Fall Out Boy
Fall Out Boy feels out their way to fame
by Andy Argyrakis
Photo by Dave Chen and Steve Chen
When the members of Chicagoís Fall Out Boy first started cranking up their amps and banging away in their garages sometime in their teenage years, they never intended for their punk rock pummeling to swell beyond the city. At first it was supposed to be a strictly recreational outlet to combat their drab adolescent status, but soon their peers started spreading the word to the point of sold out shows in the suburbs. Eventually this after school spin off project became a profitable entity that forced the foursome to tighten up their tunes, in turn attracting the attention of indie label giant Fueled By Ramen in 2003. After releasing the full length CD Take This To Your Grave, members took the show on the road opening for the likes of Blink 182, Yellowcard and Less Than Jake where they sold over 110,000 copies of the project. A year later they inked a deal with the Universal-owned entity Island Records, for which the band will release an album of all new material in 2005. Bassist Pete Wentz checked in to give Soak the scoop in between time on the Warped Tour and the start of a fall jaunt with Taking Back Sunday.
SOAK: How did you specifically build your fan base up from the ground?
Wentz: We basically started playing in the burbs at places like Knights of Columbus halls sometimes up to twice a weekend. In a sense we helped rebuild the scene in the burbs by playing places that werenít 21 and over and just getting in front of our friends.
SOAK: Did you ever think youíd get a major record deal out of it?
Wentz: Not at all man. Nobody believes us now, but honestly when we started we never thought this to be serious, let alone our full time job. I didnít have any expectations going into it, especially when we recorded the Fueled By Ramen record. We werenít trying to be any band and win over anyone, just wrote and put it out from the perspective us sitting and playing around Chicago.
SOAK: How has getting hooked up with Island affected your relationship with other local bands?
Wentz: A lot of them asked us how we got signed and the funny thing is, a lot of them think that being signed is be all and end all. But the fact is there are plenty of bands signed that donít deserve to be and others that are talented and it doesnít help them. We still see all our friends play and hang out at local shows all the time, so will fill everyone in on what weíve seen. At the end of the day, if a band is that hungry, theyíre likely to get talked into a bad deal.
SOAK: How has being from Chicago been both a help and a hindrance in whatís now become your career?
Wentz: For a long time we were overlooked because Chicago a hard place to get industry attention since that all usually happens on the coasts. But the good news is a big indie label like Fueled By Ramen was interested enough and having that record do so well for them brought us massive attention for the others to come along. Island was the only one that wanted to have a relationship with us, to let us build ourselves and on our own terms.
SOAK: What type of blueprints have you laid out for the next project as a result of that creative freedom?
Wentz: Weíve prepped a 15 song demo, and are going to Los Angeles [this winter] to work through them with a producer. Whatís weird about it now is there are expectations and jobs on the line that come with how well our record does or doesnít do. There are so many other bands out there that live and die as next big thing, so thereís some pressure, but in the end we want to just write another Fall Out Boy record. Even if the labelís disappointed or if people donít like it, itís been a fun ride thatís lasted longer than anyone expected.
SOAK: How have you progressed as songwriters, going from your teens now into your twenties?
Wentz: Some of the first recordís songs are three to five years old, which means they were probably written sometime before any of us turned twenty. Those are the years where the changes are colossal in your life, and even though thereís big changes still happening, the leaps arenít so big. On the last record we wrote to be up and in your face all the time. On the next, weíre gonna have more flow and more dynamics. Lyrically it will be more introspective than the last, which was really reactionary in comparison. In the three years that have passed, nobody including myself cares about my ex-girlfriend anymore.
SOAK: Your concerts have grown especially intense over the last few years and I even heard one of your Warped shows this summer got shut down early because it got too crazy.
Wentz: We were in Detroit on the tour and got the early slot of the day. The line up order and stage location changes in every city so itís always equal and no one complains. On that day we were playing a smaller stage that had room for about 500 kids and since thatís a pretty good scene for us not all that far from Chicago, we had over five or six thousand people show up at the stage. We started playing and everyone kept getting closer and the barricade cracked. Then people started coming on the stage and that started to collapse. We only got to play a two song set, but they sang the rest of the words to the one we were in the middle of when they shut us down. It was a really amazing moment and we went out afterwards to meet everybody and say we were sorry for having to cut it short.
SOAK: Whatís been a quality of the punk rock rulebook that you hope to maintain throughout all of Fall Out Boyís time together?
Wentz: To always be fan friendly is probably our biggest hope. When I first got into punk rock, it was a really cool thing to meet a guy just like me but a little bit older. Itís really important to keep a close connection with your fans and itís one of the best ways to inspire other people.
For more on Fall Out Boy, check out falloutboyrock.com.