As the figureheads from pop-punk giants Blink-182 and All Time Low prepare to drop their debut EP, Mark Hoppus and Alex Gaskarth talk to NME about orgies, the future and getting dark n' dirty...
When did it make sense that you guys should form a supergroup?
Mark Hoppus: “Maybe about two weeks after we started writing songs together. I had this idea that I would start a project and just make music with people who I saw at shows or toured with. I just wanted to hit up some friends to make a record. The first person I got with was Alex. He’s been a friend of mine for a long time. We wrote one song together, then another, then after about three songs we realised that we had something really cool that we should pursue.”
Alex Gaskarth: “At first our bands would run into each other at festivals over the years and we grew a friendship out of that. This time around all the stars aligned. Mark had some downtime between tours and it was in a bit of a dark place and lull creatively. What we were doing felt like it had a particular sound and direction. We started painting a bigger picture so we looked at each other and said ‘Is this a band?’ It all stemmed from there.”
Was it a headfuck to form a band with Mark, having loved Blink 182 growing up?
A: “Yeah, absolutely. Blink were one of the reasons I got into wanting to play music in the first place with All Time Low. They were an inspiration to me as a kid. Seeing them go out and have a blast on stage was really inspiring. It felt very authentic and exactly like what we were trying to do in our basement. It’s pretty wild that we now we get to make music together.”
What muscles do you get to flex in Simple Creatures that you don’t in your other bands?
M: “We’ve got really bratty guitars, dirty synthesizers, electronic drums, a lot of effecting sounds. What would traditionally be guitar pedals are now plug-ins in the computer. We’re trying to alter things digitally and make them interesting instead of just trying to get great distortion. We’ve been trying to get stranger and weirder throughout the full process. Some of the songs on the EP are a little moodier or stranger, but ‘Drug’ is pretty much what we’re about: bratty trash-pop.”
A: “It’s just the two of us. At the end of the day, it’s just a production project that started in the studio. It was all about trying to paint a full picture with just two guys in the studio. We didn’t have all these auxiliary players. We wanted to play dirty and bombastic music with rhythm but without a drummer. It’s about getting to dig into a bag of tricks that we don’t get to as deeply with our other bands. That’s the biggest thing: there’s no filter.”
Lyrically, it’s not really a ‘party record’, right?
M: Well, ‘Strange Love’ is kind of about an orgy and nights out on the town. Another song is about a bank robbery gone wrong. Another is called ‘How To Live’ and that’s about the end of a relationship. Those are the themes that we’re dealing with.”
A: “It goes into a lot of the darker places that we don’t really get to explore with our other bands. We’re looking at loyalty and people’s vices. Even the band’s name comes from this idea of human nature and our visceral needs and animalistic desires. A lot of the things that we explore pertain to those themes. You know, these carnal urges that scream at us from the back of our minds. We do our best to either suppress them, live with them, or align them with our minds in a different way. It’s an exploration into that.”
Can we expect a full album in the future?
M: “A full album is definitely coming. EP two is being mixed right now and that will come out at some point in the summer depending on the touring plans of Blink 182 and All Time Low. Two days ago we were back in the studio writing new songs so there’s definitely something we’re going to continue.”
A: “It’s still forming. As we rehearse to take these songs onto the stage, we’re still writing and tweaking. It’s ever-evolving, up until the very last second. Everything we do is counter to what we’re used to with our day jobs. It’s taught us to be much more versatile and dynamic. The themes carry through into EP 2. We have no idea how that will progress into a full album because we’ll have another 30 songs on the table soon. That’s the beauty of it. We keep to get making, which is so much fun.”
What can fans expect from the live show?
M: “We’re just going to play Simple Creatures music. One thing that was very important to us was that this not be a confusing thing for fans of either of our bands. We want it to sound different to both and keep that separate. We won’t be playing any Blink songs or All Time Low songs.”
Mark, how much time will you be giving to Blink 182 this summer?
M: “We are still finishing the Blink 182 record. We’ve been in the studio for months and we’re really excited about where that’s going. We’re going to try and have that out in the summer as well. It’s going to be a busy year, hopefully.”
We hear that the new Blink material is sounding pretty ‘experimental’?
M: “It’s very different to ‘California’. It’s a lot more aggressive. It’s darker in theme and tone. If you like ‘California’ to ‘Enema Of The State’ then this album is more like the untitled record where we are trying to experiment more: trying different sounds, and trying to expand upon what people think Blink 182 is.”
Will the Blink stuff be as dark as Simple Creatures?
M: “They’re both quite personal. I think that the world is quite a strange place right now in general. People are really wound up, everyone is on edge and that seeps into everything that you do. There’s also a lot of hope and positive things happening in the world. Hopefully we are moving the world in the right direction, even in the face of all of these strange obstacles.”
And Alex, how are things going with new All Time Low material?
A: “We’ve been writing. During some time I’ve been in Nashville to get the gears turning with the next All Time Low record. It’s early days yet, but it’s exciting nonetheless. The new music sounds really cool and the ideas are flowing.”
Where are you taking your sound from ‘Last Young Renegades’?
A: “We’re taking what we learned from that record in terms of the sound and some of the moods. Some of my favourite songs that we’ve ever written are on that record, but maybe what it didn’t provide was a lot of the fast pace and tempo that a lot of people are used to. When I look back and think about it critically, there wasn’t a lot of ‘party music’, that our band has normally been known for. That record was a little more tame and mellow, so we want to take what we learned from ‘Last Young Renegades’ and maybe make it a bit more upbeat. We want our next record to be more energetic and indicative of the moshpits that we came from.”
Simple Creatures release the ‘Strange Love EP’ on Friday March 29.
As well as performing at Download Festival, their upcoming tour dates are below.
March 28 Los Angeles, Calif. Belasco Ballroom
March 29 San Francisco, Calif. The Midway
March 31 Philadelphia, Pa. Warehouse on Watts
April 1 New York, N.Y. Public Arts
April 3 London, England Hangar