They’re the so-called ‘emo’ band from Illinois who found phenomenal success (and some phenomenal hate) off the back of radio smashes like ‘Dance, Dance’ and ‘This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race’. Some five years after their last studio album, and a hiatus during which the boys pursued a slew of solo projects, Fall Out Boy are back – in a big, bold way. Their new album comes with a gauntlet-throwing title (Save Rock and Roll). They’ve hooked up with big-name artists like Elton John and Courtney Love. And if first singles ‘My Songs Know What You did in the Dark’ and ‘The Phoenix’ are anything to go by, it’s going to be huge in sound and huge in sales. We caught up with bassist Pete Wentz and drummer Andy Hurley on the band’s recent Australian tour (where they pretty much killed it every night).
Guys, how does it feel to be back on stage after five years?
Pete: It feels the same, but kind of different, like we’re a little bit more aware of each other’s feelings and we’re back to doing it ’cause we’re friends and want to do it, you know, which is an important reason to make art or collaborative art.
So it wasn’t so friendly at the end back then?
Pete: I think that like honestly when you go through a thing like as fast as we did, you know, it just all happened really fast. There’s not like a really good manual on how you’re supposed to act or what you’re supposed to do. So it’s like, yeah, I think that we probably could have communicated better with each other, and that’s kind of how it got at the end.
Andy: I left being like, “Why can’t we just get along?” And then you give it a couple of years and you’re like, “Oh, we needed time apart to figure our shit out.”
The new album makes a pretty bold statement with the title – Save Rock and Roll. You could be setting yourselves up there…
Pete: Yeah. It’s like anything else: we’re basing what we’re doing on being agents of change, and I think… who doesn’t aspire to do that? When you’re making art, you’re either part of the status quo, which I think we definitely were at some point, and now we’re not. We’re outsiders. We are no longer invited to the party, you know? We don’t think the world owes us anything, and because of that, not being part of the status quo, we’re forced to be agents of change, which is what our band was in the beginning. We want to rock the boat.
I saw a bunch of kids react [during the recent tour] and I feel like the ‘The Phoenix’, that song was really polarising for a lot of people. But, that’s like how our best songs always were. That’s what’s attractive to me about our art.
You say you’re out of the party now. Was there a moment when you were ‘in’ it that you realised you wanted out? Or you’d been thrown out?
Pete: Yeah definitely. You either realize that or you just completely become part of it and drink the Kool-Aid and whatever. I think that it’s not the right thing for me or for us. Our band is not… We’re like not a reality TV show. It won’t work like that. We’re not the prettiest people you’re ever gonna see. We’re not gonna sit there and bite our tongues, and we’re not gonna necessarily hawk people’s products and stuff. We work as a rock band, and that’s about it.
Does releasing the album as ‘outsiders’ make you more or less nervous about it?
Pete: It’s funny. I feel like on [2008 album] Folie à Deux and the later stuff the knives were out. When you’re at the top of the pile, that’s when all of the arrows are facing you. People were not rooting for us at all. Honestly, titling Save Rock and Roll as we have and making the videos the way we have and kind of coming out like this, I thought exactly what you said. But we’re not the only ones saying ‘save rock and roll’. We’re not the only people saying that things should change, there should be more guitars on the radio… We were at SXSW maybe two weeks ago or whatever, and I’, not saying that it’s cool to like Fall Out Boy, but it’s not the point of not cool that it was.
There was a point when it was pretty uncool… does coolness matter to you?
Pete: I’ll just talk about me personally. I try to be cool because I want people to like me, but at the same time I’m not really good at being a people-pleaser. So, personally, I don’t respond to the lukewarm experts on the Internet. It’s just not interesting to me. I feel like, if anything in this band, if Patrick [Stump, singer] is Batman, which he surely is, you need Bruce Wayne to exist for Batman to exist, so I don’t mind being Bruce Wayne.
Andy: I’m Batman.
Pete: Oh, you’re Batman. Got it. I’ll just be Bruce Wayne. But, you know what I’m saying? We’re definitely not a cool band. I think that it’d be cool to be cool like Ferris Bueller or something like that where you’re always in command of the moment, you’re always like the pizza guy showing up at the party or whatever, but I think that’s purely aspirational. I don’t think we are there.
You’re cool enough to be able to get Elton John and Courtney Love to work with you… How did that happen?
Pete: Elton John was a little bit of a surprise. We got invited to do a cover song of his for a 40th anniversary album, and in the conversation he said he was a fan. Our friend Peter Asher hooked that up. I don’t know. That one’s crazy to me that that still happened.
Andy: It’s unbelievable.
Pete: And then Courtney Love… Me and Patrick were talking about having somebody open the record with a little monologue. We were trying to think of a voice that would make sense for it. We wanted a girl that really had her own tone, and we ended up talking to Courtney and we ended up not doing the introduction thing, but we had her sing on the song. It just seemed cool. Like, if anyone’s rock ’n’ roll, it’s definitely Courtney Love. Pretty fuckin’ rock ’n’ roll.
Pete, you’ve always been quite outspoken politically and you were a big supporter of president Obama in 2008. What do you think of the job he’s done?
Pete: This is the truth. I never want to cram my personal political views down someone’s throat. But, in my opinion, we would be in a much worse place if the opposition had won. That being said, I feel like the world political stage is just a really complex, complicated place. I was watching the [Australian] news yesterday and it was like this Prime Minister was like… the guy who was like… used to be the Prime Minister, was like ‘Maybe I’m gonna run! No… psych! I’m not even running at all!” I was like ‘I don’t even understand this’.
I don’t know that anybody does. Back to the music – what are your hopes for this latest record?
Pete: I remember when I picked up Dookie by Green Day, and there was something about it that inherently made me feel different, made me want to do what they were doing. But, it was played on MTV and it was played on pop radio. Then, for them to 12 or 15 years later put out American Idiot and have ‘American Idiot’ the song and ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’. If we could touch upon anything artistically or creatively or the visceral reactions they got, I think it would be a good template. Not saying that we’re trying to be Green Day, but I think it’d be a good side-by-side comparison for what we aspire to.
Andy: if we sell a hundred copies I’ll be happy.
Pete: My friend, you’ve already succeeded!
Save Rock and Roll is out Fri Apr 12.