It takes only about 40 seconds of "Up All Night," the first single from blink-182's new album, Neighborhoods, for the track to feel like a statement. That isn't to say that what comes before that mark (skittering electronic flourishes and a punk rock riff huge enough for the stadiums) is lacking, but the 40-second mark is where singer/guitarist Tom DeLonge finishes a line and singer/bassist Mark Hoppus picks up the next phrase. "Everyone wants to call it all around our life with a better name," DeLonge sings, and Hoppus adds: "Everyone falls and spins and it's up again with a friend who does the same."
Just a few years ago, the idea of the two singing anything together would have been a laughable proposition. "When we were broken up, we were not kind to one another," Hoppus says over the phone.
The group split in 2005, after tensions among DeLonge, Hoppus, and drummer Travis Barker exploded. In the aftermath, DeLonge formed Angels and Airwaves, claiming that the new band would be "the greatest rock 'n' roll revolution for this generation" (a statement DeLonge later credited to a raging addiction to painkillers) while Hoppus and Barker formed a new group, +44.
During the break, DeLonge didn't speak with his former bandmates, then 2008 found the members of the band facing two tragedies: In August, longtime producer and collaborator Jerry Finn died of a brain hemorrhage, and in September, Barker was in a plane crash that killed four passengers, with only Barker and Adam "DJ AM" Goldstein surviving (Goldstein died of an overdose the next year).
The events brought DeLonge back into contact with Hoppus and Barker. "We're dudes," Hoppus says. "I mean, once we got back together in a room, talked on the phone, it was like, 'Yo, we cool?' 'Yeah, I'm good. All right, cool.' We didn't really even have to talk about the stuff that went on during the break. We talked about it in general terms, but there wasn't weirdness at all. It felt like home."
In 2009, the band officially reunited. Five years had passed since the three had shared a stage. "When we did our first tour after the reunion of the band, we didn't know what to expect" Hoppus says. "We hadn't played music in a very long time, [but] that was our biggest tour ever. It's awesome."
"It's kind of all over the place," Hoppus says of Neighborhoods, the band's reunion record. "Some of it sounds like nothing we've ever done before; some of it sounds like old-school blink; some of it sounds like stuff from the last record . . . [It's a combination of] all the knowledge we've gained from everything we've done from 20 years of being in bands."
The new album finds blink-182 in the most precarious of positions for a band built on dick jokes and nudity: that of elder pop-punk statesmen.
"I definitely feel that," Hoppus says of the group's influence on bands like Best Coast and Wavves, both of which are vocal fans of blink-182. "When we first started out, we were written off by everybody. Everybody. We were the guys running around naked, the guys who said curse words onstage and acted like idiots. And all the people that originally liked blink were the outcasts . . . Somehow, all the weirdos and outcasts have grown up and taken over."
The outcasts will no doubt be out in full force at this year's Arizona Fall Frenzy, where blink-182 will share the stage with local heroes Jimmy Eat World. The bands have played plenty of shows together, and Jim Adkins and company played Tom DeLonge's wedding in 2001.
Even with DeLonge celebrating 10 years of marriage this year, it's hard to think of blink-182 as "grown up" now, even for the band members. "There's no joke songs on the record, but we go out and play shows every night, and Tom can't shut his mouth," Hoppus says. "We take our music as seriously as possible, but at the same time, we like to have fun. If we want to do something lame, we'll do it and not second-guess ourselves."