On blackbear’s upcoming sixth album, in loving memory (out Aug. 26), the musical virtuoso is reemerging with his most authentic and alternative-leaning material to date. The project, which was created in collaboration with blink-182 drummer and music producer Travis Barker, touches on the alternative, rock and punk influences that inspired blackbear as a kid. Meanwhile, he also reflects on where he is now as a massive star in his own right. The result is an album that expertly pairs nostalgia with modernity and features an all-star cast of guest vocalists, from scene legends Jordan Pundik (New Found Glory), Anthony Raneri (Bayside) and Bert McCracken (The Used) to mainstream pop-punk frontrunner Machine Gun Kelly.
in loving memory is a perfect snapshot of where blackbear is at in his life. While the subject matter treads into darker territory with themes of loss, addiction and pain, blackbear provides a sense of hope and victory in the constant journey to overcome obstacles. Following its release, blackbear will embark on the Nothing Matters tour, his first headlining run since 2019. Joining him are special guests MOD SUN, State Champs, Waterparks and Heart Attack Man, making it the perfect tour where alternative worlds will collide.
Read more: 20 greatest punk-rock drummers of all time
We sat down with blackbear to discuss the full-circle moments in his life, collaborating with his heroes and where he’s heading next musically.
From a distance, it seems like everything is coming full circle for you. I understand you were raised in a strict Christian household and turned to punk rock as a form of rebellion. Now all of these years later, you seem so in touch with your spirituality and as a family man now that you’re a father to two children with your wife. Do you feel like you’re reshaping what it means to be a rock star?
For sure. There’s nothing rock star about me. When I think of a rock star, I think of a dickhead. I have a few close friends who I spend a lot of time with and make sure I send them flowers when I’m thinking of them. I’m all about keeping a small circle with friends, family and the people I work with.
Another full-circle moment is your return to your punk roots. How liberating did this feel, and was this the record that you always knew you wanted to make?
The best way to put it is that it’s an itch I have been wanting to scratch for 15 years. I finally scratched it, and oh God it feels good.
What were some of the influences that inspired this album?
On this album, there is a lot of Jimmy Eat World Bleed American influence, along with Terminal and Acceptance. I tried my hardest not to rhyme in every line, and with Acceptance, they didn’t rhyme at all. Third Eye Blind is another band I pulled from because I see this as an alternative album and not a pop-punk album. It’s also just my collaboration album with Travis Barker. It’s not a blackbear album — it’s a collab album.
[Photo by Daniel Rojas]
On this album, you have so many people that you looked up to growing up featured on your songs. Do you feel like you are finally becoming the person that you looked up to as a kid and in many ways a true leader in your field?
I think that’s what I strive to be. What’s the point of dreaming if you’re never going to be the person you dreamed of being? I strive to be the best person I can be every day, stay in gratitude and believe in myself. I want to become that person that helped me when I was a kid, and I want to help kids in this generation.
Did you ever think when you were a kid that you would have Jordan Pundik and Bert McCracken singing alongside you on a track? That must have been mind-blowing.
Not only that, but the fact that they were excited and more than willing to do it was just so amazing. I didn’t have to pitch them on why they should do this, and I’m super grateful for that.
What’s so remarkable about your career is that you can seamlessly work with everyone from the pop world, including Justin Bieber, but also work with veteran rock vocalists like Bert McCracken. Do you feel like you’re a bridge between cultures?
I want to be everywhere at once. Last year there was a point where I had a song on HOT AC adult contemporary, a song on country, alternative and pop radio. Now that we’re making new music, that situation is about to happen again.
Speaking of bringing different communities together, I feel like you’ve done this perfectly with the lineup for your upcoming Nothing Matters tour. The run features seasoned artists like MOD SUN and State Champs while also highlighting a fresh crop of artists ranging from Waterparks and Heart Attack Man. What inspired you to put together this lineup?
I just wanted my fans to hear what I listen to in my car. Not so much Waterparks, fuck them. [Laughs.] No, I’m just kidding. We actually have an amazing single coming out together.
I want to expand on the themes of sobriety with your new music. I think what sets you apart is that you show the positivity of making it out and that there can be hope.
And in my music, I’m still talking about struggling with it, too, and wanting to go back to drugs when things get hard. I dipped back into my experience of being chronically ill, so I actually have to still take pain meds, and when I’m done taking the pain meds, I go through withdrawals. A sober person going through withdrawals is an oxymoron, so I wrote about that too.
Your single “the idea” is fascinating in how it touches on addiction. With the line “Three nights in a row doing blow, are you tired?,” can that be read as autobiographical or also external looking at the industry and your peers?
For sure, that’s what a lot of my songs are about. It’s just what I see living in Hollywood and going out. That’s actually what “hot girl bummer” was all about completely. I don’t hang out with a lot of people who do blow, but some of them do, and I’m like, “Are you tired?”
What’s your dynamic with Travis Barker like? What makes this partnership so special?
He’s just the sweetest frickin’ dude in the world. I saw a TikTok where these girls were making fun of him for being so sweet, and I thought it was so mean. Anytime something happens that’s good in my life, him and Kourtney [Kardashian] will send flowers, and they are just so sweet. Our relationship is a brotherhood, and we really feel like we get each other. We feel like the same dude and have a lot of similar interests. Our chemistry is really good.
I want to talk specifically about your voice. I think people really identify with the pain in your vocals and lyrics. While you can do these incredible R&B vocal runs, you also have the rawness of someone like Adam Lazzara of Taking Back Sunday or Geoff Rickly of Thursday, where you’re not necessarily trying to get the perfect take but more so the “real” take.
Oh wow, thank you. I am trying to translate and make every word that I say understood by the listener. I hate when I hear a song that has a good melody, but I don’t know one word they just fucking said. I just want to make sure that I’m understood.
You’ve proven that you can do anything musically. That being said, do you ever think about flipping the switch and doing something entirely different?
My wife wants me to do a country album so bad. She’s like, “Your songwriting would be perfect for country,” and maybe I will, but I don’t know.