The Guitarists and Gear of 2000s Pop Punk

Tom DeLonge (2009). Photo by: Ethan Miller / Staff, Getty Images.
Avril Lavigne (2004). Photo by: Pascal Le Segretain / Staff, Getty Images.
Allison Robertson (2003). Photo by: Scott Gries / Staff, Getty Images.

Pop punk doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves, and it’s often overlooked when talking about gear. We’re at a point in time now where many guitarists in their 20s and 30s were inspired to start playing just as much, if not more, by the bands like blink-182 and Green Day as they were by the likes of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.

Pop punk was huge in the 2000s and went hand in hand with the skate culture at that time. As its name suggests, it’s a lighter, more pop-influenced approach to punk and punk rock. Like with any genre of music, there are so many variations of pop punk. Some are closer to its punk rock roots—raw, gritty, screamy, and not necessarily radio-friendly—and some are super polished and sit perfectly on mainstream radio.

This genre was what it was because of the band as a whole—the interplay between each member contributed to their sound and style, and many of the scene's lyrics and aesthetic were rooted in collective commiseration. Whether they knew it at the time or not, this group of musicians contributed to the development of a culture that defined a generation's personality and inspired those kids to pick up an instrument. This article is going to look at some of these musicians' go-to tools of the trade.

For the purposes of this piece, we’re looking primarily at key guitarists and their gear. This article could've been exponentially longer if we went comprehensive, but for the sake of clarity, we wanted to try and cover as many bases as possible—even those in the periphery of the scene but whose contributions shouldn’t be overlooked.

You’ll find that many of these artists were using the same or similar gear as one another. Obviously, the sound that came from these guitars and amps was a factor, but availability and cost would also be a consideration. It’s also worth noting that the attitude and playing style of each guitarist is of paramount importance —Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! Is a great example of this. She plays what is essentially a Beatles rig (Rickenbacker guitars through Vox amps) but with a punk rock attitude, and it works perfectly. So, here are some of the key guitarists and gear of 2000s pop punk.


Tom DeLonge
BLINK-182, BOX CAR RACER, ANGELS & AIRWAVES

No discussion of pop punk can take place without mention of blink-182. blink was arguably the biggest band on the pop punk scene, and they’re still huge today (fronted by Mark Hoppus and with Travis Barker still on drums). The trio made the ubiquitous I, V, VI, IV power chord sequence their own, and showcased some incredible interplay between DeLonge and bass player Mark Hoppus.

Tom’s late-'90s/early 2000s tone was fairly simple—usually distorted, with clean breaks and not many effects. His playing, whilst not complicated, was incredibly effective. He let chords ring out at the start of verses, employed palm-muting, helped bring the dynamics down so that bridges and choruses stood out more, played jangly single-note riffs, used octave melodies to counter the vocals, etc.

Some may dismiss blink as a one-trick-pony but their sound developed with each album they put out. Early albums like Buddha and Cheshire Cat featured a more raw sound, closer to old-school punk rock. They seemed to hit their stride in terms of songwriting on Enema Of The State in the late '90s, which produced two massive hits for the band: All The Small Things and What’s My Age Again?

Then came 2001’s Take Off Your Pants And Jacket—a masterclass in pop punk writing. Their sound matured and the guitar playing, whilst still not necessarily complex, wasn’t simple either. Down-stroking quickly whilst-palm muting is harder than it looks, and just listen to how well the riff sits with the bassline on songs like "First Date" and "Online Songs."

The Sound & Gear

Not only did their songs develop, but Tom’s sound changed over the years too. The classic blink sound is a humbucker-equipped Strat, through a Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier. A little later, he added a Marshall JCM900 into the mix.

Fender made a signature Tom DeLonge Strat, fitted with a single Seymour Duncan Invader pickup that he used a lot. Box Car Racer saw him move to a Gibson ES-335, and after that, for the self-titled blink-182 album, he had his signature Gibson ES-333 (Epiphone also make a great version of the Tom DeLonge 333).

Throughout blink, Tom tended to favor humbuckers, which makes sense as he was the only guitarist in the band and humbuckers will fill a little more sonic space (you’ll notice that there are a lot of open strings ringing out in his riffs, too, for the same reason). This paired perfectly with the rumble of Mark’s Fender P-Bass (and signature Artist Series Jazz Bass) and Ampeg SVT.


Dave Baksh & Deryck Whibley
SUM 41

After extensively touring their EP, Half Hour Of Power, Sum 41 really burst onto the scene in 2001, with their debut album All Killer No Filler . This was a huge album for pop punk and boasted a string of hits for the band.

Whilst the songwriting, musical style, and general aesthetic of Sum 41 fit nicely into the pop punk category, lead guitarist Dave Baksh leaned into a slightly more heavy metal-tinged sound, giving them a unique edge.

All Killer No Filler is undeniably a pop punk record, but there are moments that showcase some much heavier influences. The solo on "In Too Deep" features both finger tapping and harmonized guitars—there are numerous examples of harmonized riffs and the song "Pain For Pleasure" is a shameless glam metal throwback. The band explored heavier sounds with their 2003 album Does This Look Infected?, but it still had that pop-punk sheen.

The Sound & Gear

Rhythm guitarist and frontman Deryck Whibley tended to stick to power chords and riffs, while Baksh handled any solos and lead work. Both players used a range of humbucker-equipped guitars. Whibley has been known to use Fender Telecaster Deluxes, Gibson Les Pauls (specifically a Gold LP Classic) and a Gibson Marauder, modded with a humbucker in the bridge. Squier even produced a Deryck Whibley Telecaster, featuring a single humbucker in the bridge position.

Dave Baksh’s playing style was different to most other pop punk players at the time, and his gear reflected that. At that time, PRS guitars were commonly associated with nu-metal, but Baksh was usually seen with PRS Singlecut—he’s actually got a Tremonti signature prototype from 2003. PRS pickups are voiced differently to Gibson and Fender humbuckers, so the combination of the two in one band complemented each other nicely.

They've used loads of different amps throughout the years, but Marshall tends to feature a lot. The JCM800, JCM2000 DSLs, JMPs have all been used by either Baksh or Whibley. As the sound got heavier, Dave started using a Soldano SLO100 head—an amp usually favored by metal players.

More recently, they’ve all gone to Kempers, using profiles of various amps in their collection: Plexis, an AC30, a Fender Deluxe combo, and lots more.


Avril Lavigne
AVRIL LAVIGNE

Avril Lavigne had a string of hits in the early 2000s and was a key figure of the pop punk movement. The sound of Avril’s debut album, Let Go, harbored some of the same teenage angst showcased by fellow Canadian Alanis Morissette (particularly opening track "Losing Grip"), but blended it with catchy and poppier vocal hooks. Solid songwriting, combined with the use of both acoustic and electric guitars and contemporary production, helped place it on mainstream radio stations around the world.

Avril’s songs were pop and rock in equal parts (some of that debut album could even be considered post-grunge), but her and her bands’ aesthetic was firmly rooted in punk. Plus, she had a song called "Sk8er Boi," so they certainly fit nicely into the pop punk skate culture genre.

It’s also important to note that the early 2000s were prime years for MTV, and Avril Lavigne was one of the few females getting airtime who fronted a rock band, wielding a guitar. This was particularly inspiring to young girls at the time, and as such, Avril’s importance as a guitar player and songwriter in pop punk of the 2000s can’t be overstated.

The Sound & Gear

The guitar playing on many of Avril’s songs is perhaps a little different to others on this list. Songs like "Girlfriend" showcase some classic pop punk guitar tricks: octaves played on the A and G strings, I - V - VI - IV chord sequence, and static riffs played over moving chords. Others, such as "I’m With You," featured more open chords and the use of a capo—plus, some more colorful chords, like sus2, minor7, add9, etc.

Avril and the other guitarists in the band were usually seen playing guitars with humbuckers, meaning that their collective sound was huge. Quite often, she’d be playing a Telecaster with a single humbucker (Squier actually produced a signature Avril Lavigne Telecaster) or a Gibson Les Paul Studio.

She was also seen playing a range of acoustic guitars, including a Gibson L-00, Takamine dreadnought and more recently, her signature Fender Newporter. Like a lot of pop punk of the 2000s, you can hear Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifiers in a lot of Avril’s stuff.


Allison Robertson
THE DONNAS, THE CHELSEA GIRLS

The Donnas merged classic rock ’n’ roll and old school punk with, as production budgets increased, a poppier, more polished sound. They released seven albums in ten years, each with a different sound. The Donnas’ earlier albums showcased a raw, punk rock energy, and, as they progressed, it seems that more of their classic rock and metal influences crept into their sound.

Their fifth album, Spend The Night, was released in 2002 and was their first on a major label. As such, it's incredibly well-produced and has much of the sheen that high-budget pop punk had at that time. Musically, they’re very different to the other bands on this list, but the energy and attitude in The Donnas’ songs fits the pop punk aesthetic nicely. It’s one of the reasons why they’d fit just as well on a bill with someone like blink-182 as they would with Mötley Crüe.

The Sound & Gear

A lot of their songs, particularly off Get Skintight and The Donnas Turn 21, have many of the defining features of pop punk, but it’s Allison Robertson’s guitar playing (and writing arrangements from the other members) that helps them stand out from other pop punk bands. What could easily be simple, high-energy, three-chord punk songs are broken up with Zeppelin-esque guitar breaks and classic rock 'n' roll-style solos, warranting her inclusion on this list.

Robertson got her sound from the trusty combination of a Gibson Les Paul Standard plugged into a Marshall stack—usually a JCM2000 DSL100 (a fairly widely used amp of that particular era). She’d sometimes use an SG loaded with P90s too, for when something a little bit more cutting was required.


Aaron Abraham
WHOLE WHEAT BREAD

Whole Wheat Bread was an often overlooked band of the 2000s. When people talk about the blend of rock and hip-hop, they’ll often cite bands like Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park. But Whole Wheat Bread managed to intertwine hip-hop elements into an undeniably pop punk sound, too, resulting in something completely unique that saw them supporting a diverse array of acts from the likes of Reel Big Fish to Killah Priest.

The 2005 album Minority Rules is made up of catchy three- and four-chord style anthems that are packed full of energy and attitude. The sound leans more towards punk rock than anything else, but guitarist and vocalist Aaron Abraham’s playing style fits perfectly into the pop punk bracket. The album even has three hidden tracks at the end that are straight-up hip-hop.

Their follow-up album, Hearts Of Hoodlums, features a more polished sound, akin to some of their pop punk peers. However, it also incorporated more of their hip-hop influences than their debut.

The Sound & Gear

Being the only guitarist in a band like this almost necessitates the use of humbuckers. Abraham is almost exclusively seen (online at least) playing a Gibson Les Paul Standard, plugged into either a Marshall (JCM800 or DSLs) or a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier. The sound isn’t too saturated, but there’s a nice crunch that works well with the classic pop punk bass sound achieved by plugging a Fender Jazz bass into an Ampeg SVT.

Like with many examples of good pop punk, Whole Wheat Bread showcased some incredible interplay between the guitar and bass, with lines that are cleverly written and more often than not, harder to play than they may first seem.


Billie Joe Armstrong
GREEN DAY

Not only are Green Day one of the most successful pop punk bands, they’re also one of the best-selling musical artists of all time, having sold millions and millions of records worldwide over their four-decade-plus career. The trio enjoyed some success in the '90s with albums such as Dookie, Nimrod, and Insomniac. Whilst their music was rooted in punk rock, they had a tendency to write incredibly catchy songs with pop-style vocal arrangements and harmonies.

Each album saw the band get bigger and bigger, until they crossed over into the mainstream with their 2004 release, American Idiot. This was one of the biggest and most successful rock albums of all time—it was even adapted into a Broadway musical.

The album saw an evolution of the band’s songwriting, as well as the introduction of a second guitar player. It served as a defining point in the band’s career—their catalogue has since been split by fans into albums before and after American Idiot. Whilst their earlier material was closer to punk rock than it was radio-friendly rock, they were unknowingly laying the foundations for the pop punk to come.

Green Day’s music from American Idiot onwards became more polished, and they swapped their Ramones-style I - IV - V chord sequences in favor of more colorful variations, employing the use of more minor and major chords and drawing inspiration from some unlikely sources such as Britpop legends, Oasis.

The Sound & Gear

Billie Joe’s pre-American Idiot rig consisted of a Fernandes Strat modded with a Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB humbucker fitted at an angle—that’s what you’ll hear on tracks such as "Basket Case" and "Welcome To Paradise." The middle and neck pickups were disconnected on this, making it very similar to Tom DeLonge’s Strat.

In the early days of Green Day, he was using the Strat with a Gallien-Krueger 250RL, but then moved on to Marshall Super Lead Plexis. In fact, the MXR Dookie pedal is actually based on the Plexi used on the recording of that album. Billie Joe has stuck to the sound of a cranked Plexi ever since.

A range of guitars were used for the recording of American Idiot, but since then, he’s taken to using Gibson Les Paul Juniors most of the time. This may be to yield a different sort of sound, but it may also be because Jason White joined the band at this time as a second guitarist, and he didn’t need one guitar to fill as much space anymore.

Gibson has made a few different signature guitars for him as well—the Billie Joe Armstrong Les Paul Junior Doublecut (similar to the '59 model he uses), the 2018 humbucker-equipped Singlecut Junior, and a Singlecut Junior with P-90.


Meg Frampton
MEG & DIA, HILARY DUFF, KATE NASH

Meg & Dia were a slightly lesser-known band of the mid-2000s, named after the two founding sisters. Their first album as a full band, Something Real (produced by American HiFi frontman Stacy Jones), is a blend of pop punk, coffee shop rock, and emo, and featured some incredibly catchy and well-written songs.

Emo grew into the mainstream alongside pop punk in the late-1990s and 2000s and, whilst both sub-genres shared a lot of the same fan-base, emo tended to be heavier and more musically complex. Early emo is more often likened to post-hardcore and featured more math-rock components than pop punk was known for. Meg & Dia sort of bridged the gap between the likes of blink-182 and Paramore and were seen touring with bands including Angels & Airwaves and Four Year Strong, as well as appearing on the Warped Tour a number of times.

Meg & Dia had a radio-friendly sound, but showcased a lot of the pop punk hallmarks, as well as the more complicated sound of emo. There was less of the punk rock attitude in the music compared to some other bands on this list, but it can be argued that Meg & Dia's music exemplify some similarities between pop punk and heavier emo and that the band helped evolve the genre into what it became in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

The Sound & Gear

Many of Meg & Dia’s songs contain palm-muting, octave riffs, and classic pop punk chord sequences—but they were by no means one-dimensional. Meg liked to use open and extended chords as well as power chords, giving the sound lots of color.

The use of major7 and 9 chords, for example, lend a strong sense of melody and go incredibly well with Dia’s vocals. The acoustic-led "Cardigan Weather" is a great example of this, featuring more open and extended chords, as well as more considered strumming patterns and lead lines. There’s also quite a lot of acoustic guitar alongside the electrics, helping them stand out from the bigger pop punk bands at the time.

There’s not a ton of information about Meg’s rig, but from information online, she seemed to favor humbuckers like many other pop punkers. Most pictures show her playing a Gibson Les Paul Custom, though she is also seen using a Gibson ES-335 and a Fender Telecaster. For acoustics, it looks like she played Taylor Grand Auditorium guitars—a brand that was rapidly becoming more and more popular at the time, and were known for reliability and great electro-acoustic sound.

Amp-wise, like many other players within the genre, Meg used either Marshalls or Mesa Boogie. There’s video footage of them playing at the Warped Tour with a number of JCM2000 DSLs on stage, which could very well be a backline rig, but really highlights how great these amps were for that style of music.


Pop-punk was huge in the 2000s, and it’s still widely popular today. This article could have been much, much longer. There were guitarists from so many bands that helped inspire kids to get into music, but we’ve tried to pick some that were key figures in the movement, or were doing things a little differently and helped evolve the genre. Let us know in the comments who you’d have liked to have seen!

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