Five years, a grip of side and solo projects, limitless speculation and a nursery (or two) full of babies later, No Doubt are heading back on the road. Theyâ€™re ready, more or less.
â€œI think weâ€™ll be just rehearsed enough to pull it off, not so well-rehearsed that something couldnâ€™t go wrong,â€ guitarist Tom Dumont admits. â€œThatâ€™s just where you want to be at the beginning of a tour, I think.â€
Dumont and Co. would know, having cut their teeth relentlessly touring their native Orange County prior to blowing up into one of the worldâ€™s biggest bands. But things have changed, both professionally and personally.
â€œItâ€™s crazy, the last four or five years, everybodyâ€™s really grown up in the sense of â€“ I got married, I have two kids,â€ Dumont says. â€œGwen [Stefani] has two kids. So, I guess weâ€™ve kind of just crossed into that next phase of our lives.â€
The very same life changes have rendered speculation about production of the bandâ€™s yet-to-be-written or recorded fifth album; a wild goose chase, not only for rabid bloggers and fanboys, but for the band itself.
The seeds for a follow-up to 2001â€™s Rock Steady were planted in 2007 when, following a three-year hiatus in which Stefani cemented herself as a bona fide superstar with two wildly-successful solo albums and became a first-time mother, the singer voiced a desire to reunite the group.
â€œThe idea was to have an album finished, you know, by the end of  and tour this year, but you know, we didnâ€™t get much done,â€ Dumont says.
When Stefani became pregnant with her second child, the record-writing process halted altogether.
â€œWeâ€™ve kind of never been fast at making records and writing albums,â€ Dumont says. â€œAnd, so towards the end of the year, after she had her baby and we realized we werenâ€™t going to have an album ready, you know, we were kind of bummed because the touring part of the album is kind of the pay-off and the fun part. Hitting the road and playing live is kind of the blast of it all.â€
Luckily for hoards of fans clamoring for tickets to this summerâ€™s much-anticipated super tour, the draw of the road was too strong to foil the plan.
â€œThe novel idea came up at the end of last year; â€˜well, screw it, letâ€™s just tour anyway,â€™â€ Dumont says.
â€œThe idea was just to play shows and go and kind of revisit the early days of the band when we were a live band again, have fun together, and hopefully through that process weâ€™ll get stoked and figure out what kind of album to make, how to make an album, what to write about, all that.â€
As such, the Summer Reunion Tour with the likes of openers Paramore, The Sounds, Katy Perry and Panic at the Disco, will have a distinctly â€œgreatest hitsâ€ flavor to it (Diamond-certified album Tragic Kingdom will provide plenty of ammo, alone).
Still, the wait for a new record for the first time in nearly a decade weighs heavily on everyone. What will it sound like? Lyrically, what direction will it head?
At this point, even the band has more questions than answers.
â€œI think itâ€™s partially a matter of figuring out; â€˜what is relevant to write about?â€™ Dumont says. â€œItâ€™s that figuring out process: what do I have in common with these three guys now, and what kind of music makes sense for us to do? Itâ€™s kind of like getting reacquainted again, in a way, as friends and everything. It hasnâ€™t been that long of a break, but itâ€™s been long enough that, itâ€™s like, whatâ€™s our common ground?â€
And while No Doubt sorts through what remains, interpersonally, after a long layoff, the bigger challenge may be coming to grips with the dramatically-transformed world around them.
â€œItâ€™s a hard thing to figure out, and the way the record business is, itâ€™s hard to figure out if we make a record, who is it for? The worldâ€™s changed. Records are still meaningful and relevant, yet at the same time, they donâ€™t have the cultural impact that they used to have. Weâ€™re never going to sell 10 million records again. Nobody does. Itâ€™s like the whole world is splintered into a thousand little pieces, which I think is a healthy thing for music,â€ Dumont says.
â€œItâ€™s just up to us to figure out whatâ€™s our place in that, where do we fit in, and where can we do something that feels right and feels meaningful.â€