RockUrLife had the opportunity to meet Simple Creatures in their hotel room in London, after their first show in Europe. We had a very nice talk with Mark Hoppus and Alex Gaskarth about this exciting and unexpected project. Let’s go!
Why and when did you decide to create this side project?
Mark Hoppus: When blink finished touring for the “California” album, I wanted to go to the studio. My initial intent was to get in the studio with a bunch of different friends of other band and people that I’ve met along way. Alex is the first friend I called. We got to the studio, wrote a song and were back for another song, and another song. And they were really cool and I remember texting Alex saying: “This is exactly the kind of music that I wanna be writing right now” and I thought that it could be a whole project to itself and it just kinda grew from there.
How did you come up with the name “Simple Creatures”?
Alex Gaskarth: We went through a really long list of names that we found out were taken. Originally, I think the first idea was “Fun Police” and then we came up with “Modern Medicine”. We couldn’t get that. We tried and thought about the most ridiculous name you could probably think of, “Hot Cousins”, there’s no way this is a thing. Turns out it’s a thing. We later found out that “Simple Creatures” was gonna work and nobody had taken it yet. And the beauty of that is that it really encapsulates the themes that we explored in the lyrics, and things like that. It ended up being the most fitting thing so we got lucky.
Alex, you grew up listening to blink-182 songs. How does it feel to make music with Mark?
Alex: It’s very cool. It’s super rewarding. I mean, just working with Mark in general is a pleasure and we have a really good chemistry in the studio. Anytime you find that with someone is really rad. But yeah, it’s doubly meaningful to me because he’s a major part of why I started a band and wanted to tour and all of those things so it’s very special.
Mark, you said that this project helped you when you were in a very dark place. How has working on this project helped?
Mark: I’m most happy when I’m in the studio, I’m most happy when I’m writing music or playing music, or creating something. If I have free time on my hands, my brain eats itself. So getting in the studio really helps me out of this post album depression I somehow fell into. Which I feel selfish saying because “California” was such a huge success: we were nominated for Grammys, it was the biggest tour we’ve ever done, people loved the record, it was like a rebirth of blink-182. But at the end of it, I got home and I just felt empty. And so getting in the studio kinda helped me through that. And writing fun songs with no expectations and no pressure. Nobody even knew about it until we posted about it on social medias. It was all done just for the joy of writing music and I think, hopefully, that it shows through in the songs. And yeah it helped me a lot.
How does it feel to play really small venues after touring huge venues in the past?
Mark: It’s fun.
Alex: Yeah, it’s been a blast! It’s been a little while since, I think, we played that kind of venue and it feels right. Starting a new project and introducing it to the world. People are still sort of learning our music and learning what it’s all about, what we’re trying to do, and sort of wrapping their heads around it. So I think putting it in small rooms where people could just comment, dance and where there’s no pressure for us to put on a huge arena show or something like that, it’s nice to just kind of let it find its own lights and not have to force it.
What were your friends reactions when you first played them Simple Creatures songs?
Mark: Everyone’s been very supportive. Everyone has said…
Alex: All my friends were like: “Don’t”. (laughs)
Mark: (laughs) I mean all the people that I’ve played for, thankfully, have had exactly the reaction that I hoped they would have. They told me: “It sounds very cool, it sounds like either of your bands but it makes total sense” which is kind of what exactly we had hoped it would be. That it’d make sense for people that are listening to it so that they could think: “Oh yeah, this is cool, it’s a different side of them that I didn’t expect but somehow feels right”. And also, we never wanted anybody to listen to the songs and think: “Why weren’t these blink songs/All Time Low songs? ». I really feel, as a fan of music and as a fan of bands, that if someone breaks off their main band as a side project that sounds exactly like the band they just played in, I would be like: “Do you have an ego problem, why wouldn’t you do that with your real band?”. We wanted this project to be listened by people with fresh ears.
Was the recording process of the EP “Strange Love” different from an ATL album/blink-182 album? To what extent?
Alex: Yeah, the process was sorta based on vibes and our producer Zakk (Cervini) helped us craft the sound and come up with whatever was going to be the EP. But I think the biggest difference is that we both come from live bands and from bands that have drummers, and that’s also a huge thing that goes into crafting songs. On this EP, we kinda were working backwards, finding catchy parts and happy accidents that sounded really cool. Building from there, using the drum loops and samples and keyboards, doing literally everything opposite to what we usually do.
Which song makes you the proudest on the EP and why?
Mark: I think “Lucy” is really cool.
Mark: I think “Lucy” is a song that neither of us expected to write, that came together totally by accident. It kinda encapsulates everything that was exciting about working on this project: just going to the studio with no idea what we were gonna start that day, finding a little idea and building it into a song.
Yeah, it was our favorite on the EP!
Mark: Oh cool! That song was a total accident and the exciting thing about writing music now is that the old ways of writing and recording and releasing music are gone now. You could make music literally with a laptop. When we started the project, it was on a laptop. We were using all different kinds of plugins, effects pedals, keyboards, and drum loops. And downloading a drum sample off the internet and putting it into a song and mixing that with a sample of what we had on a hard drive somewhere. It was literally plugging it into the computer, pull up a cool effect and work out from that. It’s really an exciting time of music.
It left a room for creativity.
Mark: Yeah, totally!
Alex: It’s all just so instantaneous and that’s what is so incredible to me. The biggest thing that we keep saying with this project is that there are so many happy accidents in the music and there were so many moments where one of us would find a sound or hit a key with a delay effect on it and we would be like: “That’s amazing, record that!”
If you had to describe the EP 1 in one word, what would it be and why?
Alex: One word is hard.
Trash pop doesn’t work!
Alex: Trash pop in one word. (laughs)
Mark: (laughs) I’d say “trashy”. I like the sound of the EP, I like that there are distorted synthesizers and big drum samples, and all the effects that Zakk added on all our vocal stuffs. Not only just getting great vocal takes, but taking the lead vocal line and running it through all these different effects. Yeah… “Trashy”!
Alex : I agree!
What about EP 2? “Everything Opposite”, is that right?
Alex: “Trashier”? (laughs) I think what’s really interesting about the two EPs is that we didn’t write them intentionally as two EP. We sorta just wrote music, and we could probably have filled up a full record with it but we didn’t know if that was the best way of putting it out. We didn’t want to throw fourteen songs at people and be like: “Love this!”. I think this is an introduction period that people kinda need to discover new things so EP 1 kinda came from that. It was kinda like the first set of songs we felt like really helped describe this project and let people know what this is. EP 2, I think, feels like a perfect continuation of that. I think it goes to even weirder places and it continues to build the dynamic of what Simple Creatures can be, but at the same time it all seems to fit together.
Do you plan on releasing a Simple Creatures album?
Alex & Mark: Yes!
Alex: Yeah, at some point.
Mark: The intent right now is to release “Everything Opposite” but we’re going to get back to the studio when we get home and write some more songs. Depending on how that goes and the reception of this EP, we might do a full-length, or we might do another EP, or we might do an EP and then a full-length, we don’t know.
Do you plan on going on tour?
Alex: Yes, absolutely!
Mark: Yeah! The whole idea of Simple Creatures is to be mobile and agile, everything that we have can be flown commercially, just checking-in luggage.
Alex: It’s in your back pocket! (laughs)
Mark: (laughs) So we can play Paris one day, and then New York the next, and then Sao Paulo. It’s meant to be traveled. To go places.
Your French fans will definitely be happy to hear that!
Alex: Yeah, can’t wait to play for them!
Do you have any plans or wishes about Simple Creatures’ future?
Mark: Yes, I wanna play lots of shows!
Alex: Grammys and millions of dollars! (laughs) No, yeah, it’s just that. I mean, it’s a project that was born from doing something different and I think we just wanna keep that spirit alive. Keep it fun, keep it creative, keep it weird, and continue to surprise people. The biggest reward from doing this has been people coming up to be insane, like: “This is the happiest kind of surprise that I didn’t know I wanted and needed”.
Last but not least: we are “RockUrLife” so what rocks your life?
Alex: Reruns of House rock my life.
Mark: (laughs) Really?
Alex: No. (laughs) Music, touring, traveling, see the world, getting to do this ridiculous thing that I trick people into letting me do for a living. And being 30 and having traveled the world. It’s really cool. That rocks my life.
Mark: Technology. Especially in music. It rocks my life. I think it’s such, like I said earlier, an exciting time to be in music. There are so many different ways that music is created, genre lines are blurred and nonexistent now. You have kids like my son, who listens to Post Malone, Cardi B, blink-182, All Time Low, and has no idea that they are different genres of music. It’s so different from when I grew up. There are so many great ideas floating around. I think we are getting towards a better world, hopefully.