For the best part of two decades, Fall Out Boy have been pushing against boundaries. From their first emergence into an intensely hardcore Chicago punk scene, the band have been no strangers to subverting norms, and with their latest effort – the caps-tastic ‘M A N I A’ – they seemed intent to go even further.
It was on their seventh album’s lead track ‘Young and Menace’ that the full enormity of their latest ambition was revealed. A track that sounded like no other Fall Out Boy song before it, complete with throbbing beats and piercing autotune, it was their largest slice of musical marmite yet. It also threw all expectations out of the window.
“You never really know the boundaries,” starts Pete Wentz, as the band arrive in London for a two-day pitstop of performances and press runs. “Lots of times, you have to push a little past it to know where the edge is. It’s like that final bit of the Michael J Fox guitar solo.” “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that,” adds in his cohort, vocalist Patrick Stump, quoting the iconic Back to the Future line, “but your kids are gonna love it!”
And while Twitter debates raged on about the song itself – the reaction getting a fairly 50/50 split on the genius to horrendous ratio - the table had been set for ‘M A N I A’ and it promised some of their most progressive offerings yet.
“We’re not the kind of band who want to do a whole abrasive record that purposefully alienates people,” Pete confirms, before Patrick picks back up. “We’re not just trying to test everybody; we want to give ourselves some space to do different things. That was actually a really conscious choice on ‘[From Under The] Cork Tree’. It’s funny, I was listening back to it and it’s such a strange record. At the time, I remember thinking that we had to take really weird chances and do a lot of weird things because otherwise, we’d be making the same sound forever.
“It was terrifying - you don’t want to let people down.”
“I feel like, in a lot of ways, going into this record, we just had to keep following that thread. In a lot of ways, it [became] about ‘If we were a new band right now, what would we sound like? If these were our first songs, what would they sound like?’ It started from that; the idea that if we only had one chance to do our thing, what would it sound like?”
With the band hurtling towards their deadline in early 2017, it was only then that something dawned on the quartet: they weren’t happy with the way the album was shaping up. “For me, it was terrifying,” says Pete. “I mean, it was liberating in the way that it’s what allowed us to make the right record, but terrifying in that you don’t want to let people down.”
After a phone call to Patrick in which the pair realised that the record just wasn’t good enough, they put on the brakes and found themselves back at square one, scrapping over half the songs they’d already finished work on. It was, however, the right move.
“I was totally relieved,” admits Patrick. “I used to work at a used record store - and it was a used record store in Des Plaines, Illinois so it wasn’t a very hip location. The used records that we had were exclusively the records that people didn’t want anymore. It was the island of misfit toys, you know? And I got very acquainted with those records - the records after the band lost it, or gave up trying - and so, to me, I was thinking ‘maybe those records were rushed, maybe those records were trying to hit a release date, or play whatever game.’ No one knows that after it’s released, no one cares twenty years later.
“I knew this was the right thing to do; yeah, it sucked for a few months, but in the long run - twenty years down the line - when someone asks me about this record, I want to know that they’re asking about a record we cared about and gave enough space.”
The result is an album which challenges perceptions whilst still nodding to its predecessors, with its grandiose choruses and arena-ready guitars paired alongside electronic flutterings and intricate sonics. A melding pot of old and new, still intent on pushing the boundaries whilst remaining, at its core, another true Fall Out Boy album into which listeners can escape.
“I want it to feel like it’s a safe thing for people,” Pete explains, on what he hopes the essence of ‘M A N I A’ will become. “I think we live in a really chaotic world and I want it to be a place where people can go for 57 minutes or whatever, and just think about stuff, or not think about stuff, just be and feel alright.”
‘M A N I A’ is out now via Island Records/DCD2 Records.
Taken from the February 2018 issue of DIY. Read online or subscribe below.
Photos: Mike Massaro / DIY