|Also known as||Plus 44|
|Origin||Los Angeles, California, United States|
|Years active||2005–09 (hiatus)|
+44 (read as Plus Forty-four) was an American rock supergroup formed in Los Angeles, California in 2005. The group consisted of vocalist and bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker of Blink-182, lead guitarist Shane Gallagher of The Nervous Return and rhythm guitarist Craig Fairbaugh of Mercy Killers. Hoppus and Barker created +44 shortly after the 2005 breakup of Blink-182, and the band's name refers to the international dialing code of the United Kingdom, the country where the duo first discussed the project. Early recordings were largely electronic in nature, and featured vocals by Carol Heller, formerly of the all-girl punk quartet Get the Girl.
The band's sound gradually took on a heavier tone as Hoppus and Barker purchased a studio in which to record. Although hotly anticipated by music press, the band's debut, When Your Heart Stops Beating (2006), undersold commercial expectations and received mixed reviews from critics. The group toured worldwide throughout 2006 and 2007, including a summer slot on the Honda Civic Tour alongside Fall Out Boy. Hoppus later began preparing material for a solo album and put plans for a second +44 album on hold in 2008, and the group entered an extended hiatus with the reunion of Blink-182 in 2009. On the subject of the band's future, Hoppus has commented, "I don't consider it done. We'll never say never with anything."
By 2004, Blink-182, consisting of bassist Mark Hoppus, guitarist Tom DeLonge, and drummer Travis Barker, had emerged as the biggest pop punk act of the era, releasing the seven-times-multiplatinum Enema of the State (1999) and number one album Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001). The band took a brief break in 2002 when DeLonge suffered a herniated disc in his back, during which time he collected several darker musical ideas he felt unsuitable for Blink-182, compiling them into a record, Box Car Racer. The album, recorded with the help of Hazen Street guitarist and longtime friend David Kennedy, was intended as a one-time experimental project but evolved into a full-fledged band with Barker behind the kit. The side project would cause great division between DeLonge and Hoppus, who was not included and felt betrayed. The moody subject matter and music on Box Car Racer edged its way into the Blink sound as well, and the band explored experimentalist elements on their next effort, an eponymous fifth studio album (2003).
The trio embarked on a European tour the following fall, during which DeLonge felt increasingly conflicted both about his creative freedom within the group and the toll touring was taking on his family life. He eventually expressed his desire to take a half-year respite from touring in order to spend more time with his family. Hoppus and Barker were dismayed by his decision, which they felt was an overly long break. DeLonge did not blame his bandmates for being disappointed with his requests, but was dismayed that they could not seemingly understand. In addition, DeLonge protested the idea of Barker's reality television series, Meet the Barkers, which was being produced for a 2005 premiere. DeLonge disliked television cameras everywhere, feeling his personal privacy was invaded. Following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, DeLonge agreed to perform at Music for Relief's Concert for South Asia, a benefit show to aid victims. Further arguments ensued during rehearsals, rooted in the band member's increasing paranoia and bitterness toward one another. He considered his bandmates priorities "mad, mad different," coming to the conclusion that the trio had simply grew apart as they aged, had families, and reached fame. The breakdown in communication led to heated exchanges, resulting in his exit from the group. Geffen announced on February 22, 2005 that Blink-182 would be going on an "indefinite hiatus", and DeLonge would not speak to Barker or Hoppus—whom he once considered his greatest friend—for several years.
Geffen opted to refer to the breakup as an "indefinite hiatus," and label president Jordan Schur reportedly told Barker that "any press you do, make sure you say everything is cool." Immediately following DeVoe's phone call, Hoppus and Barker began laying down new ideas. Recording in Barker's basement and Hoppus' dining room, by necessity everything was electronic, with the two musicians experimenting with electronic drums, samples, keyboards and direct computer recordings. While away on a trip in April 2005, Hoppus participated in an interview with MTV News in which he revealed the band's existence, saying "Right now, Travis and I are using the time off to start this project called Plus-44 […] It's very exciting, like a breath of fresh air." When the two regrouped, they decided to stop giving interviews about the new project. "It was strange to be talking about music that we were just in the very first steps of writing," recalled Hoppus. "It didn’t feel right to talk about yet." The band's name is a reference to the country code needed when placing a phone call to the United Kingdom, where Hoppus and Barker first discussed making music alone. "When we first started talking about ever doing anything outside of blink was on the last European tour where Tom was telling us that he needed to take a year off from the band. […] We never did anything about it until Tom quit the band, but that's where it first started," said Hoppus. The basement recordings were ambient and quiet by necessity. "We were recording and we didn't want the cops showing up at our house at 2 a.m. because we were recording drums," remembered Hoppus.
When Your Heart Stops Beating (2006–07)
The addition of other members to +44 came gradually. In April 2005, Barker invited his friend Carol Heller to provide vocals on a track. Formerly of the all-girl punk quartet Get the Girl, Heller traded and shared vocals with Hoppus on most of the band's early demos. Meanwhile, Hoppus invited friend Shane Gallagher to play guitar on a few tracks the band began working on, and he was soon drafted as a member. Production on the record moved along swiftly once the duo purchased their own North Hollywood studio, which they dubbed Opera Music. The space — which featured two recording rooms, a lounge and a small outdoor courtyard — was purchased in October 2005 from former Poison guitarist Richie Kotzen. After moving all band gear into the new recording center, the entire direction for the band evolved into a more organic sound. Heller became uneasy with the new direction and, with a desire to start a family, parted ways with the band by the end of the year. Shortly afterward, friend Craig Fairbaugh came in to observe and listen and play to songs; by the end of the day, Hoppus and Barker asked him to become the fourth member of the group. The band's debut album, When Your Heart Stops Beating, was produced by Hoppus and Barker, with longtime associate and friend Jerry Finn in the role of executive producer.
The release date for When Your Heart Stops Beating was heavily anticipated and publicized by the music press. As early as August 2005, Internet rumors began to circulate that the album would be released in January 2006 although the band's management denied the claims. Thanks to Hoppus and Barker's silence on press interviews, misinformation flooded the Internet in the months prior to the record's release, such as countless impostors posting fake songs online. "It's kind of flattering that some kids would go out there and post songs under our name," Barker added. "I mean, at least it means that people are excited to hear our stuff." "No It Isn't" leaked in December 2005 and caused speculation as it addressed the break-up of Blink-182 head-on. Hoppus did not give any formal interviews before shortly prior to the release of the album, instead spending time updating his blog, producing tracks for Motion City Soundtrack, and working on the album in relative secrecy. "During that time, their former bandmate, Tom DeLonge, did the opposite, peppering blogs and magazines with quotes hyping his new band and putting the blame for the Blink situation squarely on their shoulders," reported James Montgomery of MTV News. While it "pained" them to do so, Hoppus and Barker refrained from speaking to media, instead burying themselves in the studio in the recording of the album. "We just bit our tongues and didn't say anything, and now that the record is done, we get the chance to tell the truth about everything," Hoppus said. "We were silent for a year, and we couldn't put into words what we were doing, so we just decided not to say anything and let the music speak for itself," Barker added. "Now it's time for people to hear that music and hear the truth."
When Your Heart Stops Beating was officially released November 13, 2006. In the United States, the album debuted at number 10 on the Billboard 200, with approximately 66,000 copies sold in its first week. The album received generally mixed reviews from music critics. The New York Times described it as "zippier and catchier" than Angels & Airwaves' debut studio album, We Don't Need to Whisper, but concluded that neither band was as good as Blink-182. As of September 2011, the album has sold over 274,000 copies in the US. +44's first show took place at the Roxy Theatre in Hollywood on September 7, 2006 with a second appearance following at the London Astoria. The band embarked on a promotional tour of the United Kingdom shortly thereafter. Barker was in constant pain but soldiered through the performances, altering his kit set-up to accommodate. "He is now using his left foot as his right arm, Def Leppard style," confirmed Hoppus. A doctor informed Barker he had broken a bone in his arm during the band's video shoot and was instructed to immediately rest and not take part in the band's upcoming live dates, including early 2007 jaunts to Australia and Europe. Barker nevertheless took part, but after an excruciating Amsterdam gig, the band drafted Gil Sharone, then of The Dillinger Escape Plan, to fill-in for him.
Cancelled second studio album and hiatus (2008–09)
The tour rolled on with Australia and Japan, where the band busied themselves with press junkets and appearances. Crowds were, according to journalist Joe Shooman, mainly Blink-182 fans. Hoppus relished the opportunity to return to smaller, more intimate club dates rather than the massive arenas of latter-day Blink. The band spent April to June 2007 on the Honda Civic Tour of the US and Canada alongside Fall Out Boy, The Academy Is… and Paul Wall. The band began slipping old Blink songs—"What's My Age Again?" and "The Rock Show"—into setlists, despite the band's rather adamant stance against doing so months before. "Travis and I love our history with Blink-182, and it seems a shame to let those songs sit dormant forever because of what happened two years ago," said Hoppus on his blog. Hoppus later joined Panic! at the Disco on one date for an acoustic run-through of "What's My Age Again?".
Further August 2007 dates were postponed for unclear reasons; Hoppus stated the band had decided to re-enter the studio in preparation of a second studio album. Hoppus and Barker spent the remainder of the year in discussions with record companies before announcing that the planned next +44 album would see release via Interscope Records. According to journalist Joe Shooman, little work commenced on the album: "As for +44, there had been months slipping by with no real work on that one aside from writing snippets here and there, although there were also reports flying about that the next tour would take in a lot more of the world including South America." Barker continued releasing hip-hop remixes in 2008, and he hoped to collate his growing arsenal of remixes with a bunch of new tracks on which he was working. It began to germinate into the idea of making a solo album, producing it all himself. By the following August, Hoppus began recording material for a possible solo studio album at Opera while Barker worked on his solo studio album. "I see him in our studio every week, and we'll be in the room of the studio he's working in, listening to stuff he's recorded, or he'll come into the room where I'm working and check out my songs," said Hoppus. The duo continued to work together, and Hoppus noted that Barker had laid down drums on several of his tracks.
In September 2008, Barker and collaborator Adam Goldstein (DJ AM) were involved in a plane crash that killed four people, leaving the two the only survivors. Barker sustained second and third degree burns and developed post-traumatic stress disorder, and the accident resulted in sixteen surgeries and 4-8 hour blood transfusions. Former bandmate Tom DeLonge visited Barker while in the hospital, and an October 2008 visit at Opera Music laid the grounds for what was to be the band's reunion.
Blink-182 reunited in February 2009 and Hoppus confirmed in an interview with Alternative Press that +44 was on hiatus: "I don't consider it done. We'll never say never with anything," he remarked. "As soon as you say, 'I'm not gonna do that anymore,' you find yourself in a situation where you wanna do that. Shane [Gallagher] and Craig [Fairbaugh] are awesome guitarists and great fun to play in a band with, so we definitely won't say that the band is done. But obviously, for the foreseeable future, all of our energy is going into Blink-182." In an interview with Blunt Magazine in March 2009, Hoppus was asked if +44 will continue again, where he stated "I think so, yes. I love Shane [Gallagher] and Craig [Fairbaugh]. They are great guitarists and good friends and I'd love to do another record with them. I know that Tom DeLonge plans to continue doing Angels & Airwaves in some capacity but right now all of our efforts are on Blink."
Musical style and influences
+44's original electronic influence is an undercurrent throughout the band's music, although it has "ultimately [taken] a backseat to guitar-driven rock". Many tracks display a traditional punk sound (with a much more melodic touch), but also highlight electronica as a key influence. Many critics noticed the similarity between the sound of the music of +44 and Blink-182's final album before their break-up, Blink-182 (2003). The Blink-182 similarity is featured by the soft verse, loud chorus explosion as heard on their single "Stay Together for the Kids".
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