In six short months, Fall Out Boy has gone from anonymity to hanging with Jay-Z
He’s the guy who accepted the MTV2 Award at this year’s VMAs dressed in a Southern gentleman’s white, Sunday-best suit. Of course, his black dress shirt stuck out along with that crazy, heavily teased hairdo. So did the rest of the raggedy band that formed a semi-circle around him. Thing is, Pete Wentz isn’t Fall Out Boy’s frontman. He’s the punk-pop quartet’s bassist. The singer doesn’t write their lyrics either. Wentz does.
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“I think that everyone in the band just does what they do best. It’s how it’s always been with Fall Out Boy. Now it’s just on a bigger level,” Wentz explains. “Like Patrick `Stump, the lead singer` writes all the music. I could, but it just wouldn’t be as good. He could write lyrics, but they wouldn’t be as good and it wouldn’t be Fall Out Boy. The other thing is, I’m the biggest loudmouth you’ll ever meet. I get myself in trouble all the time, speaking without thinking so I think that’s what comes across.”
After two conversations with him, this seems difficult to believe. Certainly, he’s a wordsmith, whether you’re talking about FOB’s lyrics, their rambling song titles (“I’ve Got a Dark Alley and a Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth (Summer Song)”), his first book (The Boy with the Thorn in His Side), or its follow-up (the upcoming Rainy Day Kids). Wentz might suffer from verbal diarrhea, but he’s always aware of the words coming out of his mouth. After all, this is a guy who claims verbiage is the greatest thing in this world.
Still, the pressures of belonging to one of the country’s hottest bands at the moment just try to watch a music channel for 15 cool minutes without catching “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” can break even the best of us down. Which explains why Wentz instigated the cancellation of FOB’s Japanese tour this past month.
“I just kind of lost it a bit,” he says. “I was having really bad anxiety problems and wasn’t taken anything for it. We played too many shows this past year. I think sometimes when a band is doing all right, people try to keep your head just above water so you can keep the band going and the machine going which was just messing us up completely. So everybody just went home and figured stuff out. It was a time to recuperate and hang out and be around your friends and family.”
Wentz’ anxieties are understandable when you consider how quickly the band’s career has skyrocketed since the release of their now platinum-selling From Under the Cork Tree less than six months ago.
“It’s weird, because things are going slow and then things happen in the blink of an idea and you don’t even remember,” Wentz says. “Like I don’t remember the VMAs or “Welcome to TRL” yesterday. Jay-Z introduced us at our New York show, but I don’t remember any of it ’cause it happened so fast. Then there are the things that happen slow like the long drives and just hanging out with each other, so the stuff you really put together and hang onto is just being with your friends.”
You’d think that having fans lurking outside your parent’s house at three in the morning, finding others rifling through your trash, or simply having strangers know your name would be enough to elevate Wentz to another place in his mind; to help him accept that life will never be the same for him, until or unless FOB’s fans lose interest like Good Charlotte’s have.
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“To me, it’s like when you start believing in your own hype, that’s when it all goes away,” Wentz says, persistently dismissive of any buzz that surrounds FOB. “Celebrity’s kind of funny. It’s cool, cause you can do cool things. Like we can go out in New York and get to hang out with legitimate, famous people. But for the most part, it’s just about hanging out with your friends. It’s just on a larger scale now.”
Plus, there’s the matter of where the 26-year-old calls home. “It’s pretty easy to keep your head on your shoulders since we still live at home,” he says. Our parents still yell at us like we’re 14 years old.”
And what about those 14-year-olds who flood their audiences with pre-pubescent cheers? How does it feel to have groupies who clamor for their attention, but are barely even high schoolers? After all, one of the reasons critics love to denounce pop-punk and emo-inspired rock is precisely this kind of youth appeal.
“I think that when you’re in a band and you’re doing all right, people like to bash the teenagers,” Wentz responds. “But when you play for people like that, you have a greater responsibility to be, A, a role model and, B, kind of like this door that opens to a cooler world. We have the opportunity to open this world up and be this kid’s first concert and first great experience like that, so I wouldn’t bash them for the world.” •
By Cole Haddon