Blink-182′s Secret Of Success: They Write For Fans

Pop-punk trio's audiences, music-industry observers agree: Tailoring songs to listeners pays off.

Blink-182′s ability to relate to their audience is the key to their success, fans and music-industry observers say.

“[Our songs are] about experiences that every guy has had,” singer/guitarist Tom DeLonge said recently. “Usually, all of our stuff is [based on] real stuff that happened.”

And that’s why the pop-punk trio’s third album, Enema of the State, debuted at #9 on the Billboard 200 albums chart last month and continues to sell strongly, according to Paul Orescan, vice president and marketing director at MCA Records, the band’s label.

“They have a great sense about who they are and who their audience is. They’re three very smart guys,” Orescan said. The band’s new album “is real, it’s them — they know who they are, they know who their fans are, and they write songs their fans can relate to,” he added.

Fan Adam Womack agrees. The 13-year-old from Plainville, Mass., runs a website called “Blink-182: Crappy Punk Rock” (www.blink182.megatran.com) and says he identifies with the group’s songs.

“What I like about them most is their own little style they portray and how they write songs about things people can relate to most,” Womack wrote in an e-mail. “I’ve had relationships with girls, and I’d listen to their music and it totally relates to me.”

Blink-182 formed in 1993 with DeLonge, singer/bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Scott Raynor — since replaced by ex-Aquabats skinsman Travis Barker — in the San Diego suburb of Poway.

The group’s debut album, Cheshire Cat (1995), featured catchy SoCal-style punk-rock songs that bounced back and forth between juvenile humor and teenage confusion. The album got airplay on several key West Coast radio stations, even though it was released on independent label Cargo Records and lacked the slick production of the band’s later albums.

Blink-182′s latest single, “What’s My Age Again?” (RealAudio excerpt), is at #3 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart and was recently the most-requested song for seven straight weeks at Live 105 (KITS-FM) in San Francisco.

Live 105 program director Aaron Axelsen attributed that streak to the band’s songwriting and pop sound. “Lyrically they’re right-on in targeting their audience and [the audience's] lifestyle,” he said. “And they’re a fun band. There’s no politics. [Enema of the State] is just a real good summer album.”

Both DeLonge, 23, and his songwriting partner, Hoppus, 27, said Enema of the State producer Jerry Finn (Rancid, Offspring) helped them craft the album’s appealing pop sound.

“He’s so talented,” DeLonge said. “And he’s got such rad ideas. There’s lots of things on the album that make the album for me, where he would say, ‘You should do this during that part’’ and I would just go, ‘Wow, that is so rad.’ ”

In preparing to do the album, Finn sought to find out what the group’s fans were looking for. He went to see Blink-182 play in Las Vegas and asked fans at the show what they liked most about the band.

“A lot of people I talked to, especially the girls, liked the songs that Mark wrote about relationships falling apart,” Finn said. “When we went into this [album], there weren’t that many [relationship songs], so I asked Mark to write another breakup song. He came back the next day with ‘Going Away to College.’ ”

Orescan predicted Enema of the State would be the band’s first platinum album. Dude Ranch (1997), the band’s second album and first for MCA, went gold.

Enema is selling nearly four times as fast as Dude Ranch, Orescan said. “They’re already gold. We expect a platinum record very shortly. More than likely by the time fall rolls around, the record will have well surpassed platinum.”

It’s a prediction DeLonge also has made — though with less seriousness. “We’ve already sold 100,000 in the first week … but we’re all shooting for higher,” he said last month. “I want to sell 50 million. I’m thinking 50 or 300 million — somewhere between there.”