Fall Out Boy: Life After Emo
How they defied the odds to rock again
PETE WENTZ’S JEANS AREN’T MUCH SKINNIER than anyone else’s these days. He’s thrown out his eyeliner, abandoned his hair dye and straightening iron. He’s a 33-year-old divorced dad now, bruised by life, slower with a smile, still half-convinced that no one likes him. There was a time, after losing his band and his wife, when the future looked like one long downward slide, and he wasn’t even able to write good songs about it. As Wentz puts it, “It’s weird to go from the Midas touch to the opposite of the Midas touch.”
He used to be, well, Pete Wentz: bassist, lyricist and official cute one in Fall Out Boy, crush of choice for angsty teen girls, herald of white belts and swoop-y haircuts. A one-man Thought Catalogue, he presaged a generation’s oversharing and oversexting with his self-referential lyrics, compulsive blogging and viral penis selfie. Then, suddenly, he was emo’s Fred Durst: overexposed, despised, obsolete. Wentz’s infamy overshadowed Patrick Stump, his band’s gifted but awkward singer-composer, and kept some people from realizing that Fall Out Boy were actually great – a witty, chart- savvy arena band in an era when guitar acts seemed terrified of hits. “I will never understand,” says Stump, “why people hate that guy so much.”
This evening, upstairs in his cozy two- story house in Studio City’s sleepy foothills, Wentz is reading a bedtime story to his four-year-old son, Bronx – and feeling kind of dazed. Fall Out Boy went on “hiatus” almost four years ago – emo was dead, their third major-label album fizzled and their working relationship had frayed. They seemed about as likely to have a huge comeback in 2013 as the Microsoft Zune. But as of tonight, the reunited band has a Number One album (cheekily titled Save Rock and Roll), a platinum hit single (“My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark,” which nods to both hip-hop and hair metal) and a sold-out tour.
Wentz has reason to believe he’ll have no trouble staying grounded this time. Yesterday, after learning of the album’s chart victory, Wentz interrupted his son’s game of Mega Man to share some news: “Dad’s album is a big deal! It went Number One!”
Bronx glanced up from his iPod Touch and asked, “What’s an album?”
Fall Out Boy may not be reaching preschoolers, but for a LiveJournal band in a Tumblr world, it’s an undreamed-of second shot at massive success – this time in a more sustainable and democratic configuration. Now confident and skinny, Stump has become an actual frontman, and he and Wentz have brought previously excluded guitarist Joe Trohman into their songwriting process. “Clearly, we’re not the same band,” says Trohman, who didn’t want to come back without an expanded role, especially after winning respect from hard-rock fans with The Damned Things, his side band with FOB drummer Andy Hurley and Anthrax’s Scott Ian. “The chemistry is changing. And we actually look like a band now. Before, we looked like we won some sweepstakes.”
“It totally feels like a do-over,” adds Hurley. “And it seems like a lot of the baggage isn’t there anymore. We’re somehow maybe a little cooler now.”
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