Fall Out Boy were working on “guitar-based” material that is now on the “back-burner”
Fall Out Boy had started to work on some new “guitar-based” material – but the status of it is currently unknown.
There was a time, in the now-distant past, when you could walk into a room where Fall Out Boy were and almost feel the tension. In the words of guitarist Joe Trohman, this was a band for whom “stress and anxiety was rife” while they navigated the pitfalls that accompanied their first full flush of fame.
Times change, however, and today, the four members of Fall Out Boy cut very different figures. As we join them in Los Angeles, they’re on reflective form, carrying the air of self-possessed grown-ups with nothing left to prove – men at ease in their own skin, assured about who they are and their creative contribution to the world.
Six years on from their return from a five-year hiatus and almost exactly a decade since their first collection came out, they’re preparing to release Greatest Hits: Believers Never Die – Volume Two, comprising the highlight reel from the band’s mammoth second wave of success, the tracklisting of which the band have convened today to talk Kerrang! through. Next summer they’ll play stadiums the world over, alongside Weezer and Green Day, on the Hella Mega Tour. A cursory glance at YouTube and music streaming stats since their comeback confirms that they’re now more popular than ever before.
For ever self-deprecating vocalist and guitarist Patrick Stump, this newfound level of fame is even more absurd than it was first time around.
“Sometimes I wake up and I just laugh, because it feels so improbable,” he admits, looking back on the pronounced highs of the past decade. “It feels so ridiculous and unlikely to me. The odds of us having this second act seemed so infinitely small, that it’s still crazy. It’s beyond surreal.”
Sitting alongside drummer and man of few words Andy Hurley, bassist, lyricist and de facto frontman Pete Wentz calls this phase in the band’s life “the ultimate lottery ticket”, and confesses to a disbelief that the quartet ever made it here at all.
“It makes me feel old!” he jokes about the imminent prospect of putting out their second greatest hits compilation. “It’s like when you go into a restaurant and you ask what the popular dishes are. That’s what a greatest hits is.”
In that case, bon appétit…
Patrick Stump: “We didn’t necessarily know that we were going to do a comeback. We had this one song, but a whole record (laughs)? Internally, it was like, ‘Let’s get together and see if it works out when we do this thing.’ And it just started moving. Literally the day we posted it, we played a show and we did a video all at once, and up to that point, I wasn’t sure we were going to do anything else. But then it’s like, ‘Well, we’re already here. I guess we’ve got do it.’ It shares a title with a long-forgotten demo, but it has no other relation other than I remembered the line and I liked it, so I brought it back.”
Joe Trohman: “It represents our return after those years of not being in a band. I don’t think we assumed anything about that. Prior to us coming back, the music industry was a different beast. America, at least, was somewhat interested in bands and guitars, then we stopped doing Fall Out Boy, and when we came back guitars were not of interest anymore – especially on pop radio. So we had no idea whether people would still care about us. We wondered whether or not we would make any impact. But we did, and people were excited, plus we got this whole new, younger fanbase out of it. If you put a checkpoint in time in the history of this band, this song marks the beginning of Fall Out Boy 2.0.”
Patrick: “It was a big surprise. I used to work at a used record store and that was fun because you get to witness everyone’s mistakes – the records people sell are the ones they don’t want to keep. So, I felt like I had a pretty good handle on how bands work. You get one shot and that’s kind of it. The idea that we were ever going to put that record out and it was going to be anywhere near as big as it was, I would have thought comical.”
Patrick: “The Phoenix was my baby. I really pushed for it to be what it is. Everyone said, ‘We like the song, but we don’t like the chorus,’ and I was like, ‘What?! That’s the whole song!’ So I tried, like, 40 different choruses and a million different takes. The chorus that stuck came from another idea that I had, but couldn’t find a song for it, so I threw it in there not thinking, pretty sure it wasn’t going to be the one, but it totally worked. I think it defined the record in a lot of ways. If that song wasn’t there, I don’t think I would have been so gung-ho to do a record. The album needed something directionally. Like, ‘Hey, we’re still the same Fall Out Boy, but this is what we sound like now.’ I’ve always admired AC/DC, but I feel like that’s one way to do things and we’re not that kind of band. If we were to put out a record that sounded like our last record, something would be up. Something is not right at that point. That’s kind of always been part of who we are.”
Pete Wentz: “Don’t you dare have the headline be, ‘Fall Out Boy Are No AC/DC!’ Don’t even dare! (laughs)”
Joe: “It’s sort of the nucleus of Save Rock And Roll. It’s kind of become the new unofficial opener to our set, too. Like, we obviously always close with the same song [Saturday, from Take This To Your Grave], but I’d say nine out of 10 times this is our opener now.”
Patrick: “I’m removed from the lyrics because Pete writes them, so it’s not quite as guttural-personal for me in the same way as when I hear writers talk about performing songs they wrote the words to. But there’s something about The Phoenix that’s more of a collective thing, like, ‘We’re all in this together now!’”
Patrick: “This was a really strange one. Our manager has these very Yoda-like moments of wisdom. I had maybe 15 different parts of songs and he goes, ‘Patrick, just for me, could you try putting this part with this part to see what happens?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know, they don’t make sense together, but fine.’ And I did – and all of a sudden it totally conceptualised and coalesced, and we had a song. I have to give credit to our manager’s ingenuity. Our B-sides can be educational like that. Usually by the time we put out a record, I’ve cannibalised most of the old songs that didn’t make it – I don’t like to waste! I had to learn how to sing differently after that song too, because it was so high. They had us playing on morning TV a lot, and it’s one thing to sing in a studio, it’s another entirely to sing at a show, but singing at five in the morning is not the same – you have physical limitations. Up to that point I had been a self-taught singer. I really hurt my voice on one of those early TV shows doing Alone Together. After that I learned proper opera-technique stuff, because I don’t want to hurt my voice every day. It’s like when you get to that point in adulthood where you’re like, ‘Okay, fine, I’ll eat vegetables…’”
Pete: “You have to look at the world as a forever-evolving thing. The moment you stop evolving with it, then your musical chairs have run out. I think that the evolution in all of this is so interesting.”
Patrick: “Joe and I had demoed an elaborate version of this, much more like [Iggy Pop’s] Lust For Life, and kind of up-tempo. That was what I intended for it, but in showing it to everybody else I had done a version that was just me and an acoustic guitar. Even within the demo I didn’t know what the first line of the verse was, so I mumbled some melodic nonsense over it, intending to put something else in later. But Butch [Walker, producer] took my demo, doubled that part up, and built this drum groove underneath it. I was like, ‘No, that’s not the song!’ But it worked. That part where I laugh on the line, ‘How to make boys next door out of assholes’, is real, too. That was my genuine reaction when I read Pete’s lyric!”
Patrick: “This was one of the only ones I’ve ever been really sure of. Usually I’m not too sure about any of our songs, but when we finished this one, I just knew it was great. There’s a little moment in there somewhere, on the multi-layered harmony, that as I was doing it, I thought, ‘This feels like something.’
“It’s had a weird life. Because that whole era was kind of a blur for us. When we did Save Rock And Roll, from the minute we dropped the record we were out for three years or something. So there’s a weird blurred edge about Centuries. Like, ‘Oh yeah, that was on American Beauty/American Psycho!’ because for us it kind of all happened at once. So I sometimes forget which record that song is on.”
Joe: “In America, things reverted back to the single-oriented form that it is now. So Centuries was pushed as a single. And for guys like Patrick and me, we’re very much album people.”
Patrick: “Yet it paved the way to the album. It’s like a point on a map, and then it’s like, ‘Well, what’s the rest of this look like?’ You start exploring around it. That’s what Centuries was – we’d landed somewhere.”
Patrick: “Immortals was fun. We had done a lot of film stuff over the years and none of it ever made it anywhere. I think back on all the movies we’ve been attached to and the songs have mostly been lost now, although there are little bits and pieces of things on records. Immortals was crazy because it was Disney [as part of the soundtrack to Big Hero 6]. I was terrified. I thought they’d be scary, but they were so incredibly hands-off. Like, ‘We like what you do, just do your thing, here’s the scene.’”
Joe: “Disney has a track record of making good things, so when they’re sure about an idea, they know exactly what they want.”
Patrick: “And we basically got to watch this rad movie that I would have watched anyway – and write a song for it! I don’t really write lyrics, because I have no thoughts that I think are so compelling the world needs to hear them. But I really love when I can write in character and that was one of the first times I had that experience. I was also pulling from Pete’s lyrics to try to find something that fit the narrative. So it was really inspiring, but weird. It was a super-fun experience, and the song stands out for me for that reason. Fall Out Boy working with Disney is bonkers, man! I think about that all the time.”
Pete: “This was a bizarre little song. It probably wouldn’t work for any other band, but it works for us!”
Patrick: “I didn’t understand it. I had all the parts, but I didn’t understand the song. I sent it to everybody among a pile of ideas and it stood out, but I had no idea what anyone liked about it or even what I liked about it. So it was heavily guided by Jake Sinclair, our producer. I wrote many chunks of that song, but I didn’t know where everything went, so he basically took what I had and constructed it like Lego. There’s a lot of connective tissue when Joe got to it. A lot of what he did guitar-wise made it make sense to me.”
Joe: “It reminds me of a lot of the weird John Reis/Rocket From The Crypt/Drive Like Jehu/Hot Snakes stuff. So I think I got to that song backwards, from weird punk rock and guys who are into surf rock guitar. That’s the stuff that makes this band really – I’m just a shitty punk guy.”
Patrick: “It’s consistently surreal. It’s always been surreal for me. I was thinking about how it’s still weird to me that I’m even a singer, man. I never thought that was a thing. I never planned on it or expected any of this. I didn’t think I was any good and I didn’t care. We just didn’t have a singer – that was it. This was Pete Wentz from Arma Angelus’ side-project, so for it to be this thing that lasted this long that we now have two Greatest Hits records is so improbably surreal.”
Pete: “The thing is, you can’t do the same weirdness twice. You’ve gotta do different weirdness, which is fun, but scary.”
Joe: “It’s good to have talent, it’s good to work hard, and that stuff is important, but there’s a certain amount of luck in all of this. And I think we fell headfirst into a fair amount of luck.”
Pete: “A Drake song had come out with a heavy horn intro, and when me and Patrick talked about it, he said he had a song with a similar vibe. That’s where it came from originally. He cut the demo track somewhere random in the UK on a day off. Hearing it for the first time I was like, ‘It’s like old Fall Out Boy with new Fall Out Boy production,’ which is an interesting take. With American Beauty… we were trying to make a record as quickly as possible and this song fit right in. We talked about what would be counterintuitive for a Fall Out Boy song at that time, and it seemed like having like a different perspective within the song made sense. That was when we talked about Demi Lovato singing on it. Me and Patrick went to the studio in Hollywood and she is singularly one of the most talented vocalists that I’ve ever met. She was done in one take.”
Pete: “Sia was a friend of mine from back when I was doing [side-project] Black Cards. She has such an interesting perspective and we’d started writing together when I came up with the idea for Champion. [Preceding single] Young And Menace was like a refresher; like when you go to a wine tasting, or you smell perfume and then you smell coffee grounds in between. Young And Menace was the coffee grounds – it resets you. Champion was more in the wheelhouse of Fall Out Boy. I think we shot the first visualiser in a skate park in Los Angeles and Post Malone hit me up because he’s a friend, so he was in it. And then I remember talking to Jaden [Smith], who we all think is just brilliant and super future-thinking, so he was in the video. The camera loves certain people, and it definitely loves Jaden Smith. He’s very natural.”
Patrick: “We’d been working with Illangelo [producer Carlo Montagnese], who’d played song ideas to us, but I’m pretty resistant to other people’s song ideas. I want to write the songs! But while he was cycling through stuff he played this piano loop and it was like I was in a trance. But I had to leave to beat traffic. So I get in the car and I write the entire song in my head, just off that piano riff. By the time I got home, I had the whole thing. It’s super-illegal and I shouldn’t even admit to this, but I would be at stoplights looking at Pete’s lyrics, figuring the song out. I was so inspired, man.”
Pete: “It was kind of serendipitous. We weren’t looking for that song in that moment, but that’s what came to us. Right place, right time.”
Pete: “That song was really important. I’d reached out to Peep a couple of months before he passed away and I’d sent Spencer [Smith, formerly of Panic! At The Disco] who does the label [DCD2 Records] with me to a show of his. I think he had a really important voice, and I also think he had a lot more to say. Makonnen reached out with a song idea and I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ With other people’s legacies, when an artist has passed away, it can be tricky. Then he sent me this interview that Peep had done where he was describing his sound as being half-Fall Out Boy and half-Makonnen. So it was like, ‘Wow!’ It was calling to me, and it felt like it would be strange to not try to do it. On paper, I don’t think it makes any sense, but on the song it does.
“When we were doing the video, we worked with [Peep’s] mom and his creative team, and it was interesting because we were approaching something through the lens of someone else. There was never a point like, ‘Let’s pour gasoline on this to try to make it go to radio.’ It was like, ‘Let this song be the song, whatever it is.’ So this was approached so differently from almost any other song we’ve ever done. When you’re doing something with somebody’s legacy, you have to be so careful.”
Pete: “I love Wyclef Jean. I think he’s so talented, in both melody and song construction. The Fugees were my jam and I miss that band so much. We’d talked about doing a ska-type song for a long time, and we’d flirted with it a little bit, because that’s one of the places that we meet up. It’s another one of those songs that’s a little bit bananas, because it’s got surf guitar – like Uma Thurman at its most extreme. It’s a pretty weird song. But if anything, that’s Fall Out Boy. With how prevalent music is, and how much there is out there, you need to be authentic and do something that’s true to who you are if you’re even going to have a shot, because there’s just so much white noise. Everyone has a band, everyone is a DJ, so do something that’s authentic to you. That’s the spirit of this song.”
Patrick: “It’s like culture has kind of caught up, or we’ve just been very lucky to bump into a place where culture accepts us for being whatever the hell it is we are.”
Joe: “I’d been lightly pushing the idea of revisiting this song for years.”
Patrick: “I forgot it existed! I can’t remember what record it was made for originally…”
Joe: “It was for American Beauty… I remember recording it. I was like, ‘You guys are fucking idiots for not using this song.’ I’m happy now. Less that I got my way, because I don’t really push hard, but because it’s coming out. I always hated the culture in this band that we would have cool B-sides and leftover songs that we would do nothing with. So I’m glad I spoke up. Maybe I should speak up more often…”
Fall Out Boy had started to work on some new “guitar-based” material – but the status of it is currently unknown.
Through the Fall Out Boy Fund, the Chicago pop-punk legends will be donating $100,000 to Everytown For Gun Safety.
The Cover Story
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