Four years ago, Pete Wentz tried to commit suicide. Now, the Fall Out Boy bassist is part of one of the most popular power punk bands in the world, has a five-month-old baby with Hollywood starlet Ashlee Simpson, heads up a record label, clothing line, and production company, and co-owns a New York nightclub.
The biggest question that begs answering when it comes to this 29-year-old is how the hell he manages to do it all. “I sleep about three hours a night—that’s probably part of it. The other part is you just surround yourself with really intelligent people and take all the credit,” the very witty Wentz explains, on the phone from South Florida just hours before a show. “Low expectations and high tolerance gets you through life very easily. Expect the worst and plan for the best, and you’ll get through life. It’ll happen. It’s so simple, and it just blows my mind that people haven’t figured it out.”
While Wentz consistently cops flack for sparking the guyliner trend (that’s eyeliner for boys), and for making sensationalist decisions like appearing on the cover of a gay magazine just to stir a reaction, he also deserves a heap of credit. Wentz is living proof that even when the chips are seriously down, you can always pick yourself up and turn right around. “Imagine if a shark was a vegetarian and it just swam round and did nothing. It would be depressed and possibly just get addicted to the depression. But when the shark’s out hunting and always has to keep moving, it’s doing what it was designed to do,” he explains. “Everyone has all these ideas, whether people want to write a book, or quit their job and start a farm, or whatever. For some reason, it’s like, I just start the farm. I don’t really know why. I have a thing in me that kicks in that makes me want to do that extra thing. If an idea crosses my head a couple of times, usually I’ll do it.”
With all of the successes Wentz has attached to his name, it seems as long as this Illinois-born musician uses his drive and creativity productively, he’ll keep moving forward. In just 20 short minutes, Wentz proved to be incredibly sharp and on-the-ball, and showed that he not only knows how to handle the spotlight, but that he plays the media game incredibly well. After all, there aren’t too many musicians who would get excited by the idea that for all the people that love their band, there’s probably just as many who hate their guts. “If you’re polarizing people at least they’re paying attention, you know. We don’t purposely make people hate us but apparently we’re able to do that. At least they’re listening. We go on stage, and we speak our minds. We do the things that we believe in, and people are going to appreciate that or not appreciate it. And that’s good. I like that. It shows the youth of America and the world are paying attention.”
Paying attention is an understatement. In addition to having his face constantly splashed all over women’s magazines, blogs and online news sites due to the celebrity status he reached after marrying Simpson, at the core of Wentz’s popularity is the success of his Grammy-nominated alt-pop quartet. Fall Out Boy has had huge followings since their 2005 release From Under The Cork Tree, which went double platinum in the States and Canada. And their follow-up record, 2007’s Infinity On High, ensured the band became a household name by reaching double platinum status in countries as far-reaching as Australia. “It’s all accidental. People think that there was a master plan but there wasn’t one. Or if there was, we weren’t the ones who put it in place. We just went out and played, and played, and played, and played. We felt it [our rise] exponentially but for some reason it just clicked in the mainstream one day. We never bent or changed our sound or ideas for anyone. If anything, it’s been for us.”
With tracks like “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race,” and “Thnks fr th Mmrs” peaking to the most-played spots on radio stations across the world, Wentz says when it came to writing their most recent delivery, Folie à Deux, they stayed true to their punk roots, and weren’t influenced by their commercial success. “Mainstream is like Siberia—you stop and you’re dead. You’ve just got to keep moving and do your own thing,” he says. “But you can play interesting pop music. David Bowie did it, Bob Marley did it, Kanye West does it—why can’t we do it?”
There’s no denying the boys nailed their most recent offering. Packed with infectious hooks and melodies, Folie à Deux is an ambitious and high-energy delivery that’s musically and lyrically more mature than its predecessors, brimming with commentary about fame and popular culture. Wentz says this album was about much more than just the people playing it. “After Infinity On High came out, I was just devastated with what people and the media’s perspective was of me, versus my perspective of myself, because I thought that the two were so distant. I spent that entire record crying and whining about how it’s not like that, and then I realized that that’s not relatable to anybody at all. So on this record, we thought, our culture teaches us to be incessantly selfish, it’s drilled into our heads. And it’s only in moments when you fall in love, or someone close to you gets sick, or you have a child, that you have these sparks—flashes where you think, ‘Man, I’ve been completely selfish for the last 29 years of my life.’ And I just wonder why we can’t, as a culture, kind of cultivate the notion and the idea of selflessness. There’s nothing wrong with that, you’re not losing out. That’s kind of what we did.”