Fall Out Boy Q&A: Talking Career, Ramones and Chicago at Riot Fest
A career-spanning chat just prior to their hometown gig at Chicago's Riot Fest
At the start of 2013, pop-punk superheroes Fall Out Boy had been on hiatus since 2010, with vocalist Patrick Stump pursuing an R&B career and celebrity bassist Pete Wentz largely out of the public eye. Then on Feb. 4, a brash new single called "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)" (which eventually went all the way to No. 13 on the Hot 100) hit airwaves and a comeback album -- rather deliberately titled "Save Rock and Roll" was announced. After the LP debuted as Fall Out Boy's second No. 1 album, the comeback became a fast success.
Now immersed in a heavy touring schedule, the self-anointed saviors spoke to Billboard just hours before a headlining performance at Chicago's Riot Fest, on Sept. 13. The hometown show featured a surprise appearance from a local legend -- Naked Raygun's Jeff Pezzati -- and an international legend -- the real-life Stanley Cup, awarded earlier this year to the National Hockey League's Chicago Blackhawks. Fall Out Boy's stylish rhythm section, bassist Pete Wentz and drummer Andy Hurley, talked about getting re-acclimated life on the road, watching Panic! At The Disco grow up before their eyes, an almost-scandalous Jonas Brother moment, and much more.
It must be crazy navigating this festival, getting things taken care of across the grounds prior to your performance without getting mobbed.
Pete Wentz: We fly by the seat of our pants a little bit. This is pretty organized for a lot of the festivals we do….
Compared to like, Warped Tour back in '05?
PW: That was a surreal moment for us. That was when us and My Chemical Romance were both getting on "TRL" at the same time Warped Tour was happening. It was wild because we'd never experienced that. It was like Warped Tour happening at the same time (and hearing), "You guys are super famous, but maybe just on Warped Tour!"
Andy Hurley: I remember going to a water park right after we'd gotten to number one on "TRL" that day. I was like, "Yeah, we're number one!" going down the slides and no one in the park knew at all who we were.
PW: They were like, fucking losers!
Does anyone in the band still live in Chicago?
PW: Patrick (Stump) does. He does half his time here.
AH: I live in Milwaukee.
So you're moreso visiting when you play shows here?
PW: Kind of. It's weird. I think for a lot of people, your first hometown is where you grow up and your second hometown is where you feel like you come of age and you pick the town. For us, we grew up in Chicago and Milwaukee and then we came of age on the road. So I live in Studio City, but when I land at LAX, I don't look at the skyline, and say, "Oh wow, I feel that in me." But when I land in Chicago, it feels like a different feeling. I feel like it will always be our home base.
At your show at the Barclays Center last weekend, Marky Ramone joined you on drums and you did some Ramones covers. How did that collaboration come about?
PW: For Hurricane Sandy, we did some work for Habitat for Humanity at the Rockaways. Marky Ramone came out and fed everybody… We started talking, "If we ever get to this point, we should do something together." But you never think that's going to happen. It's the fucking Ramones, man. I's mind-blowing. It was a big moment and part of our legacy as a band that we need to take part in. Because we're a gateway drug for people. We're like the ones that through us, maybe you can find these punk bands that we grew up on, so it means a lot that Ben from Screeching Weasel shouted out Fall Out Boy.
AH: He did?
PW: Yeah, he did! It means a lot that dudes from Naked Raygun are hanging out backstage. Those are bands that we cut our teeth on and part of our mission is to pay it forward. Because I don't know that all these kids know that these are who our influences are. I think people draw a line to certain bands and we want to bring that out.
At the Barclays show, you mentioned the next Fall Out Boy could be in the audience.
PW: Panic! At The Disco was in the audience at one time! I think that thing exists and is very real, that kids in young rock bands should be encouraged to make noise.
What's it like to tour with Panic! At The Disco again?
PW: It's really cool. Since we toured like this together, it's been 10 years and when we took them out that time it was literally their first tour ever, so they were clueless at the time. And now it's cool to see (frontman) Brendon (Urie) come into his own. He's a man! He's backflipping onstage. This is wild. 10 years ago, I never thought that would have been the point we would have ended up in.
I remember that tour -- the 2005 Nintendo Fusion Tour along with Motion City Soundtrack, the Starting Line, and Boys Night Out. I was at the stop in New Jersey.
PW: It was at a high school. We had our manager's band open the show before Panic! and the kids were like, "What is this?" And I think Nick Jonas, the Jonas Brothers were at the show, and Nick Jonas is a diabetic… he was giving himself insulin and security in the bathroom freaked out and were trying to arrest him for doing drugs! Also when before Panic! played we switched out their intro music and we played "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" and all the kids were into that!
Take me through the process of writing set lists, since you have some new hits, but you also like to squeeze in old songs like "Saturday."
PW: We do it on the fly. We plan a set list when we're in tour rehearsals. And we'll go on tour and see what works and what doesn't, what works next to each other and what doesn't. This tour has been a lot because this is our first tour that we've done this many songs in a long time. So it's been really stressful on Patrick's voice, so we've been trying to adapt the set around that and trade in different songs and different covers. If we learned anything from the last one, it's that we've got to keep it interesting for ourselves, too, or else bands burn out.
It's always been pretty obvious the band is into a lot of different genres. What have been some of your favorite non-rock songs and albums lately?
PW: I like this song by TNGHT, who are the producers of (Kanye West, Pusha T, Big Sean, and 2 Chainz's) "Mercy" and a bunch of "Yeezus" stuff. They've got this song "Higher Ground" that's great. I like the new A$AP Ferg album.
AH: "Versace," by Migos featuring Drake.
PW: The A$AP Rocky album is really good. I like this group called MONSTA. i don't really know what they are. It sounds like hip-hop and R&B to me, done EDM-style. I like the new Baauer song a lot. To come from "Harlem Shake" to do a thing with Jay-Z and Just Blaze is just awesome. I think it's a really smart move. It's called "Higher" and the video is just bonkers.