Fall Out Boy: Interview with Pete Wentz

Did you ever expect to have so many screaming 14-year-old girls at your shows?

You create a dichotomy. There are people interested in the band because of the sonics and the other segment, who are probably intrigued by your wordplay, and that’s interesting to see the two sects, whether they clash or come together. More than anything, when people come to shows or interview us or meet us, they see that we’re not the Backstreet Boys. We’re dirty, ordinary hardcore kids from Chicago in an extraordinary position and people realize that after they meet us and, hopefully, they stick around as our fans and friends.

You seem to have a real marketing savvy about how to navigate the music industry. Where did you pick it up?

I don’t know. That’s the question I have no good answer to. I watched labels like Def Jam and saw how they created a counterculture. You weren’t buying a record, but a lifestyle and way of thinking and that is interesting to me. I’m not interested in being the biggest band in the world, but in being one that people hang onto. I am more intrigued by the Morrisseys and the Robert Smiths than the Axl Roses of the world. People hang on to their every word, and that means a lot.

You published a book last year. Are you still writing?

I wrote another book, but we edited it and I was not very happy with it and I wanted to be really proud of the next thing I put out. I obsess over words and there is stuff in the new book that’s not good, so I decided to scrap it and put it back together. We’ll see if it sees the light of day, but it has to be something I am proud of if I am going to put it out.

Patrick sings and you write the lyrics, which is an odd situation, because in most bands, whoever writes the words sings them. It certainly lends an interesting dynamic to the band. Is there a lot of compromise?

It would be weird if it was anyone besides Patrick. It’s inexplicable. It’s just natural and normal. You have to compromise, sure. There are certain things he might not be comfortable singing or I may not want to put certain lyrics in a song, and we can be like, ‘This is shitty’ to one another and we won’t feel bad. We would re-assess. There have been fights, but nothing major.

That’s true for any healthy relationship. Are you bros with Jay-Z, who has been known to show up at Fall Out Boy shows with Beyonce on his arm?

Ha! [Laughs]. I have his number in my cell phone, but I won’t go and stop by his house. That’s the level of our bro-dom we have.

Has the shit talking reached an all-time high? Because when you get famous, everyone wants to air your dirty laundry. Have you learned valuable lessons from becoming so famous so fast?

I guess I’ve learned that you can’t please everyone all the time. I have spent the last month making excuses rather than rolling with the punches and that’s a lesson I have to walk away with. There are going to be people who feel let down and disappointed. I can’t control what people write on the Internet. The best I can do is be someone that people can look up to and that’s important to me, and it’s horrible when someone looks up to you and is disappointed. This is the best I can do; no one gave me a manual on doing this and I am trying to figure it out as I go along. And we make mistakes, and we’ll make mistakes.

This being a New Jersey newspaper, how do FOB feel about our state? Any stories to share?

New Jersey, outside of Chicago, is one of the best places Fall Out Boy has played. And it’s got to do with the history with the bands, like Lifetime and Saves The Day. There are a lot of people who don’t go into the city as much, and they go see shows in New Jersey, but it has been great there. There is Asbury Park, Princeton…it’s awesome.

What are you looking forward to about Bamboozle as headliner?

Well, what I look forward to most is that it’s a mini-Warped Tour. You see your friends or bands you want to check out that you didn’t get to tour with and getting to hang out with old friends. We have played it before and we never headlined, so it is cool to come back and headline. We’re going to bring our full rig and we’re creating a backdrop just for that show. We have a special guest…I’m not going to announce it yet. But let’s just say he is in my phone.

That sounds like a hint…

Maybe it is…it is going to be a special show as far as this tour goes.

You still seem really down to earth, like a kid stuck in a growing up body. There is nothing ‘manufactured teen pop sensation’ about you, at all.

[Laughs.] Thank you. That rules. I don’t really know. I feel like when I interact on a non-personal level, I put more of myself out there. I don’t bullshit people. If I feel bad, I put it out there. If I call someone out or they call me out, it can be an awesome thing because people appreciate the honesty, but it can bite you. It was done to me recently. I’d rather have it that way, then have the weird thing where there is stock answers or media training.

I hate media trained bands. You can spot canned, rehearsed answers a mile away. Just read any article where Katie Holmes talks about Tom Cruise; sounds like she’s reading from a script. You, on the other hand, put it all out there. That’s really brave, given the amount of shit talking that happens in music scenes!

It’s good to not be media trained. My publicist hates it sometimes, because we get all deer in the highlights!

Tell me something about you that’s not common knowledge.

I went to college for three years for political science. My dad wanted me to be a lawyer, but history and politics and socio-economics are really interesting and I played soccer as well, and then Fall Out Boy took off. I would really like to graduate from college one day, so my parents would officially be off my back about everything.

Finally, anything you want to say to the kids attending Bamboozle this year?

Make sure you are well hydrated and ready to have a good time.

Fall Out Boy will be playing at this year’s Bamboozle Festival on May 6.