Fall Out Boy Breaks from its Emo Past
As far as comebacks go, Fall Out Boy’s is fairly remarkable. When the Chicago-based group took a break three years ago, it had hit rock bottom. Fans had turned against the guys and were heckling them when they played live. Drummer Andy Hurley publically said he went through a period of deep depression. But last year, the group secretly convened at a Venice Beach, California studio to hammer out the new studio album Save Rock and Roll with producer Butch Walker (Avril Lavigne, Taylor Swift, Pink). More pop than rock, the album is a departure from its emo-punk past, and the band is back out on the arena circuit. Hurley recently spoke to us via phone from a gig at a state fair in Syracuse where he talked about what it’s been like to be back in the limelight.
Start out by reflecting on the hiatus that the band took. It’s been written about extensively but what made you want to take a break and what brought Fall Out Boy back together again?
I think we had just been doing it for so long and non-stop. Joe [Trohman] and Patrick [Stump] were really young when it all happened. Pete [Wentz] and I were a little older. We didn’t have the tools to navigate everything that happened. We had been touring for a couple of years before it got big. It just never stopped. It got to the point where we just weren’t friends anymore. Not that we weren’t friends, but it just became this business and it started to wear on us. It’s something we all really loved and we knew we had to take a break and gain perspective and do other things. We had to figure out if we wanted to do it again. That was always the plan — that we would come back. We knew that if we went on break, it would be in the air. Then, I think we all really missed it and grew up and matured and learned a lot of things and experienced life. Pete and Patrick started sending lyrics back and forth. Patrick called me and said, “We’re writing, and it feels right.” He wanted to show me the songs he had written and bring Joe in. It was really good for us. The comeback was about having the right songs. It was about us being in the right headspace together. It’s been non-stop, but we’re in better places and we talk about things a lot more. When things start to suck, we’ll talk about it. Everything operates in a much different way.
The music industry changed drastically since you released your last studio album. How have you changed your approach to how you support a new album?
Yeah, totally. Our sound has evolved over the years. It’s a different thing and more of a singles-driven market again, which is awesome. With Spotify, people compile groups of songs they like. We didn’t want to have songs that felt like album tracks that we didn’t need. We wanted every song to have a shot at being a single. That’s a different approach than we’ve ever taken. And then, we’re doing a video for every song on the album, which is different than anything we’ve ever done. I hope people realize the album is a single piece of art and a cohesive thing.
How difficult was it to keep the recording sessions secretive?
It wasn’t that hard. The hardest thing was us personally not Tweeting anything. I wouldn’t post to Instagram or Tweet because I knew I would slip. On fans are like private investigators. There was even a moment when we were rehearsing at Patrick’s house and there were paparazzi following him. I don’t know if they didn’t know who I was because I cut my hair but they didn’t notice I was there, too. They could have broken the story. And I think the main thing was talk about a tenth anniversary tour. There was never any expectation about new music. That anniversary being talked about took the heat off.
Talk about working with Butch Walker.
That was great. We worked with him before on a song for Infinity On High. That was a completely different process. He was more being an engineer. He’s a brilliant songwriter and hands on producer for a huge range of artists. That was good because we knew we had to approach it in a different way. He gets in and can straddle all worlds. We were never really produced that much. We got to a point with Neil [Avron] where we could maneuver the songs. Any ideas from anyone were okay. We wanted to explore everything and not be so precious and let Butch do what Butch does. It was a little scary at first, but he’s a brilliant guy and really fun. The studio is just awesome. He has four motorcycles in there at any given time. It was a great atmosphere to be in.
Was Elton John in the studio to record “Save Rock and Roll”?
He was in a studio in Atlanta and Patrick flew out to do that with him. Patrick said it was awesome. He said it was a weird thing to hit the talkback button to tell Elton John he has to do something differently. That was one of my favorite songs and finding out that Elton John was going to be on it was crazy, especially with the name of the song being the name of the record. It felt so right. When I heard it, it gave me goosebumps. It was one of those golden moments for everything. It made me realize this comeback is going to be cool regardless if anyone cares.
Do the new and old songs sound cohesive?
I think it sounds pretty cohesive. The new songs take on a different character in their live versions. If they just sounded like the record, it would be different. It would be nice to do a live record at some point to showcase the live versions. Another thing that’s been interesting is that the new songs have been so much bigger. We played ‘Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down’ which is instantly one of the biggest songs to play live. It’s been a dud. The new songs were huge. I was like, ‘Okay, maybe we shouldn’t play that.’ It’s been amazing that we have come back and fans are embracing the new stuff.
The album has been well-received by critics. Fans don’t always agree with the critics, however. What has the fan reaction been like?
I don’t know, but there’s something about coming back. People seem to appreciate it more. Us, too. [Festival dates in] Reading and Leeds just felt like we were a big deal. I never felt that before then. It’s something we are happy with and proud of and maybe that is something that shines through. When you get the chance to almost make your first record a second time, something different comes out and everyone wants to know what it’s going to sound like. It’s a lot more liberating.
Have you started thinking about the next album yet?
Patrick and Joe and Pete are constantly writing. They’ll definitely be more stuff. There’s no timeline. It’s just been so awesome being back and we’re all so inspired.
Upcoming 2013 Tour Dates
Uncasville, CT – Mohegan Sun
Lowell, MA – Tsongas Arena
Brooklyn, NY – Barclays Center
Philadelphia, PA – Liacouras Center
Fairfax, VA – Patriot Center
Cleveland, OH – Wolstein Center
Auburn Hills, MI – Palace of Auburn Hills
Toronto, ON – Echo Beach at Molson Canadian
Broomfield, CO – First Bank Center
Anaheim, CA – Honda Center
San Francisco, CA – Americas Cup Pavilion
San Diego, CA – Valley View Casino Center
The Woodlands, TX – Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
Grand Prairie, TX – Verizon Theater at Grand Prairie
Memphis, TN – Mud Island Amphitheater
Alpharetta, GA – Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
Tampa, FL – USF Sun Dome