While Fall Out Boy were down in Melbourne for their recent Mania Australian tour, I had the very cool chance to interview powerhouse drummer Andy Hurley and bassist/emo royalty Pete Wentz backstage at their sold-out Margaret Court Arena show. And you’d best believe that I took that chance.
With a rather pressing 15 minutes on the clock against us (hey, they’re very busy people), I spoke with The FOB members about all things ‘Mania’ – while it was pushed back, that track-listing fuck up, it’s sound, the fact it’s actually not that bad – as well as their older pop-punk records and their collaborations with longtime producer Butch Walker, which yielded some interesting answers. So have a read of it and go through the loop below:
Unless it’s a Tool or Guns N’ Roses album, you don’t really hear of records being delayed these days. You guys said that ‘Mania’ felt rushed originally, so what things did you tidy up by pushing its release date back? Was it just the production of it or was it more about the performance?
Andy: It was like, what it would have all been compared to if we put it out.
Pete: Yeah, the songs weren’t gonna be singles or what you think of a “single” as; they weren’t gonna be mass songs. They didn’t have the depth and they wouldn’t be songs that people would love. For me, at the time, they were just ‘meh’ songs. I don’t think that the world needs a mediocre Fall Out Boy album or one that we weren’t happy with it – we just wouldn’t put out a new album then.
Andy: I’d agree with that. The things we were writing afterwards were better so why not push it back and see what else what would come out?
Cool. The other thing with ‘Mania’ was the two different track listings that came about. One that was incorrect at first and then a correct one that’s on all versions of the record. So how did that happen? So did someone just stuff up and upload the tracks incorrectly?
Pete: So that was how stuff gets…ingested into the streaming services. Like, someone said to us that that’s what they thought the track listing was and we were like “Uh, no, that’s not the track listing” [laughs]. And they said, “Oh, okay, cool. We can’t fix it for like two weeks”. Which I think had something to do with the people who had pre-ordered the album, if they’d changed it then it might have done something crazy with their pre-orders.
An interesting thing about the potential pre-order issue there, though. The private version the label sent me over email had ‘Young And Menace’ as the first song-
Pete: -and it was never supposed to be. Usually, Patrick is the more track-listing guy, but there’s a for-sure first song and there’s always a for-sure last song. ‘Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea’ and ‘Bishop’s Knife Trick’ were the for-sure first and last songs. So yeah, if they don’t fix that shit about streaming and track listings, then bands and fans aren’t going to wanna use those services.
Well, do you think that that incorrect track listing worked in some ways or that it was maybe even inferior? Because sometimes a track listing and its flow is what really makes an album.
Pete: Well. I think that when you’re talking about a playlist, people from places like Universal, they start out with your strong song that’ll be globally strong so people don’t click off the playlist and so they don’t lose streams. So you need a strong single, something like ‘Champion’ or ‘The Last Of The Real Ones’, not ‘Young And Menace’ though. But to me, the full album is still important so ‘Stay Frosty…’ was supposed to be the intro song, mostly because of its lyrical perspective. That’s how we had designed it from the beginning. I do think that inferior is the wrong word to use because we live in a world where people like to curate their own lives. So you can make the album order whatever you like, because once people are creating their own playlists, which is great, but our intent was to make an album to listen to in full.
The thing about ‘Mania’ for me was that I came into it expecting to really dislike it as I come from that old Fall Out Boy sound like many others do. But I actually liked it! And I had two questions about that. Firstly, do you actually listen back to much of the earlier FOB records at this stage in your career?
Pete: I don’t just because it’s weird, like looking at old pictures of yourself too much. Those older records where just these snapshots in time and I literally can’t do ‘Take This To Your Grave’ again. Look at a band like Guns N’ Roses, they can’t do an album like ‘Appetite For Destruction’ because they’ve since done all of these things and experienced and seen the world. Even in our experiments with that – like our ‘PAX Am Days’ release, is just so vastly different now. It’s hard to take things out of Pandora’s Box and then try to cram it back in, you know? So when I listen to those older songs, I only really hear a lot of the flaws.
Andy: In terms of drumming, it’s a little more chaotic and more focused-in. I don’t really listen back too much unless I have to relearn a song. Though, every once in a while I will listen back to them.
Pete: Sometimes when we do photo shoots, they ask us what we listen to, and as a little joke we just say, “we only listen to Fall Out Boy” [laughs]. But yeah, I do think that listening to your older stuff is a little weird.
It’s funny, as I spoke with Mike from Lower Than Atlantis the other day [which should be published soon if I get my ass in gear] and he seriously said that he listens to LTA’s own music a lot, as they’ve got a bunch of different records that cover different sounds.
Pete: Yeah, I get that but it’s just so weird to me. It’s like, “Why would I look at other people when I have a mirror and can just look at myself!” [Laughs]. But man, Andy, maybe we’ll do it. Tomorrow on the off day, we’ll just listen to Fall Out Boy albums.
So the other thing about ‘Mania’ is that I think it’s the best record to come from FOB in this era so far. As I did not like ‘Save Rock and Roll’ at all – not in the slightest! While I also wasn’t big on ‘American Beauty/American Psycho’, I did enjoy a couple tracks like ‘Jet Pack Blues’ and ‘Two Skeletons’. But I think this is the best sound FOB have had on this side of your career, and I think that comes down to it having a darker sound and more layers. What do you think of that?
Pete: Oh, right! Well, thanks for that honesty there, man. I actually think that ‘Save Rock and Roll’ and ‘American Beauty’ could have been on one-album cycle. We made them so soon after one another and there are a lot of similarities between them. Like, ‘Centuries’ could’ve been on either one. Whereas ‘Mania’ is super different to what we’ve done before. I do get what you’re saying there, though, but maybe not in it being darker. Maybe with it just has more depth or something like that? I think that that comes from us taking our time now and not putting out middle-of-the-road songs. And listen, I know that we’re so different a band now and that some stuff we do just won’t be for everyone. But like, I love the Nigerian hip-hop scene, I think it’s fucking crazy and awesome. But is putting Burna Boy on a song what people expect from us? But then again, we had Jay-Z open our third record [‘Infinity On High’, Jay-Z does the MC on ‘Thriller’] so…
Well, to help wrap up here, and on these last few records and the more electronic, poppier sound, the last three albums you’ve had Butch Walker [from SouthGang] working as a producer on them. Yet you didn’t work with him on the first four albums so I’m wondering if he’s the reason why FOB sounds the way it does now?
Pete: So, we actually worked with Butch Walker once before, on a song called ‘Bang The Duldrums’. And when we worked with him then, we were young and we had this cool thing where our records were really connecting with people. So we thought “why do you need a producer? We don’t need a producer”. So we didn’t really let him come in and do his thing. You know, I don’t think anybody knows this, but that song was literally supposed to be used for a part in a new Shrek film at the time.
Andy: Oh yeah!
Pete: Yeah! We spoke with the people from Shrek who said they wanted a song that sounded like this. Being the people who we were at the time, we said, “You say you want a song like that but we think you need a song that sounds like this”, and so after we gave it the track to them, they just responded with “No thanks”. [Laughs]. So that’s the thing that I think Butch really did with us. The problem with Fall Out Boy is that when we start to a demo process, we do what Butch calls a “Kitchen Sink Band” where we put in everything and zillions of layers. So he comes in to take this out, pull that out, and says “you’re cluttering it and making it smaller with all these things in the same frequencies”.
Andy: It’s kinda like surgery.
Pete: Yeah, and he has this magical touch that no other producer can do, where he puts a rock band into a pop-format and still make them a band that actually plays. It’s like threading the needle and I don’t know anyone else who can do it as well. Maybe Jack Antonoff [Bleachers, Fun] and maybe guys like Mark Ronson too. I love Butch’s work and I think you can see which different people we worked with on the record, as the songs are all a little bit different.
Yeah, you can hear that in comparison to songs like ‘Young And Menace’ and Heaven’s Gate’, or from ‘Church’ to ‘The Last Of The Real Ones’. Which I think is pretty cool.
Pete: totally man! And I don’t think we could ever do that and go back to the pop-punk sound now, as it’d be so inauthentic. In that way, while I don’t listen to old Fall Out Boy, there are plenty of bands that sound like old us who do it really well and that’s cool to see.
Andy: Yeah, we’ve passed on the torch to others.
Pete: And people will bitch about it either way, but hey, that’s okay too. You just gotta do what’s good for you!
Andy: It’s kinda like what Rian Jonhson once said: “you gotta throw it all away”.
Pete: Oh dude, he has this great quote where he goes: “sometimes to be a hero, you just gotta see your aunt and uncle burned in a village in the middle of a desert”. Like, Jesus Christ dude! [Laughs].
Holy shit, that’s actually amazing [Laughs]. And that’s probably the best end to this interview too, thanks heaps for this chat, guys!
Pete: Cool! Thanks a lot for this interview bro.
Andy: Yeah, thank you man.