There are two faces to blink-182. On the one hand, the band is known for their catchy melodies, meteoric tempos, and outrageous “dick jokes”, while on the other, they came to define themselves as progressive, experimental, and ultimately, extremely influential within the music industry.
Formed as Duck Tape in 1992, the early appeal of this simple three piece – consisting of Tom DeLonge on vocals and guitar, Mark Hoppus on bass and vocals, and Scott Raynor on drums – lay in their self-deprecating accessibility to their adolescent peers. Their up-tempo, sunny songs, combining late punk era characteristics with pop and skate rock elements, weaved themes of rebellion, lust, and teenage frustration, as well as pop cultural references, into light-hearted and irresistibly resonant wisecracks.
The trio had met through connections at Rancho Bernardo High School, the school Tom DeLonge was sent to following his expulsion from Poway High for being drunk. They bonded over a shared love of punk rock bands the Descendents, Bad Religion, Pennywise, and NOFX, as well as The Cure and others that would influence their own sound later.
Using DeLonge's garage as a rehearsal space they shared lyrics and played with ideas, ultimately coming up with a number of gems including 'Carousel' to fill the first of their demo tapes, Flyswatter (produced in Raynor's bedroom). They used this recording, under their new name, Blink, to secure gigs and exposure in local clubs and high schools – later culminating in their opening for other acts at punk rock San Diego venue, SOMA, where their irreverent stage manner made a lasting impression on young crowds.
Two more demos followed: Demo 2 (essentially a re-recording of Flyswatter) and Buddha, which helped Blink land a contract with local indie label, Cargo Records.
The first of their studio albums, Cheshire Cat, was released in 1994, and whilst distribution was limited, some tracks were played by San Diego radio stations, further swelling the band's renown. It was at this point that Blink were warned by Cargo to change their name, after an Irish band, also called Blink, threatened legal action. With the same blasé nonchalance with which they approached everything else, the band eventually chose to append the numbers 182, supposedly at random, to their name (although one compelling rumour among fans suggests that 182 is a veiled reference to the band's alma mater, Rancho Bernardo, the school's initials being the eighteenth and second letters of the alphabet respectively; hence, the band's full name would translate as Blink (or “fuck”) Rancho Bernardo.)
Their major turning point came with the support and experience of manager Rick DeVoe, whose connections got them all the way to Australia, playing alongside Pennywise on the Good Times surf video tour of 1995. The guitarist for Pennywise would later be instrumental in securing blink's inclusion on future tours, including the Warped Tour festival in 1997.
The band's second studio album, Dude Ranch, was released through MCA Records for wider distribution in 1996, and fared considerably better than their first – thanks largely to the inclusion of hit track 'Dammit' on national rock radio playlists.
While blink promoted Dude Ranch on an arduous touring schedule, tensions within the band began to threaten its unity. Of central concern was the youngest of the three, Scott Raynor, who had unfortunately developed a drinking problem. After deliberations on rehab and a weekend of drinking that proved the last straw, Raynor's band mates eventually agreed to drop him altogether. Travis Barker from support act, The Aquabats, became his replacement, first on tour and then (having impressed Hoppus and DeLonge) for good.
Enema of the State, produced by the great Jerry Finn and released in 1999, was their first record with Barker and proved a major success. Released amid hit music videos, sell-out arena tours, and even a cameo in teen movie, American Pie, this was the album that really made blink famous. It was followed up in 2001 by Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, again produced by Finn, who by now had become an important and honorary member of the band. Finn has been credited not only with creating blink's polished pop punk sound, but also for mediating in disputes when tensions broke out – which they increasingly did...
Alienated by the growing pressure from above to churn out more of the same – the same sound, the same lyrics, the same ideas – for a greedy and single-minded record label, DeLonge decided his bliss, for now, lay elsewhere. In 2002, he temporarily left blink to experiment creatively with the post-hardcore Box Car Racer, assisted by Travis Barker. His actions had a knock-on effect, however, and left Hoppus feeling betrayed. As a result, following the 2003 release of their considerably more downbeat and thematically mature self-titled album, the band publicly announced it to be their last and left blink on an “indefinite” hiatus.
There followed a period of turbulent experimentation (+44, Angels & Airwaves, and Barker's many side-projects), the tragic loss of producer Jerry Finn, and the rapid maturation of all of them.
When Barker was involved in a devastating plane crash in 2008 – which claimed the lives of his security guard and personal assistant, as well as the jet's crew – former band mates Hoppus and DeLonge set aside their differences to support him in his recovery. Within weeks, they were discussing a reunion.
The band's sixth studio album, Neighborhoods (2011) was a celebration of their diversity, and a culmination of all they had learned, both musically and emotionally, during their time apart. All three continued to pursue side-projects, but blink-182 was reformed with a new direction and fresh vitality, to the fond appreciation of fans and critics alike.
The Legacy Continues
Leaving a legacy for peers and fans alike is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the unstoppable beast that is blink-182. With a huge following amassed over their impressive career and countless bands citing them as an early influence on their careers, it's easy to see why blink is a relentless force to be reckoned with, surviving break-ups, extended hiatus and even the shocking jet crash that almost took Travis' life.
After a long awaited seventh album in 2015 was delayed and finally shelved, a parting of the ways with Tom Delonge proved only the beginning of a new adventure for the band, and indeed Tom, but what more lies in store for the pop/punk behemoths?
As friction within the band became tangible, Tom Delonge poured more of his time into Angels & Airwaves, with the release of their fifth album 'The Dream Walker' becoming a complete multi-media experience involving a book and an animated short. This furthered Tom's sojourn into writing, after his first children's book 'The Lonely Astronaut at Christmas' hit the shelves in 2013. During a lull in work with Angels & Airwaves, Tom released a solo album of blink demos in 2015, signalling his full-blown but ultimately friendly departure from the biggest punk/pop band in history.
This may have been the end of a long and amazing musical era, but it certainly didn't mark the end of pop/punk's darlings. A new face, in the form of Alkaline Trio vocalist Matt Skiba, joined the blink line-up following Tom's 'friendly divorce' from the band, thrilling the crowd during his first live appearance alongside Mark and Travis at Musink Festival in March 2015.
With two-thirds of blink-182 still highly active and with much more to give their loyal audience, Matt's appearance was a positive one for band and fans alike, as all three spoke of how great it had felt to inject new blood into blink's live performance. The excitement that ensued has lead to talks of recording an album together, and the promise that new tracks were already in the pipeline.
Blink-182 have such a strong back catalogue of hits and a massive fan base just dying for a seventh blink album, it will be interesting to see what Matt Skiba can bring to the table, but whatever it is, it's sure to steer a band that loves to dabble in diversity in new and interesting directions whilst still encompassing that tried and tested sound we know and love so well.
As for the future, watch this space. Tom's adventures in writing and film making, Travis' well received autobiography, and blink's brand new member just raring to get into the studio and produce some magic with the band, all point to the future of current and former members looking as bright as ever!
California and beyond!
With Matt Skiba firmly in place as Blink's brand new member, the band headed into the studio in January 2016 to start work on brand new material. Fans waited with bated breath – would it still sound like the Blink-182 they love? Would Matt's influence turn their beloved pop/punk heroes into a diet version of Alkaline Trio? How would Blink fare without Tom? After a six month wait, all these questions and more were eloquently answered by the trio. With the leaked release of the lead single 'Bored to Death', came cries of OMG, Blink is back and as good as ever!
Matt had clearly made his impact on the band's music, but the new album 'California' still had that musical blueprint that makes it unmistakably Blink – the tongue in cheek lyrics, the often deeper meaning, the relentless punky riffs, and a great blend of vocals from Mark Hoppus and Matt Skiba soaring over Travis' solid percussive backbone.
Skipping up the charts in the US and the UK, 'California' hit the top spot with ease, giving the band their first UK #1 and their second in the US. Riding high on a wave of excited hype, the band has announced a tour across the States over the summer, with hints of a trip to Europe and maybe even an acoustic album. As the album and the promise of live shows thrills fans worldwide, Blink is the band of the moment.
Over in the Tom Delonge camp, it seems he’s set to take over the world with his brand new UFO related project ‘Sekret Machines’, which incorporates books, music from Angels & Airwaves, and a documentary. Since his friendly divorce from Blink there has been talk of whether Tom and the boys will ever record and tour together again, but with such busy schedules on both sides, it’s something that would clearly have to line up perfectly to ever happen.
In the meantime, Tom certainly isn't twiddling his thumbs and has even admitted he left Blink to pursue his obsession with the paranormal, stating he just didn't have enough hours in the day to do both. Equally with 'California' riding high in the charts and the lyrics of new Blink songs on every fans lips, it's safe to say Mark, Matt and Travis are doing just fine without Tom!
The future of Blink-182 and indeed our lovely Tom is as bright as ever, with both parties intent on bringing us fans only the very best in music and multimedia. Whilst many thought the band would struggle after the departure of its founding member, the addition of Matt Skiba has clearly brought a new lease of life to these pop/punk icons. With album and singles soaring up the charts and a back catalogue to die for, Blink-182 is far from yesterday's news!