Plus 44

Earlier this week, Plus 44 released their debut release, When Your Heart Stops Beating.

The record is the second of two post-Blink 182 projects released this year, and includes two members of the pop-punk outfit. I had a chance to talk with lead vocalist Mark Hoppus about the new band, the old band and what's in the cards for him, and his band.

How’s everything going with the record release?

Everything is going great. We’re doing press and getting ready to hit the road. We can’t wait. Everyone is excited and we’re ready to do this damn thing.

It’s been great to go back in and writing this record and getting ready to tour again. It’s been ahile since we had an album out. A lot has happened in these last couple of years.

What’s it like being on the road again?

It’s been great to go back out. It’s been awhile since I toured. Being back out on stage for me feels amazing. Going back and playing in small clubs and starting small and humble and hitting the road and building this band from square one. It reminds us all of where we came from and why we’re doing it. It keeps us hungry and keeps us humble.

As you said, for the past few years you’ve been keeping busy with producing albums and doing your podcast. What got you interested in working on a band again?

My number one priority was always writing the album and now rehearsing and going out on tour with Plus 44. Plus-44 is our number one priority and the other stuff has just been where I could find the time.

Plus 44 isn’t something I work around, the other stuff works around Plus-44.

As for the Podcast, I thought it was great that you opened with "Silly Girl."

I had to, that was the band that got me into punk rock music in the first place. I had the change to play songs by bands that I liked, so I absolutely had to start with the first song that inspired me and that was "Silly Girl" by the Descendents.

Obviously Travis and I would never have elected to have that band break up, but given the cards that we were dealt, we had to go on and do Plus 44.

How is Travis’s arm?

His arm is healing. He’s learning how to play everything with one arm. We’ve been in the rehearsal space for the past few weeks having Travis rehearse with his left foot replacing his right arm. It’s really interesting to watch. It’s a testament to Travis’s ability that he can switch if need be.

You started off with electronic but have gone back to a more traditional sound - at least your traditional sound. What are aiming for with this band? Is this a continuation of Blink-182 in your opinion?

I think it is, in a large part a continuation of what we doing - a step forward but also sometimes completely different from what we were doing. Having Travis and I in Plus 44, we’re going to bring an element of blink-182, because obviously we’re two thirds of Blink-182. We also have two guys who are bringing in completely different elements from what we’ve ever worked with before.

There are songs on the record that we finished that were nothing like Blink-182 and we love that. And then there were some songs that felt like a continuation of what we were doing with Blink and we felt right about that too.

Is is weird not to be writing with your partner who you’ve been with for so long.

Maybe for the first week, it took some adjusting to, but Travis and I were forced out of our routine of writing with Tom. As far as we pushed each other with Blink-182, I think there is still a lot of things we didn’t do with Blink-182 because we were comfortable with the positions we had.

As a vocalist I sang a certain range and Tom would sing a certain range and Tom would write a certain type of song and so would I. Being forced out of that was a blessing in a strange and ugly disguise. Travis is actually writing chord structures on keyboards. In Blink-182, we always written to a guitar part that Tom or me had come up with. With Plus-44 everything was different. Some songs start off on guitar, some start as a drum pattern that Travis would program or a bass part that I would come up with or a guitar part.

So things came from a lot of different places and forced us out of our comfort zone.

You’ve been getting a lot of press because of the perceived feud. As you concerned that this will overshadow the new record and tour and everything going on?

I think they are inseparable at this point because of where Travis and I came from. Obviously because we haven’t spoken about it until now people are going to want to know about the new record, how it came into being, but they’re also going to want to know what happened at the end of Blink-182.

The thing that we’ve done is we just told everyone that was involved that when we do interviews, people can ask anything they want. We’re not instructing our publicists or label or manager or anybody else to say "Don’t talk about Blink. Don’t ask about this." We told everybody that they could ask us anything they want. I think people want to know everything.

But it must be gratifying to know that people loved the band enough to be affected by the split. People were genuinely upset. For a lot of people, it was a gateway band, like how the Descendents were for you.

Definitely. Being two years after Blink-182 broke up, it’s really humbling to know that people still want to talk about it. That people are still, to this day, upset that that band broke up and upset that the three of us aren’t making music together. I loved Blink-182 too.

Obviously Travis and I would never have elected to have that band break up, but given the cards that we were dealt, we had to go on and do Plus 44.

Not to harp on this for too long, but do you see reconciliation in the future? Is this irreparable.

I have no idea. I wouldn’t even guess. It doesn’t feel like Blink-182 is ever going to be a band again but who knows what will happen in ten years.

You’ve produced records from MCS, Matches, etc. What brings you into those projects?

I get turned onto new bands by people suggesting that I listen to it. For instance, with Motion City Soundtrack, my friend Brendan gave me their CD a long time ago - years and years ago. He told me they were amazing and I loved the CD and so we brought them on tour. [guitarist Joshua Cain] kept asking me questions about the music industry and recording and labels and all kinds of different stuff. So then they asked me to produce their record and I was honored.

In the same way, Justin [Pierre], the singer from MCS gave me a Matches CD and told me to check them out. I liked that the band and so when they asked me to work with them I did.

Some punk bands who achieve success feel alienated from punk rock and the "kids" and the kids get strict get more demanding. How do you feel about that? Do you feel connected still?

I definitely feel connected. I feel like back in the day, there was a lot more punk rock police in the world. When we were first starting off and starting to tour, I remember when Green Day signed to a major label and you could have split the punk rock community down the middle. It was totally divisive:"I can’t believe Green Day sold out and signed to a major." All that nonsense. Other people said "As long as they still make great music, it doesn’t matter what label theyu’re on"

There was a lot of that when Offspring and Green Day were really breaking punk rock music open to the mainstream. There was a lot more arguing about what was selling out and what wasn’t.

Now kids seem to be about the music rather than the bands or what label they’re on.

How has your experience been in the music industry?

I’d say been it’s great. Every second has been great. It’s far beyond anything that I ever imagined. The good is far better than anything I imagined and the bad is far worse than anything I imagined. But I would never trade any of it for anything.

It’s been and is the most incredible experience I could for.

Have you considered forming a label or anything? Between your producing, touring and podcast, you’re probably exposed to a lot of younger bands.

I absolutely had to start with the first song that inspired me and that was "Silly Girl" by the Descendents.

It’s something that I’ve actually thought about for a few years but if I’m going to do something like that, I’d really feel absolutely responsible for the bands and their careers and want to put myself 100% into it. As busy as I am, I don’t think I have the time to do that.

Until I can figure out a way to make sure bands are being looked after in the right away, I would never be able to do it.

Do you think it’ll take another three years before we hear new music from you?

Hopefully not, we’re going to do this tour, and then go right back in the studio after this.

What’s in the works for Plus-44?

We’ve got this US tour then then we’re home for Christma and then in new year we’re going back to Europe and then Australia, Japan and then another US tour and then back to Europe and that’s all before May/June.

Lots of shows, lots of touring; lots of buses and airplanes.