Harmony Gerber/Getty Images
Jessica Goodman
July 12, 2016 AT 04:23 PM EDT

Legendary pop-punkers blink-182 returned with California, their seventh album and their first without founding member Tom DeLonge, earlier this month. Featuring production from John Feldmann (Good Charlotte, 5 Seconds of Summer), expected potty humor, and rock tracks that would be perfect to soundtrack high school hallways, the collection was designed to be “the best blink-182 album we could [make] in 2016,” founding bassist Mark Hoppus tells EW.

Below, the band — now made up of Hoppus, founding drummer Travis Barker, and Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba — dish on the creepy books that inspired California and how they’ve been able to write about youthful angst for decades.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: California is your first album in five years and your first since singer-guitarist Tom DeLonge left the band. How are you feeling about the band’s return?

MARK HOPPUS: I’m happy for people to hear it, having been so long since we released an album and the change in lineup. [Alkaline Trio frontman Matt Skiba joined in 2015.] [Our goal] was to write the best blink-182 album we could in 2016. [It’s about] energy, angst, and wanting to kick the world’s ass with your friends.

Matt, as the newcomer to the group, how involved were you with contributing to the record?

MATT SKIBA: I would make crude demos with my phone, and I would send them to everyone every day. Mark and I have a pseudo book club and when we were writing, being inspired by the way somebody else writes can be helpful.

What books were you reading?

HOPPUS: The Revenant, Blood Meridian… really dark [stuff].

You had written songs with DeLonge before he left. What happened to that material?

HOPPUS: It never got started. We were going to get in the studio and start writing and recording, and then Tom dropped off right before that happened. There’s not, like, a lost album of material anywhere.

TRAVIS BARKER:I think it was all of two ideas.

Did his departure affect your writing process?

HOPPUS: No. The joy of working on this record was not overthinking and having the immediacy of the three of us all being there at the same time, all being 100 percent invested and focused on making this record as amazing as we could.

A lot of the songs deal with youth and rebellion. Now that you are in your 40s, does it feel natural to put yourself in that youthful headspace?

BARKER: Being in a band means you never have to grow up. I do the same thing I did when I was 18. I still play the drums, write songs with my friends, go skateboarding. There isn’t a part of me that’s like, “You have to mature and conform.”

Some punk bands have come back with new music speaking to what’s going on in politics and what’s going on in the world. How does Blink-182 fit into that?

HOPPUS: I have my own political views, but I’ve always written songs lyrically about personal experience rather than politics. I think they’re two separate things.

SKIBA: I just think there’s a time and a place and Blink-182 is a fun punk rock band. It can be dark and moody but it’s still it’s own thing. Any of that outside noise is excluded without effort.

HOPPUS: It’s this anthemic fun-time band with a darker edge.

What’s the darker edge?

HOPPUS: “Los Angeles” is about urban decay and “Home is Such a Lonely Place” is about saying goodbye to people that you love.

You’re touring this summer. Do you still enjoy playing classics like “What’s My Age Again”?

BARKER: There’s so many songs that have aged well. Honestly, we still love “All the Small Things,” but it’s funny when we play it. It’s like, “Oh my God, we didn’t hear this song enough?”

HOPPUS: [Our concerts have become] this multigenerational thing. Some people are buying their first concert ticket, and there are others who are seeing us for the sixth time or whatever. It’s awesome.

For more on Blink-182, pick up this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday or buy one here. Subscribe now for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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