Fall Out Boy just keep getting bigger and bigger. From climbing up the line-up at Reading & Leeds (they’re headlining this year, FYI) to getting further from their basement punk past while keeping that special FOB spark, Pete, Andy, Joe and Patrick have never looked more in control – and they’ve never enjoyed being Fall Out Boy more.
New album ‘MANIA’, with its broad strokes, neon inspiration and grinning excitement, feels like a return, even though it’s a departure. Gone are the self-imposed rules and arching themes, replaced by a free-flowing anything-goes attitude. The band are all about taking those little moments and making them eternal.
“Music keeps moving and keeps changing,” starts Patrick. “This is something that Pete has set as a tone for on a few records. If we were 15 and we were coming together as a band for the first time, what would we sound like? What would we want to be doing? What would our impulse be? You’ve got to try and tap into that. There’s an earnestness to it, saying ‘Well, I just like this’. That goes away after a while when you start worrying about what’s cool or what would be successful.”
“You lose scope. If you stop making albums for yourself, you’re just making a product for other people,” adds Joe, before Patrick warns: “You become Burger King. On the one hand, you can adapt something to a different surrounding and make something new with it, and that works. On the other hand, it’s like if you rewrote Spider-Man, but instead of a Spider-Man, he’s a wolf boy, and he’s purple. Instead of shooting webs, he shoots lasers out of his eyes, but we’re still going to call him Spider-Man. You have to reinvent, but you need to retain some of the purpose. That’s what we strive for.”
The band are in London following a gig at Brixton Electric to celebrate the release of ‘MANIA’. Tracks that have been out for less than twenty-four hours are greeted with the same roar as anything pre or post-hiatus, and the whole gig flows through the band’s winding history and scattergun present. Everything feels at home, so imagine how comfortable ‘MANIA’ will be once Fall Out Boy are back in the familiar ground of arenas.
“With pyro, you know at one beat in the song there’s going to be an explosion. That’s a lot of power,” grins Patrick. “You get so accustomed to playing some of those songs with pyro and stuff, that without them you feel ‘Oh, I have to be entertaining instead. This is so much more challenging’.” The ‘MANIA’ tour in the US was the first time the band had to buy their production, because they created a staging that couldn’t be rented or used by anyone else. With every movement, the band are heading off-road.
Fall Out Boy aren’t afraid to toy with their tracks, either. Live, ‘Young And Menace’ switches gear from jarring electro-breakdown to piano-led marvel. Partly a nod to those people who dismissed it as all style no substance, “it’s still a song,” starts Patrick. “It’s not like a computer algorithm wrote it. I made a song, but also, I was reading an interview with The Beatles talking about ‘Paperback Writer’. This song was so studio heavy; it had 16 vocal layers and 12 guitars. To play that live you’d have to have a choir of other Beatles.
“It was a similar situation for ‘Young and Menace’. We’re able to play it full on live” – “Mostly to prove it’s possible,” adds Joe – “but when I’m doing it, I have to watch everything I’m doing. I’m controlling my vocals with my foot, then I have to switch guitar pedals, and I have to sing at the same time. I feel like I’m one of those one-man bands with cymbals between my knees and spinning a plate on one hand.”
And that just doesn’t sound like fun, which doesn’t sound like Fall Out Boy.
“Truthfully, it was Pete’s suggestion,” continues Patrick. “He suggested I try it on piano and, I’m such a jerk. I’m always like, ‘No, no, no’. Then I tried it, and it was neat how those chords play on a piano in a completely different way, and I sing in a different way. Thanks again, Pete.”
Fall Out Boy have been living, breathing and playing with ‘MANIA’ for over a year now. “It’s hard to know at this stage in the game what any album means to you. It’s not until much later do you really understand what an album is, or what it means to you or your audience,” offers Patrick. “I do know that it’s a rare one for me. There are chances that we took that maybe 20 years from now I’ll be like, I don’t know if I’d do that again, but in general, there’s nothing for me where I think ‘I wish I hadn’t done that’. And on every record, I’ve had that feeling.
“This record, I was very at peace with what I turned in. I like what we did with it. I’m really proud of it, and that’s a first for me as a musician. I’m not saying it’s our best, but it’s the most succinctly what I wanted to do. It’s exactly what we wanted to do when we made it. It’s the most effective at getting what we were trying to do across. “
“I know what it feels like to have people not believe in you,” starts Joe, as Patrick adds: “And not take you seriously because you’re young. That’ll piss you off enough to last. You can get a few decades out of that at least. You remember that so you identify with it.” “For me,” Joe continues, “that’s a thing that drives me to keep making stuff and prove myself to other people. ‘No, I can do it just as good or better than you can’.”
Fall Out Boy in 2018 have put a renewed emphasis on encouraging people to be themselves, to believe in what they believe and to follow that as far as it leads them. That community support has always been there, from basement roots to arena spotlights, but with ‘MANIA’ they’ve given it a voice. “It’s such a silly thing older generations always fall into. ‘Kids these days’. They’ve been saying that since time’s memorial. ‘These damn kids, get off my lawn,” offers Patrick with a shake of his fist and a smirk.
“You have to have faith in the future,” continues Joe. “Or else everything’s going to die.”
Fall Out Boy started young and weren’t always taken seriously, not that it really bothered them. Nowadays, they’re older, wiser and still don’t care what other people think. “I am surprised at the reverence with which we get asked some questions or people talk us. I think back to where we were on some of these records; you’re just a bunch of smelly guys in a van who haven’t showered in a few days. You’re kinda broke and, in my case, not particularly educated or qualified to do anything in any way. But then to have people revere some of these records, it’s funny.
“For me, I don’t have a lot of natural, inborn self-confidence. I’m not that kinda guy, and so there’s a temptation to minimise those things in your head. ‘Oh it’s just my dumb band’ or whatever, but you realise what it means to people, so it makes it more important for you to appreciate that, respect that and take it seriously. A lot of people do take it seriously, and it made me go, ‘Oh, we should really care about this’. We always did, but it’s a different thing when people have lyrics tattooed on them. That’s a lot of responsibility.”
Even with that collective weight of legacy and inked skin, Fall Out Boy can’t let that into the studio, “or I’ll lose my mind,” continues Patrick. “The fact the four of us have experienced it together, that’s one of the things that makes it so weird and unique. We talk to a lot of other bands, and maybe there’s one original member left, and no one likes each other. It’s so odd because we get on really well. We’re still good buddies. Our Star Wars discussions do get a bit heated, though.”
“I just leave the room,” grins Joe.
‘MANIA’ is the sound of Fall Out Boy enjoying Fall Out Boy. It’s infectious. Their show at Brixton Electric sparkled with a collective joy and making the record, “we enjoyed playing around with it and having fun and experiencing it. If anything, it’s one of the things that made us take so long. It was a very relaxed, very fun experience. It wasn’t a lot of stress.
“Talking about the legacy thing, what that means to me is that it has to be that much better everytime we put out a record. There’s no point just saying, ‘Yeah let’s do a record’. It has to be worthwhile. A bad album will make all your albums bad.”
As for the future, as always, it’s an open door and a collection of small moments waiting to happen. This is a band who thrive on feeling inspired. “A certain amount of inspiration comes from momentum,” Joe explains. “You’re always moving, so you get good at coming up with ideas. When we took the hiatus, I didn’t expect how much harder it would be to get that wheel moving again. It took a long time to get things back in motion, to get them back to where we were coming up with new ideas every day.”
And the band don’t look much beyond those sparks and flashes.
“I’m not very ambitious as a person,” continues Patrick. “My ambitions are very small. I want this to sound good; I want to hand in a produced piece of music that I think I performed and wrote well. I don’t think much beyond that. I’m not bothered if we were to,” he starts before drawing a blank. “I don’t even know what. What else is there we could do?” he asks, beaming. “There are so many amazing things we’ve done. What are we, going to play on the moon? I’m not very ambitious on that sorta stuff. I just want to know what we did our best, and we didn’t phone it in. I just want to know we were good.”
Taken from the April issue of Upset – order a copy or subscribe below. Fall Out Boy tour the UK from 27th March.