[Interview] Fall Out Boy: Home Of The Brave

Featured in Blunt issue #135

If you thought Fall Out Boy shook up the alternative world on 2013’s, Save Rock And Roll, strap yourselves in because you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

By their own admission, Fall Out Boy are the kids you used to love, but then they grew old; they’re the lifers here till the bitter end. Who’d have thought that the band’s own lyrics – 10 years on from “Sophomore Slump Or Comeback Of The Year” – would come to describe them so well? Another year has passed and another FOB milestone has been reached: 2013 marked the tenth anniversary of the Chicago quartet’s landmark addition to the pop-punk canon in Take This To Your Grave (“the fan album”), as well as their return to the stage after a four-year hiatus. As we get stuck into 2015, another anniversary crops up for From Under The Cork Tree (“the one where the world got let in on the secret that was Fall Out Boy”), as does American Beauty/American Psycho, the band’s sixth studio album and without a doubt their most divisive and audacious release to date. You’ve got to hand it to Fall Out Boy – they’ve never been guilty of making the same album twice, and according to bassist and scene posterboy Pete Wentz, that was always part of the plan.
“At some point, when we were going from Take This To Your Grave to From Under The Cork Tree, I remember talking to Patrick [Stump, vocals] about it and it was like, ‘You know, if we make the same album now, we’re gonna be making the same album forever. That will be the expectation we have for ourselves and that will be the expectation the world has for us’,” Wentz recalls. “And it just seems kind of cheap. Like if we can’t get people to care about and bob their heads to the next thing we’re doing, then maybe we weren’t meant to be doing this band, maybe Take This To Your Grave was a fluke. That’s how we kind of always approached it and every time we put out a new album – literally every time we put out a new album – someone’s like, ‘Oh my god, this band’s sold out, they’ve changed so much!’ and then there’s the other voice of like, ‘Oh it’s all over, you can tell that they’re done’. It’s literally been every album and it used to bother us, but I think we kind of realised that that’s the way the world works, that’s how society is.
“But I would hate to be in the other shoes where people are like, ‘Oh my god, this band never changes’ – I can’t picture us doing that as a band. I wouldn’t be excited to go on tour or to play Download [Festival] if we were going to just play the same music over and over again. There’s nothing worse than watching a band that you can tell doesn’t wanna be on stage playing the stuff they’re playing.”
Back in BLUNT issue #119, Patrick Stump and Joe Trohman were riding a high that only the unexpected announcement of your return, a world tour, and a brand new album can bring, with Trohman admitting that he’d have ended up “six feet under” had the band not taken that much needed step back from everything. In the nearly two years since, they’ve hit the ground running with international festival spots and headline tours through Europe, the US and Oz, before releasing the first taste of their new album with “Centuries” in September 2014. Wentz is well aware that the scene Fall Out Boy first entered in 2001 is no longer what prevails in 2015, and as any good band does, they’ve adapted and grown accordingly. The bassist is as honest and open as you’d expect a lyricist who bares all to be; throughout our interview he’s introspective and considerate with his answers, even if it’s admitting that their hiatus was the break he never knew he needed.
“You know, I’ll be really blunt: I didn’t wanna take the break,” the bassist says. “It was a tough thing for me. But then when we took it, I realised that it was necessary and I had time off to just kind of be like a normal, adult human being, and then also process where my life was at. I went to a bunch of therapy and stuff that was just good for me to do; I think had we kept doing the band, it would have just imploded. We didn’t have the room to understand what we’d all been through, but at the same time if it [Fall Out Boy] never came back, I don’t know what would’ve happened either. I have a hard time ever getting any perspective.”
At the time of our conversation, Fall Out Boy had recently released the massive track “Centuries”, with Wentz admitting that the band were “about halfway along” recording American Beauty/American Psycho, still whittling down the album’s ultimate tracklist.
“I think our first single with every album, with the exception of ‘… Arm’s Race’, is right down the middle of the way the album’s gonna be,” Wentz considers. “That’s what ‘Sugar, We’re Goin Down’ was, that’s what ‘…Light ‘Em Up’ was, so there’s gonna be heavier songs and there’s gonna be darker songs, but it’s right in the middle in terms of we’re building a body of work around it.”
“Centuries” packs the huge chorus that Fall Out Boy have perfected in recent years, with Stump’s vocals soaring as he hollers, “But you will remember me for centuries”. Coming off the back of Save Rock And Roll, their progression makes sense; there’s all the bravado of a stadium rock band, the tracks are littered with pop culture references and quirky samples (The Munsters TV Theme weaves in and out of “Uma Thurman”) and it’s all capped off with a shiny pop finish. Most importantly, these tracks are custom-built for the live arena and at long last Fall Out Boy have joined Soundwave’s ranks alongside All Time Low, Slipknot, Marilyn Manson and more.
“We’re a band that grew up playing festivals like Warped and Reading and Leeds; we like trying to earn a crowd,” says Wentz. “That’s how we as a band have always functioned.”
Though he’s undecided if his family – which now includes six-month-old Saint Lazslo – will be joining him for the trek, Wentz has embraced the roll of fatherhood and sees it as one of the most punk rock things he’s ever done.
“I used to think that I wouldn’t be able to reconcile punk rock and being a dad and having a family, but you can. To me there’s nothing more punk rock than being the dad that shows up at preschool that looks like Pete Wentz – I’ve still got tattoos, I wear black, I have bleached hair and I pack my kid’s lunch for school. It’s what you instil in the next generation that shows you what your true colours are.”
What are you hoping to instil in your two sons?
“I think I want my kids to know that there’s a big world out there and you have to be a part of that world, and that means having empathy, and that means doing your best to be a good person and knowing that the world is larger than your school or Los Angeles, and that’s a hard thing to figure out when you’re a kid. Sometimes you have to go around and see the rest of the world first until you can understand that; that’s what it took for me.”

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