An Interview with Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy: In On The Joke

There aren’t many artists who can survive a somewhat lengthy hiatus and return stronger than ever, but Fall Out Boy has done it. Their sixth studio album—second since ending their break—American Beauty/American Psycho, may be their most poppy release yet; complete with enormous hooks and samples, arena anthems (like the record’s title track), and mellow ballads sprinkled in for good measure. While their sound has come a long way from the angsty pop-punk which helped them gain an avid fan base over the past decade, it is undeniable that the band has grown as musicians and possess the versatility to evolve enough to survive the ever-changing music industry.

The history, in short, goes as follows: In 2001, Fall Out Boy was formed in the suburbs of Chicago by members of the city’s thriving hardcore scene as an additional creative outlet. They released what would be considered their debut full-length, Take This To Your Grave, in 2003, which led the group to gain a notable amount of momentum among both fans and their contemporaries, and served as a prelude to 2005’s From Under The Cork Tree, which catapulted them into the mainstream. They solidified their prominence in pop culture over the following years, releasing 2007’s Infinity On High and 2008’s Folie à Deux before announcing a hiatus in 2009 and ultimately parting ways to pursue other projects, which were all met with varying degrees of success. After staying relatively mum on the future of the band, they returned with 2013’s Save Rock And Roll, marking a stellar comeback and ushering in a new era for the four-piece.

Now getting ready to embark on the two-month-long Boys Of Zummer tour alongside unlikely co-headliner Wiz Khalifa, bassist Pete Wentz spoke with The Aquarian Weekly about the upcoming shows, expression in the public eye, and offers up some strange advice to his former self.

So the first two stops of the Boys Of Zummer Tour are in New Jersey, which is where The Aquarian Weekly is based.

Great! We’re so stoked to be back in New Jersey. It has always been good to us, so we are stoked.

What can fans expect from the live shows?

I mean, this is going to be the biggest version of American Beauty/American Psycho, album-wise, that we are going to do. We also decided that we wanted to completely change our stage show from last summer when we went out with Paramore, so there’s going to be a brand new stage, as well as a couple of new songs that we haven’t played in a while. Then we’ll try to collaborate with Wiz at some point, I think.

Speaking of Wiz Khalifa, how did working with him come about?

We knew we wanted to do the amphitheater tour with somebody who A: We could spend time with and who we were fans of, and then B: Someone who makes sense with the legacy of Fall Out Boy. I think Wiz does in the way that he has a foot in the world of hip-hop and he has a foot in the world of pop music and pop culture, whereas Fall Out Boy has a foot in the world of rock music and a foot in the world of pop as well. And I think that we kind of don’t make sense in a way and he doesn’t either, you know? In some ways we’re these little islands of our own and we thought that maybe we could catch up to each other. So we reached out to him and his people and they were open to it, which was cool.

Do you think you guys will be collaborating during the tour?

There are so many moving parts to a tour. We had so many huge plans to do so much with Paramore last year but it really only happened a couple of times; like maybe twice. But I think that it would be a missed opportunity if we didn’t do something [with Wiz]. Maybe we’ll do a remix of one of his songs and play them together at some point.

It has been said in the past that Save Rock And Roll was a comeback record created in a way to modernize the band and achieve growth. Was there a specific goal in mind when writing American Beauty/American Psycho?

Oh, for sure. I mean, the idea was that when we looked at rappers and DJs and how they respond to pop culture, it happens instantaneously. They can make tracks on airplanes and they can record in hotel rooms, and so we wanted to make a record that had that feeling; a record that had kind of energy and immediacy.

So for American Beauty/American Psycho, for the most part, we wrote and recorded on the road. People have listened to it and said, “Oh, this sounds like a travel record,” and it is in the sense that we created it while we were traveling. There was this idea that this was an experiment, and I think as an experiment it was successful. A lot of bands take two or three years between records to do whatever bands do and we wanted to see if we were able to work around that. That doesn’t say that this is how we always want to work in the future, but that is what we did on this record.

How has the creative process changed since the beginning of the band, like the Take This To Your Grave era?

I think that more than anything we are more comfortable with each other. For example, if I don’t like one of Patrick’s [Stump, the band’s vocalist and rhythm guitarist] ideas I can tell him and vice versa, and we will just move past it, which is better than before when we would sometimes end up with ideas that people didn’t love making it out there. Now I think we are all more comfortable with each other and we can communicate more openly. I also think that we move faster because we can communicate better.

For the majority of the records, you’ve been the band’s primary lyricist. Do you find it hard to put yourself out there with your lyrics?

It was hard on Folie à Deux. We were getting reviewed so much for what people assumed my life was and not based on the music, which made it difficult for me to express myself. Like, there were frustrations that I had that I was trying to express in the lyrics with war that I don’t think were being received the way that I had wanted them to be. And that’s okay, because you can’t really control the way that lyrics are being perceived, it just happens. But now I think it is a little bit more experimental, because I can be like, “Oh, this character in the song, well… He can just be a character in a song,” instead of before where I based the character on something that I was. That was harder to understand when I was a little bit younger. It was much more, “Me, me, me, me!” than I think it is now (laughs).

From Under The Cork Tree came out a decade ago now, and this is really the album that propelled the band into the spotlight. If you could give yourself any advice 10 years ago, what would it be?

I would say that you can’t have so much anxiety over every day and every little thing and every little decision. If I could tell myself something 10 years ago it would be that it was all going to turn out okay, even the wrongest decisions that you’ve made will all put you on a path to where you’re headed, ultimately.

There were times where I would agonize over a decision that I thought was the wrong one, or knew that it was the wrong one, and then I would get dark. I think I wasted a lot of my time in my 20s worrying about what other people would think about me and how people in the magazines would perceive me. None of it really matters 10 years later.

I’d also say that you should always, always—if I was speaking to myself 10 years ago—always urinate in a toilet; it is not alright in any other spot, really.

The band has always had really interesting videos, which was most recently demonstrated by “Irresistible” and “Uma Thurman.” What sparks the ideas for these themes?

When we crafted Save Rock And Roll, we wanted to create a narrative that would really be a departure from what we had done before. Then on the new record, doing “Irresistible” and “Uma Thurman” was a return to form in a couple of ways. You have to laugh at yourself, or else you’re missing out on a lot of the joke (laughs). We’re pretty open to the idea that everything except perhaps when we’re performing is a joke.

There is a lot of stuff that ends up making it into the videos, then there is so much that doesn’t only because a lot of the time it’s just too much of an inside joke and can’t fit into the narrative. But yeah, we come up with the themes that we could go off of and then we’ll find somebody, a director, that would share the vision and try to bring it all together.

Can you talk about your label, DCD2, a little? What is going on with that?

For sure! There is a lot happening right now. Travie McCoy has an amazing album and a new song that I think will blow everybody’s minds. I don’t think I can really say too much about it right now because he’s going to be making an announcement about it, but Panic! At The Disco just put out a new song called “Hallelujah” and there should be an album out from them within the next year, I would say. New Politics has a new album, Vikings, which will be out in August.

I was just talking with Lolo about her music a little bit. This era of strong female artists is perfect for Lolo, and I think it is important for her to make the right record right now. Even within the last two weeks we’ve been talking to an artist who I really, really like who is in the same lane. So we’ll see, I guess (laughs).


The Boys Of Zummer Tour will be making stops at Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, NJ on June 10, PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ on June 13, Nikon At Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, NY on June 24 and The Pavilion At Montage Mountain in Scranton, PA on July 4. American Beauty/American Psycho is available now through Island Records/DCD2. For more information, go to