Simple Creatures: The “Trash-Pop” Duo of Pop-Punk Legends

Behold these Simple Creatures. (Photo by Ashley Osborn)

For pop-punk fans of the late ’90s and 2000s, seeing Simple Creatures at the Observatory on Thursday (Nov.  14) will be a burst of nostalgia wrapped in a shiny new package.

Even for those who aren’t into the synth-heavy pop music being performed that night, the chance to see the new passion project from blink-182’s Mark Hoppus and All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth in one of their first shows together might be too much to pass up. Plus, considering that the duo only recently released their latest 6-song EP Everything Opposite, it stands to reason that the majority of the crowd will mostly just be in attendance to support the musicians and have a good time⁠—which is exactly what Hoppus expects from people.

“The Simple Creatures shows are super fun,” Hoppus says. “They’re very loose. It’s just Alex and I onstage, and we have really cool production. We trade off playing instruments like keyboard, guitar, bass and drum machines. It’s just a great time. It’s a giant party that we hope everyone will enjoy.”

Of course, while a Simple Creatures concert might be a fun experience for the crowd, the band wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t something Hoppus and Gaskarth enjoyed doing. With the continued success of their main bands, the two friends easily could’ve enjoyed some time off rather than rushing into the studio during some mutual downtime. But while other lifelong musicians in their shoes might prefer a bit of a vacation, Hoppus finds himself happiest when he’s working on new music in the studio or performing it live.

“Alex and I made a commitment to each other that our main bands would take priority over Simple Creatures, but we put our full effort into Simple Creatures when we both have time off from our bands,” Hoppus says. “It’s great to have two different creative outlets and different people to work with, and to me it feels like a giant playground or a house party. It’s more like getting together with your friends and coming up with ideas.”

Perhaps the iconic bassist and vocalist’s enjoyment of life in the studio has something to do with the decades he’s spent working with some of the best musicians in his chosen genre. Aside from his obvious work with blink-182 (which now includes two records writing alongside the poetic Matt Skiba), Hoppus has produced records for bands such as Motion City Soundtrack and New Found Glory—meaning Gaskarth would have some big shoes to fill while working with one of the artists who considerably inspired his own band.

“[Gaskarth] is a great foil in the studio, and he’s a great ‘other’ voice,” Hoppus says. “I think because people knew that Alex grew up listening to blink-182, he might be very deferential in the studio, but he stands up for everything. He will push back on ideas that he disagrees with and push for ideas that he loves, so it’s been a really good partnership.”

Other than the familiar voices, fans shouldn’t expect the “trash-pop” (as Hoppus calls it) duo to sound anything like their main bands in the studio or onstage. Although certainly as catchy as any blink or All Time Low song, the music itself carries more of a retro electronic feel than anything created by the typical guitar-bass-drum combination of their primary groups. For a couple of guys who’ve spent most of their adult life in the same subgenre, the grimier Simple Creatures is a nice change of pace and distraction.

“It’s great having no expectations other than being a great time,” Hoppus says. “It’s totally different than the bands that we normally play in, and we try to make an effort to make it different so it’s not ‘Well why wouldn’t this be a blink song?’ or ‘Why wouldn’t this be an All Time Low song?’ Having the ability to totally change lanes, do something way left of center, and have fun doing it is awesome.”

And in case anyone’s concerned that more Simple Creatures will mean less blink or All Time Low, Hoppus is quite clear that’s not the case. The veteran bassist sees the two projects as a perfect balance of one another, and having a new band with no expectations or legacy to worry about lets him bring back some of his spontaneous weirdness that blink hasn’t been logistically able to fully embrace for well over a decade.

“I love that blink has the following where we can go play giant amphitheaters and arenas, and I love starting this baby band from square one where we’re trying to build up knowledge of our band and get the word out,” Hoppus says. “Because we’re so new and so small, it’s great to be so mobile and agile. One day we had a strange idea to make a sock puppet music video, so April [Salud, from Simple Creatures’ management camp] spent a weekend with her friends making a sock puppet video. We can be very random with our ideas and execute them very quickly, whereas blink is a very large organization with a long legacy. It’s like a cruise ship in that it takes a lot longer and a lot more effort to change directions.”

Simple Creatures at the Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana; Thurs., Nov. 14, 8 p.m. $29. (Tickets are also here.)

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