Leaving a band that’s sold 20 million albums and spent eight years as a fixture on modern rock radio playlists is not a decision taken lightly. Or easily.
Just ask Tom DeLonge.
In 2004, the singer and guitarist quit blink-182, a San Diego trio whose sly wit and abundant hooks had made it one of the most popular bands on the alternative rock scene. Official announcements say the group is on hiatus, but it is, for all intents and purposes, history, and DeLonge has moved on to the next musical track with his new band, Angels & Airwaves (a.k.a. AVA).
“I started blink when I was 16 years old, and now, being 30 years old, I’m a much different person,” says DeLonge, who released the fi rst AVA album, “We Don’t Need to Whisper,” in May.
“I found myself at a kind of crossroads in my life where I couldn’t see myself doing it the same way I’d been doing it with the blink guys.”
With a young daughter, Ava, at home, DeLonge says that he no longer wanted to be on the road for months at a time. But, he adds, that wasn’t the only issue driving his decision.
“Communication broke down in the band,” he says. “We weren’t the same people. We definitely weren’t the same friends. So I took a chance; it was definitely the most stressful and traumatic decision I ever made in my life in that I walked away from something that was my identity.
“But I just had this thing inside of me that I really, truly felt was going to be the most amazing experience of my life to date. I had the feeling I could do something extremely positive.”
DeLonge took some time to “look around the world” before settling into AVA, however. Most notably, he worked for Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, starting at the Iowa Caucus and helping through the general election.
Disappointed in the result but inspired by the Kerry experience, DeLonge felt recharged and ready to move forward with his music.
“I got so close to somebody I truly believed in, who I truly believed could change the world,” he explains. “I just understood that if I was to try to apply that to my own life, I could probably do something incredible if I put my mind to it and stopped acting like a little kid and tried to do something really artistically ambitious and something extremely positive.”
He formed AVA with guitarist David Kennedy, who had been part of DeLonge’s side project Box Car Racer, along with drummer Atom Willard, formerly of the Offspring, and ex-Distillers bassist Ryan Sinn. They started recording “We Don’t Need to Whisper” — a title taken from something DeLonge said in the studio — in March 2005 at his home studio, and while DeLonge’s voice certainly sounds the same as it did in blink-182, the band’s sound is thick and gauzy, going for anthemic ambience rather than punky snap.
“It’s these metaphorical poems about changing my life into something that’s meaningful, and taking a traumatic experience in my life and turning it into love,” DeLonge explains. “It’s all about the tug of war between love and war, this conflict in someone’s life — feeling there’s more for you or (that) you should do something on a bigger level.”
And that war, he emphasizes, is inside, although some of the lyrics and the artwork on “We Don’t Have to Whisper” reference actual military confl ict.
“People want to assume the album is about Iraq,” says DeLonge, whose younger brother is in the Navy Special Forces and has done tours of duty in Iraq. “I was very aware when I wrote those lyrics that people would apply it to the current state of world affairs.
“But I was really referencing World War II, ’cause that was the last war where people were doing something for a reason. It’s all about good vs. evil.”
So far, AVA has been a move to the good for DeLonge. “We Don’t Have to Whisper” debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 chart, while the fi rst single, “The Adventure,” stomped into the Top 4 of the Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart.
But DeLonge says that he measures the band’s success by other criteria.
“I looked at leaving (blink-182) as a complete noble cause,” he says. “I was looking at my daughter in her bedroom, and I said, ‘You know, when she grows up, if she ever needs to walk away from everything in her life for her family, I want her to do it because she knows her dad did it for her.’
“I want her to know that you can do what you think is right and what you think is for the best, and that that’s a good enough reason to do anything.”
Angels & Airwaves performs with Taking Back Sunday, Head Automatica and the Subways at 6:15 p.m. Thursday (June 29th) at Meadow Brook Music Festival, on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester Hills. Tickets are $27.50 pavilion and lawn. Call (248)
Send your thoughts and comments to