The band released one studio album, the eponymous Box Car Racer, and played a tour throughout 2002 until Blink-182 went to record their new album in 2003. Delonge stated that the band is permanently defunct. Delonge's new band, Angels & Airwaves, is proclaimed a continuation of Box Car Racer, allowing him to continue what he started with David Kennedy.
Conceived by Blink-182 guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge and drummer Travis Barker, the band was formed during a break from touring for Blink-182. A European tour for Blink-182 in winter 2001 was delayed in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, and rescheduled dates in early 2002 were also canceled due to DeLonge's back problems. According to interviews, Box Car Racer grew "out of boredom" and, according to DeLonge, "is just for fun in the few days we have off from our real jobs". The idea began with DeLonge playing acoustic guitar during recording sessions for Blink-182’s 2001 album Take Off Your Pants and Jacket and grew from there.
The band was originally supposed to be named "The Kill" and the cd was to be titled Et Tu, Brute. The name of the band, Box Car Racer, was originally the name of a band Barker was in shortly after high school. DeLonge liked the name, but was uneasy after learning the origin: the term was a reference to the B-29 Bomber which dropped the second wartime atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan – the plane’s name was "Bockscar". The plane’s name was commonly misspelled as "Boxcar", and, due to Barker’s desire for the band name to be three words, was spelled out as Box Car Racer.
The band began recording their first and only album in December 2001. Jerry Finn, longtime producer of Blink-182, was hired to produce the album. The band soon turned to be an outlet for DeLonge’s lyrics that were not "Blink-friendly" – e.g., fast-paced, goofy pop punk. Instead, the band’s material was promised to be a tribute to DeLonge’s post-hardcore influences, such as Jawbox, Quicksand, Fugazi and Refused. According to DeLonge in interviews, the album’s recording sessions were difficult for him because of constant back problems. The depression that came from being in constant pain influenced the lyrics of the album largely.
With DeLonge playing bass for the album, a bassist went unannounced until the band made their live debut with touring bassist Anthony Celestino on April 1, 2002. They continued with a string of live shows in California until Blink-182 set out on tour with Green Day and Jimmy Eat World for the Pop Disaster Tour on April 17.
Box Car Racer, tour, and disbanding (2002–2003)
The eponymous Box Car Racer album was officially released on May 21, 2002 to commercial success – the album reached number 12 on the Billboard 200, and "I Feel So", the first single release, was already climbing the charts. Critics praised the new direction DeLonge and Barker had taken; as such, the album received positive reviews. Slant magazine called the album a "much needed departure from the banality of Blink-182" and "the perfect union of pop punk riffs and instrumentation that spans all genres of rock from indie to folk."
The band performed "There Is" on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno September 3, 2002 and on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn on October 17, 2002. Blink-182's Mark Hoppus also appeared on one song on the album, entitled Elevator. He later stated that although he was bothered by the idea of the band, he did it because DeLonge and Barker were his friends and they asked him to do it. It was announced that August that the band would be headlining their own tour with supporting act The Used; the tour began October 25, 2002. Although Box Car Racer had written and performed a new song during the tour, the band’s final show was played December 17, 2002, with DeLonge stating that he would like to experiment more with Box Car Racer one day, "an every-other-year type thing." Barker and DeLonge agreed in an interview that Box Car Racer was a "learning experience", DeLonge adding "It makes me excited to start the new Blink record." Blink-182, the next album released by the band, was both praised and criticized for its change in musical atmosphere and darker tone. In an interview with MTV News shortly after the "indefinite hiatus" of Blink-182 was announced, DeLonge stated:
“It’s obvious that the music changed after I went and did Box Car. […] One of the craziest things about Box Car Racer was that it was both the greatest and the worst thing for Blink. […] It was really hard for Mark [Hoppus]. He thought it was really lame Travis [Barker] and I went and did that, but it was a totally benign thing on my part, because I only asked Travis to play drums because I didn't want to pay for a studio drummer. It wasn't meant to be a real band.”
In the same interview, DeLonge admitted that there was still unfinished material from Box Car Racer, some of which eventually became Angels & Airwaves’ debut studio album We Don't Need to Whisper. Notwithstanding the fact that both DeLonge and Kennedy are in Angels & Airwaves, Angels & Airwaves has been called a "continuation of Box Car Racer". It is also well known among enthusiastic followers of DeLonge's work that two songs that DeLonge wrote for the album but were never added to the final track list were called 'Dance With Me' and 'Mandy' were sometimes played at Box Car Racer shows. Angels & Airwaves covered Box Car Racer’s "There Is" at their very first live performance, and has performed various Box Car Racer songs live since. A sequel to a song found on Box Car Racer, "Letters to God Part II" can be found on Angels & Airwaves' 2010 album Love.
Tom DeLonge – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, bass guitar
David Kennedy – lead guitar
Travis Barker – drums, percussion, keyboards, piano
Anthony Celestino – bass guitar
Album: "Box Car Racer" (2002)
I Feel So
All Systems Go
Watch The World
Cat Like Thief
Letters To God
My First Punk Song
The End With You