How Blink-182's Teen Angst Grew Up

'We really were some fucked-up kids from the suburbs,' says singer-guitarist Tom DeLonge. 'That really resonated in the Nineties'

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Tom De Longe, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus in 2009.
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The dudes of Blink-182 are changed men. They're finishing up their first new album since their 2005 split – and taking what they've learned during the years apart. Their still-untitled summer release will stretch far beyond catchy, knucklehead pop-punk and ringing guitars, promises singer-guitarist Tom DeLonge. “It's got huge stadium rock, punk and indie-rock elements, with drum'n'bass beats. It's cool,” he tells Rolling Stone. “We wanted to take everything that we've done and blend it into one pot, and hopefully not forget who we were along the road.”

The SoCal punks who once sang restlessly of heartbreak, boners and "growing up" have experienced a lot over the last half-decade: new bands, TV shows, marriage, family and the 2008 plane crash of drummer Travis Barker, which he barely survived. While Blink-182 had already begun evolving into deeper, darker pop territory on their self-titled 2003 release (including a duet with the Cure's Robert Smith), the reunited DeLonge, Barker and singer-bassist Mark Hoppus are anxious to demonstrate new growth in a new decade.

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“I want to make sure we don't lose that angst,” explains DeLonge, 35, of the band's original sound of frustration and fast, sunny hooks. “I want to take that and deliver it in a package that's very modern, using instrumentations and formulas to launch you into different places with music that is not just three-chord pop-punk with riffs. What we can do now is take the essence of what Blink-182 was and really make it into something that has a crescendo. That's what excites me.”

Keeping the new music connected to the band's snotty, multi-platinum history is Hoppus's goal. “He's really aware of who we are and making sure we don't lose that,” says DeLonge. “Mark says, 'Yes, but please don't forget how we got here.' And I just go, 'You're absolutely right!'”

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The self-produced album will have 10-to-12 new songs and is being recorded at DeLonge's studio in San Diego and in Los Angeles by Hoppus and Barker. One finished track is the heartfelt “Ghost on the Dancefloor,” which remembers past loves between soaring intros and outros. “Travis said it was really touching him because it reminded him of a friend he lost in his plane crash,” says DeLonge. “It's cool to see us come together over something like that. That's the glue in a dysfunctional rock band.”

Getting the band together wasn't anything DeLonge ever expected, but after Barker's crash, it became inevitable. “That was a massive surprise to me,” he says now. “We all wrote each other off pretty hardcore. It was a pretty dumb break up. After Travis had that tragic event, it was really easy to see that what we were fighting about was no big deal and I wanted him to heal.”

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The band reconnected musically and emotionally during a 2009 summer reunion tour, though each of them still maintains busy solo projects: DeLonge with his band Angels & Airwaves and Hoppus and Barker in +44. Plus, there's Barker's just-released hip-hop album, Give the Drummer Some, and Hoppus's weekly chat show for Fuse TV, A Different Spin. Even with all that, Blink-182 will once again be a full-time gig in 2011, with a world tour of arenas and festivals behind the new album beginning this summer.

“We had a lot of success, but where Blink-182 came from is – we really were some fucked-up kids from the suburbs. For whatever reason, that really resonated during the Nineties with a bunch of other fucked-up kids from the suburbs,” says DeLonge. “Now everyone's going, 'OK, fuckers, pick up where you left off but bring your skills to the table.' It's good. We have big, big plans.”