Fall Out Boy of Zummer
Before making a return to form last year, alternative rock heroes Fall Out Boy nearly broke up. The band was on a hiatus as members worked on solo material. But with the success of Save Rock and Roll, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Charts, the group was back playing arenas. During last year’s tour, the guys wrote the songs for their sixth studio album American Beauty/American Psycho, which also debuted at No. 1. The album’s first single, the stadium rocker “Centuries,” has been certified platinum with more than 80 million streams between YouTube and Spotify. Bassist Pete Wentz phoned us from his backyard in Los Angeles to talk about the album and tour.
I really liked the speech you gave at the Rock Hall inductions. Did you write it yourself?
Yeah, man, that was a surreal moment to be honest. We got asked to do it. They don’t write them for you. We wrote the speech. I personally had a lot of nerve. That was a big moment. Hearing Dookie was a big moment for me and that album opened a lot of doors for other bands. Green Day was a band of our generation that made it and not in a suspicious way. Sometimes bands get in and people wonder if they belong in or not. Not them. They were just welcomed. It was great to be a part of that.
Talk about the new album. You began writing it on tour in 2014. Is it typical that you would write while on the road?
Usually, we do some writing on the road. This record was an experiment. Can we make a record — write and record — on the road like rappers and DJs do? People think of rock bands as dinosaurs but we wanted to know if we would we would be able to do it. In that way, it was successful. We were able to do it. But we don’t normally work that quickly.
You’ve said the lyrics are more personal. Talk about that.
I feel like I have more to talk about. I have perspective. Taking three or four years off from the band gave me time to think about things. The first time, it was all smashed together. It was hard to process anything. It was a high and then a low. It was compartmentalized and it was compressed. Now, having had time to process it all, I feel like there was more I wrote about from inside of me.
At what point did you decide on the title?
We were trying to come up with something and then we wrote the title track. The idea behind the title track is that of modern love. We’re so much more connected but so much less personally connected. It’s just our take on that. There are beautiful aspects to it and some aspects that are a little bit crazy. There’s also some mania involved. That’s what the album as a whole concentrates on.
And you’re self-consciously making references to Bret Easton Ellis and the Grateful Dead.
Oh absolutely. The Dead reference and the reference to American Beauty, the film, and to the book and film American Psycho are significant. We’re a band where sometimes our reach is pretty big. You make nods to other artists you want your fans to check out. We’ve always felt that was important.
What was your approach going into the recording sessions? Did you say you want each song to sound like it comes from a different record?
I don’t know if I said that but in some ways, each song can sound like it’s from a different record. We made it all over the world. We made different songs with different people. We reached out to Sebastian who’s from a punk rock DJ scene in Paris. We wanted to do a modern rock song but like a throwback from the future. He sampled Mötley Crüe. We thought he’d sample “Girls, Girls, Girls” or “Shout at the Devil,” but he sampled the punk rock Mötley Crüe record. We would have never thought about doing that.
The song “Centuries” seems like a victory celebration of sorts. What inspired it?
I thought about it in the way that legends come from anywhere. Take a guy like Michael Jordan, who gets denied and then becomes the biggest star in the world. How many people are out there like that? Their parents just shut them down. How many Kanye Wests are we missing out on? That’s what we wanted to write about. It can happen to anybody more than anything.
And what made you want to sample Suzanne Vega?
I think that might have come from [singer] Patrick [Stump]. The idea is that it’s a melody that just stuck in your head. I didn’t really get it at first, but it really worked once I heard it.
What made you want to write an “Uma Thurman” song?
We had the track first. It had this Munsters sample on it. We played it for a friend. They thought of Quentin Tarantino because it’s like this Dick Dale surf-y guitar thing. I thought of her because she’s so quirky. It’s fun to be able to stretch out a bit and do something a little different.
Is “Twin Skeleton’s (Hotel in NYC)” based on a real “Big Apple” hotel room?
I think it’s somehow about a real hotel room around Gramercy Park. It’s exaggerated and all a story and concept on steroids.
What can fans expect from the Boys of Zummer tour?
Being able to take this album into amphitheaters means it’s going to be the biggest vision of the album we could have, which is exciting because when you’re in the studio making the record you imagine it being played like that but you don’t always get the chance to do it. That we even get to take a swing at it is pretty cool. It’s going to be a fun tour. People might be coming out who aren’t familiar with Fall Out Boy but are Wiz Khalifa fans and vice versa. Maybe we’ll do one of his songs and maybe he’ll come out and do a song with us. We want to mix it up a little bit.
What’s been the key to the band’s comeback?
I think for us, we needed to wait until we were inspired to make new music. We didn’t want to just be a legacy band, which is fine but it didn’t feel like it was the right decision. We waited and waited. Me and Patrick got together and more than anything, we want to treat the process like if it was a band we would like to see got back together. If it was the original members of Guns N’ Roses, how would you as a fan like to see the band get back together? We’ve been lucky to have great fans and be in the right spot at the right time. That has so much to do with it. It’s really humbling to see the serendipity and having good people around you.