Fall Out Boy: Interview with Pete Wentz

Fall Out BoyDespite the fact that millions of teenaged girls wish to be the friction in his jeans, Fall Out Boy bassist and hottie Pete Wentz still lives at home with his parents. While most 26-year-olds have long moved out, it makes sense that Wentz still resides at his parents’ crib. He’s always on tour, and living at home is a convenience. But it’s much deeper for Wentz. His parental units want him to live at home, and that makes sense too, as any parent who’s experienced empty nest syndrome can attest to. But more on that later.

In the year since Fall Out Boy’s multi-platinum—in layman’s terms, that’s millions of units—breakthrough, From Under The Cork Tree, the band has gone from a bunch of Chicago hardcore kids that play pop music to being Grammy nominated, MTV “TRL” celebrated phenoms with a radio smash in the form of the catchier-than-germs single “Sugar, We’re Going Down,” which was honestly one of 2005’s best songs. Fall Out Boy now appear in TV commercials for local radio station Z100 and that’s real estate usually reserved for pop tarts like Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson. They’ve done a fashion spread in Rolling Stone. (And you thought My Chemical Romance were the only ones doing that, in Spin!) Thousands of girls at sold out FOB shows scream every time the bassist struts his stuff, and they sing their hearts out to his lyrics, which are sung by FOB’s deft, pop-savvy songwriter Patrick Stump. Fall Out Boy make pop music that speaks to, as well as above its largely teenaged audience, thanks to Wentz’ clever wordplay and dark, surprisingly aware sense of self.

Fall Out Boy are headlining New Jersey’s Bamboozle Fest this year and that’s something that Wentz is extremely proud of. I spoke with him about a month before Bamboozle, while he was in the back lounge of his tour bus in Grand Rapids, Michigan and on tour with Hawthorne Heights. I was impressed that he was A) articulate despite doing tons of interviews since the album’s release and B) that he remembered several key and minor details about a chat we had for a different music magazine when From Under The Cork Tree just came out. He’s like a comic book kid who stumbled into major rock stardom because people somehow relate to him. It’s precisely those qualities that make Mr. Wentz (a Gemini, born in June) a superstar. He’s got star qualities and traits by the bucketful: charm, boyish good looks, a cute laugh, an understanding of his audience and his critics and a grip on reality despite his fame. He doesn’t choose his words carefully; he speaks from the heart and, for that, I salute this kid.

A year after the release of From Under The Cork Tree, you have crossed over into the realm of huge rock stardom. How have you changed? Is your mind blown? You can’t ignore it, so don’t say that you do

The funny thing is, sometimes you can exist in a vacuum when you do stuff like this and it’s the people around you that become so concerned with the possibility that you’ve changed, so you become weird around them. I overcompensate. People say to me, ‘Don’t change,’ and then I hear people say, ‘Oh, Pete changed,’ and then people come ask me, ‘Did you change? Have you changed? What would Pete do?’ If I acted normal, people would think I was the same. I don’t know. It’s hard to not have your perception altered a little bit in this situation. There are lots of factors that keep me level-headed, and that’s that I live with my parents. It’s hard to be insane. I’m 26.

How come you haven’t left the nest yet?

I tried to move out and my dad got weird about it. I said, ‘Dad, I’m moving out!’ And he wouldn’t let me. He said, ‘No, you’re not!’ My parents yell at me, not for coming in too late because of rules, but they yell at me for waking them up when I come in late. At some point, it would be a good idea to move out, but I like having my laundry done and eating French toast for breakfast!

Are you going to buy your parents a house?

I’m not at that level yet. [laughs]

Why did you decide to reissue From Under The Cork Tree? Some fans hate reissues, because they have to buy songs they’ve already bought all over again just to get two or three extra tracks and some expanded artwork. All labels do it, but sometimes, the fans feel cheated. How do you respond to that, especially since most of your fanbase is younger with limited funds?

When you do a reissue, as a band, there are two things at play. It is lucrative for your label and everyone involved, because people buy it again and that is undeniable, so a label always wants to do a reissue. A year outside of the record, we thought that we had another way of having people view the record. We changed the cover, with our van accident and the color scheme changed. The song, ‘Music Or The Misery,’ was something we wished we put on the record the first time, but didn’t, so we included that and remixes. It’s one of those things. Honestly, if you are an insane fan that has to have every song, then this is a piece for you and your collection. But if you are a casual Fall Out Boy fan, but aren’t going to buy it twice, that’s okay, too. If you get the new songs however you get them, that’s fine. It doesn’t make you less of a fan. Reissues can be tricky. I understand we have a batch of new fans and we wanted to give them a different way, and that’s why we did it.