How Fall Out Boy Beat the Odds and Rose Again
When Fall Out Boy announced their reunion earlier this year, they had serious doubts whether anyone would really care. The emo movement is long over, their young fans have grown up and their solo careers were largely dead on arrival. Despite all that, the band is experiencing a rather stunning renaissance. Their single "My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark" has been sitting comfortably in the Top 30 of the Hot 100 for more than two months, earning lots of radio airplay and even a nod from Taylor Swift, who tweeted that she'd listened to the song 43 times in a single day. Concert tickets are selling like crazy, and they're even moving back to arenas.
Fall Out Boy's new album, Save Rock and Roll – featuring guest appearances by Elton John, Courtney Love and Big Sean – hit stores on Tuesday and is the second best-selling album in the iTunes music store. "The world moves so fast that we didn't know if people would care," says Pete Wentz. "So to have people care now and show interest . . . that's the great part. It proves to us that this band did mean something."
Four years ago, the band had serious doubts about that. They felt incredibly uncool and unappreciated, not that much different than a hair metal band struggling to survive in the grunge era. It was a little like being Mötley Crüe in 1991. Fall Out Boy's 2008 LP, Folie à Deux, failed to connect, and band relations were at an all-time low when they hit the road to promote it. "It felt like an out-of-body experience," says guitarist Joe Trohman. "Some of us were miserable onstage. Some of us were just drunk. The fans were just trudging through the new songs. They didn't want to hear them."
Folie à Deux was intended to be a commentary about the narcissism of American culture, but frontman Patrick Stump feels it didn't quite work. "I think a lot of that last record cycle was my fault," he says. "I had an actual dream about what the record should sound like. I tried to make that happen, but nobody was with me. I was trying to push my agenda, and that was a weird thing to do."
It was also a very difficult time for Wentz, the bassist and lyricist. "My personal life was whatever at the time," he says. "It was really rough. I grew a heinous beard and got blackout drunk, smashed my face and cut it open . . . I could feel the backlash against the band. I mean, I was in such a haze of selfishness and pills it was hard to believe I could feel anything."
Wentz was married to Ashlee Simpson at the time, and she had just given birth to their son, Bronx Mowgli. Their photos were constantly in the tabloids. "I was high on being Pete Wentz," he says. "Now I understand how I was overshadowing the band, especially Patrick. This kid is a fucking genius. He's probably one of the best melody writers around. In any band that would have been talked about constantly, but I was just overshadowing it. I knew it, but I didn't know how to stop it. It was a snowball that had just gotten so big."
As the tour slogged on, Stump began realizing the band desperately needed a break. "He sat us down and said, 'If we don't take a break we're going to break up,'" recalls drummer Andy Hurley. "He also said, 'We'll hate each other and never want to do this again.' The thing is, I didn't want to stop."