Best of 2015
Since returning from hiatus, Fall Out Boy haven’t played it safe. Dominating airwaves, the kings of rock radio reign once more.
Words: Sarah Jamieson. Photos: Sarah Louise Bennett.
The last fourteen years have been one hell of a ride for Fall Out Boy. From their humble Chicago beginnings to securing themselves a musical legacy as one of modern rock’s biggest and best groups, the band’s past decade has seen many an obstacle be thrown their way but somehow, they’ve always come back stronger.
2015 is yet more proof that they feel unstoppable. With the turn of the year, they unveiled their sixth album ‘American Beauty / American Psycho’ without much prior warning and offered up some of their most brilliantly mad-pop-scientist moments. All the while, it provided a vital dose of adrenaline, direct to the heart of the rock scene they’ve spent so long calling home. Unafraid to throw caution to the wind and swerve in a new direction, it’s the mentality with which they approached their latest record that frontman Patrick Stump thinks affords them the ability to stay constantly relevant.
“I will never chance to guess why that’s happened for us, but it’s weird,” the frontman laughs, ahead of their recent headliner at London’s Wembley Arena, where they’re playing for two nights on their latest visit to our shores. “It’s not the norm,” he admits. “It’s certainly not what I expected, and that’s not usually how it plays out. It’s very weird.”
“We didn’t let ourselves breathe,” he goes on to explain, on the band’s gameplan in making their newest full-length. The album was sandwiched between tours and time off while they were on the road supporting their comeback record ‘Save Rock and Roll’. “Because of that, we didn’t really have a lot of time to stress about it. I think that, practically, was the smarter move. When you put it in perspective, we went away for three years after – on paper – our arc. We came back and we did ‘Save Rock and Roll’ and we wanted to do something that would connect with people, and would matter to us as a thing going forward, not just as a tip of the hat and a, ‘Yeah, we were the band we used to like.’ We didn’t really want to do that.
“That record far exceeded those expectations and somehow, re-established us, which is crazy. The benefit of hindsight and having to deal with the so-called ‘sophomore slump’ so many times – pretty much every record we’ve ever put out has a been a sophomore slump! – we went into it, thinking, ‘Screw it, there’s nothing you can do, there’s no way that you can obsess over it and come out with the right answer, so let’s just go in and do what we feel like doing.’ We did something that felt good and immediate to us and, in fact, we purposely made the record in a short amount of time. Because of that – the talk about the mainstream and everything – I think, for me, it was a happy accident. I think Pete’s aware of these things; he’s very in-tune with what’s happening and understands it on a certain level. It feels more like a current record.”
“The attempt was…” bassist Pete Wentz begins, on the experimental aspects of the record. “Rappers and DJs are able to respond directly to pop culture. One of the things about being in a rock band is that you’ve got to go away for two years to figure it out. It was an experiment to see if we could just make a record and respond to pop culture right away. We recorded in hotel rooms and backstage at festivals, in bedrooms and in studios; it was really like piecemeal put together, but in that initial way, I think it’s a success.”
As ever, the band are unafraid to muddy the boundaries of different genres: that’s something that runs through the lifeblood of ‘American Beauty / American Psycho’. While tampering with the traditional structure of being in a rock band, the quartet have often found themselves calling upon other genres for inspiration. Now’s no different, and it’s something that’s still constantly opening new doors for them.
“You know, some kid asked me the other day,” Stump recalls, “and I thought it was so funny because, again, it’s really hard to imagine that anyone is picking us up now. I feel like, certainly for me, it’s really hard to imagine someone is hearing us for the first time. You figure, if they were gonna hear us, they probably already have by now. But no, every day, there’s somebody going, ‘Oh wow, this is a new thing.’ A fan asked me, ‘So, where did you get that sample of Jay Z? What record is that from?” He references Jay Z’s snippet of introduction on ‘Thriller’, the opening track of their third album ‘Infinity On High’. “I’m like, ‘No, Jay Z was on our record! It was a big deal at the time.’” “He says, ‘Fall Out Boy’!”, laughs drummer Andy Hurley. “I do feel like, on some level, if you’re looking at Fall Out Boy right now, and you go, ‘Oh, they’ve gone a little pop,’ it’s like, “Were you ever listening?!” We’ve always been very accepting of pop music; our first record is incredibly pop, but it’s very heavily distorted!”
Their flirtation with genres – whether it be straight-down-the-line pop or the more hip hop-infused moments they’ve offered up along the way – is something that, in Pete’s opinion, is aiding them more than ever in this day and age. “I feel like now, Fall Out Boy thrive in an environment like this,” he notes, “because people listen to songs rather than artists. We do make albums that are bodies of work, but we’ve always diverse inspirations. Our genre has always been really hard to pin down. I feel like now, people listen to music in a far less genre-led way now. If somebody listens to Drake and they listen to Fall Out Boy, they might then listen to a Skrillex song.”
Even just a few weeks after their UK shows, the band manage to outdo expectations all over again with their reworking of the album, ‘Make America Psycho Again’, which sees the band invite a different rapper to guest on and remix each of the album’s eleven tracks. What is set to come next for the band right now, however, will still remain a secret. “I just think, the way the world consumes art now,” Pete hints, without revealing their future plans, “we could do whatever. Like the Young Blood Chronicles, but something nothing like that.” Remaining tight-lipped on where they could go next, Fall Out Boy remain a band who will always manage to surprise, bewilder and amaze; therein lies the power of their legacy.