was friends with for 20 years I'm not friends with anymore. Because we're still friends, even though we made a decision. I have no bad blood for the guy and I still consider him a friend. I never say never."
For now, Blink-182 will soldier on with Matt Skiba. Their California album hits shelves on July 1, and they've made big plans for a massive North American tour, the dates of which are available below.
06/16 Dover, DE - Firefly Music Festival
06/23 Bethlehem, PA - Sands Bethlehem Event Center
06/24 Montebello, QC - Amnesia Rock Fest
06/26 Columbia, MD - Kerfuffle
07/07 Winnipeg, MB - MTS Centre &%
07/08 Saskatoon, SK - Sasktel Centre %
07/09 Edmonton, AB - Rexall Centre %
07/10 Calgary, AB - Cowboys Casino %
07/22 San Diego, CA - Viejas Arena *
07/23 Las Vegas, NV - The Joint *
07/26 El Paso, TX - Don Haskins Center *
07/28 Oklahoma City, OK - Chesapeake Energy Arena *
07/29 Dallas, TX - Gexa Energy Pavilion *
07/30 San Antonio, TX - AT&T Center *
07/31 Houston, TX - Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion *
08/02 Atlanta, GA - Aaron's Amphitheatre at Lakewood *
08/03 Greenville, SC - Bon Secours Arena *
08/05 West Palm Beach, FL - Perfect Vodka Amphitheatre *
08/06 Tampa, FL - Midflorida Credit Union Amphitheatre *
08/08 Nashville, TN - Ascend Amphitheater *
08/09 Cleveland, OH - Blossom Music Center *
08/10 Cincinnati, OH - Riverbend Music Center *
08/12 Camden, NJ - BB&T Pavilion ^
08/13 Wantagh, NY - Nikon at Jones Beach ^
08/14 Holmdel, NJ - PNC Bank Arts Center ^
08/16 Virginia Beach, VA - Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater ^
08/19 Boston, MA - Xfinity Center ^
08/21 Toronto, ON - Molson Canadian Amphitheatre ^
08/23 Syracuse, NY - Lakeview Amphitheatre ^
08/24 Buffalo, NY - Darien Lake Performing Arts Center ^
08/25 Scranton, PA - The Pavilion at Montage Mountain ^
08/27 Hershey, PA - Hershey Park Pavilion ^
08/28 Pittsburgh, PA - First Niagara Pavilion ^
08/30 Detroit, MI - DTE Energy Music Theater ^
09/02 Hartford, CT - Xfinity Theater ^
09/03 Bangor, ME - Darling's Waterfront Pavilion ^
09/04 Saratoga, NY - Saratoga Performing Arts Center ^
09/08 Minneapolis, MN - Xcel Energy Center *
09/09 Chicago, IL - Hollywood Casino Amphitheater *
09/10 Indianapolis, IN - Klipsch Music Center *
09/11 St. Louis, MO - Hollywood Casino Amphitheater *
09/13 Denver, CO - Pepsi Center *
09/15 Boise, ID - Taco Bell Arena *
09/16 Spokane, WA - Spokane Arena *
09/17 Seattle, WA - Key Arena *
09/18 Abbotsford, BC - Abbotsford Centre *
09/20 Portland, OR - Sunlight Supply Amphitheater *
09/22 Salt Lake City, UT - Usana Amphitheatre ^
09/24 Phoenix, AZ - Ak-Chin Pavilion ^
09/25 Albuquerque, NM - Isleta Amphitheater ^
09/28 San Francisco, CA - Shoreline Amphitheater ^
09/29 Irvine, CA - Meadows Amphitheater ^
10/01 Los Angeles, CA - The Forum ^
10/05 Santa Barbara, CA - Santa Barbara Bowl
10/06 Fresno, CA - Save Mart Center
10/07 Irvine, CA - Irvine Meadows Amphitheater
& with Simple Plan
% with the Used
* with A Day to Remember and the All American Rejects
^ with A Day to Remember and All Time Low