Something is rotten in the kingdom of pop-punk. After a tense, several-hour-long volley of announcements and denials yesterday, Blink-182 members Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus confirmed to Rolling Stone that the group’s third member, Tom DeLonge, had “indefinitely” left the band. He will be replaced by Alkaline Trio guitarist Matt Skiba for an upcoming appearance at the Musink festival, which is co-owned by Barker.
The band initially announced the split by a press release to Radio.com. The announcement was then denied by DeLonge on his Instagram account, only to be reaffirmed by Hoppus and Barker in the rather scathing Rolling Stone interview. In that piece, the bandmates describe a stilted reunion and subsequent break-up that sounds equal parts confusing and sad: According to Barker, the decision to get back together in 2009 felt perfunctory, and maybe only happened “because I almost died.” (Barker was involved in a plane crash in 2008). After then deciding to record new music, the group spent two years shopping around for a label at DeLonge’s insistence. When they found one, they say they received an email from DeLonge’s manager (Barker and Hoppus say they haven’t spoken to DeLonge in months) notifying them that “Tom. Is. Out.” The remaining Blinks describe DeLonge as “disrespectful and ungrateful,” express relief to finally be publicly rid of his equivocation, and convey an air of weariness and melancholy that feels tragically at odds with a band as silly and frivolous (but still totally enjoyable) as Blink-182.
Hoppus and Barker confirm they remain committed to playing the Musink festival, and that they just want to “go out and play Blink songs” without it getting too “lawyer-ey.” Perhaps this isn’t the worst possible outcome for an aging pop-punk act. At least Blink hasn’t split into two competing touring bands (like whatever is going on with Black Flag right now). And perhaps, with Skirba on board, it can morph into some kind of supergroup (Blinkaline 180-trio?) that discards the overly-whiney songs of its predecessors. Plus, free from the burden of Blink, DeLonge now has time to focus on his “non-musical endeavors,” which presumably means updating his alien-abduction conspiracy website.
Update, Jan. 28, 2015: Tom DeLonge posted a long letter on his Facebook further detailing his side of the Blink kerfuffle. While not as directly accusatory as Hoppus and Barker’s Rolling Stone interview, DeLonge describes similar personal and logistic frustrations in getting the band back together, with a similar sadness that things ended up this way. Taken together, it all seems like a pretty reasonable account of three middle-age guys with separate lives and careers trying to get a former collaborative project back together, and just not being able to negotiate mutual commitment and logistics. Hey, so I guess this is growing up?