Pete Wentz Interview: How Fall Out Boy Came Back Stronger

Chris Stanford 
Fall Out Boy photographed on Dec. 19, 2014 at Tom Lowe Trap & Skeet in Atlanta, Georgia.

"I think that we didn't really have the time to figure out who we were without Fall Out Boy. That time off gave us that perspective."

It's hard out there for a rock band. But Fall Out Boy 2.0 continues to buck trends and stay winning. New album American Beauty/American Psycho debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and moved 218,000 units in its first week, over 60,000 more than its predecessor. But 2013's Save Rock & Roll was a comeback story in its own right, a hitmaking album that found the quartet rising from the ashes of substance abuse, side projects, and squabbles. 

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While similar acts implode under the pressures of success and longevity, Fall Out Boy's only gotten stronger. How do they do it? What advice can they pass along to other bands? How did Patrick Stump's solo R&B album, Pete Wentz's EDM venture, and Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley's hardcore and metal side projects leave them all the better? We caught up with bassist Pete Wentz for the backstory on Fall Out Boy's 2010-2012 hiatus and how the band turned inner turmoil into a well-adjusted second wind.

Congrats on the No. 1 album. 

Thanks, it's been crazy. Pretty insane! 

Well it's great to keep writing about Fall Out Boy, so keep 'em coming. 

The crazy thing to me is that it's bigger for us than the last album which is like the comeback record. That's unexpected.

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That ties into what I'm writing about -- the decision to return to business full-time, rather than just becoming a nostalgia act.  You guys got back together and basically picked up where you left off.

When we took the time off, we said the only way we'd come back was if it was about new music. Every band has a different journey, but to us it made sense. It felt like it was unfinished business. We left it on Folie à Deux, which was a quirky record that we put out at a strange time for Fall Out Boy -- a shift in the paradigm of the business. It was weird; it just felt like we had unfinished business. The scary part to me is that a few of us are just hitting our prime now. We just hit the stride that makes sense. We're a band that operates as underdogs; that's really how we've always seen it and maintained and tried to create new art. It was always built around being like an outsider.

What was it like getting everyone back on the same page?

Before we took the time off, we were having a hard time communicating with each other. Not a hard time communicating with each other -- we weren't communicating with each other. This has always been a pretty democratic band. We look at the U2 model -- when you're a band, you're a band. We tried to keep it that way. Towards the end we weren't communicating. When we first got kind of back and thought about really doing it again, it's like you gotta open the lines and really talk. We talked on the phone together individually and then we got together in New York and had an eight-hour hangout where we aired dirty laundry and communicated and thought about the way we needed to move in the future. That was important. We opened lines of communication that had been closed for a long time.

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A lot of bands that you guys came up with have resorted to banking on 10-year anniversaries of classic albums. Were you guys really set on avoiding that?

It's weird for us 'cause it's like if we were that kind of band we'd have to do that for every album and never have to focus on new music. It wasn't the right fit for us. Those albums exist. They captured these moments in time for us. If we went back and played them and pretended we were still living those moments it would just not be for us. But there's lots of records that I want to see played all the way through and I'm totally down for that. To each their own. For my band there was unfinished business, and we needed to make new music.  

You and Fall Out Boy's other three members focused on other projects during the break. That must've helped a lot, too. 

I think so… some creative stuff that probably doesn't fit in Fall Out Boy that everybody comes up with, and to get that out I think that helps -- spring cleaning a little bit. And when you do your own thing, you realize how much you need the other guys to do the other thing. Because everyone kind of fills a different role and you get an appreciation for each other when you do it on your own. We did the band for seven years straight without blinking. The time off also allowed us to get some perspective on that. Going from zero to TRL was a big deal. I think that we didn't really have the time to figure out who we were without Fall Out Boy. That time off gave us that perspective.