Fall Out Boy: “Going deep with people that care feels so much more important than going wide”

Back with their latest album 'So Much (For) Stardust)' - quite probably their best in years - Fall Out Boy are in the form of their lives.

Fall Out Boy aren’t just a legendary band – they’re one with a legitimate legacy. Back with their latest album ‘So Much (For) Stardust)’ – quite probably their best in years – they’re in the form of their lives. Read the latest cover story for our New Music Friday playlist edit The Cut.

Words: Ali Shutler.

For the past decade, Fall Out Boy have been one of the few groups repping guitar music on the radio and at the top of festival bills. The band may have had their tongue firmly pressed against their cheek when they called their 2013 comeback record ‘Save Rock And Roll’, but it proved somewhat prophetic.

Speaking the afternoon after their intimate show at London’s Heaven, bassist Pete Wentz explains how there was a “fuck it” attitude to their post-hiatus material. “People were saying we couldn’t do music like that anymore. So, we just wanted to make anthems. We were trying to make [rock music] undeniable.”

And it’s hard to argue with tracks like ‘The Phoenix’, ‘Centuries’ or ‘Champion’. “We did it, and we clawed our way through, and we figured it out. But we got pretty frustrated doing it,” says Pete. By the time it got to ‘MANIA’ as a whole, Fall Out Boy “weren’t comfortable”.

“We were in a place where we were just really frustrated [with the scene],” says Pete before comparing it to 2008’s ‘Folie à Deux’. “They’re both very artistic albums. They’re both fraught. They both come from a frustrated place. The music is all Patrick, so I can say this; there are brilliant ideas on both those records, but then there are unfinished parts as well. I can see why both of those would be somebody’s favourite record.”

New album ‘So Much (For) Stardust’ feels different, though. Yes, ‘Love From The Other Side’ and ‘Hold Me Like A Grudge’ bang and throughout the album, there are moments of daring brilliance. But there’s also an intricacy that feels distinctly like pre-hiatus Fall Out Boy.

“We’ve solved the contradictions of the two eras,” grins drummer Andy Hurley. “Now, new contradictions will arise.”

Pete goes on to describe their breakout run of albums (‘From Under The Cork Tree’, ‘Infinity On High’ and ‘Folie à Deux’) as one trilogy, while ‘Save Rock And Roll’, ‘American Beauty/American Psycho’ and ‘MANIA’ is their second trilogy.

“That’s terrifying because you’re saying that, and I’m thinking, ‘oh shit, are we starting The Sequel Trilogy with ‘Stardust’,” jokes Patrick Stump, beating Pete to a Star Wars reference. “I hope we stick the landing better.”

“I remember when Patrick first played the demo for ‘Love From The Other Side’, and it felt new and old at the same time,” continues Pete. “It was something we would have wanted to do [back then], but we wouldn’t have really known how to do it.” Not only did Pete instantly know that the track needed to be the lead single for their eighth album, but it was the moment he bought into Patrick’s “back to basics” vision. “I knew we could build a statement around that song.”

“There doesn’t need to be as much sauce to cover things up if you just start with better ingredients”

Pete Wentz

He believes the frustration of ‘MANIA’ is one of the reasons it’s taken Fall Out Boy five years to release an album, with the other being the pandemic. “The album really benefited from us taking our time, though,” says Pete. “The tools we use on the record were sharper because of it.”

“‘Stardust’ wasn’t frustrated,” he continues. “This record feels way more balanced. When we were in the studio together, ideas were bouncing back and forth. Everything was flowing. And then [returning producer Neal Avron] was there, making sure everyone got their perspective across.”

Previously, Patrick has described ‘So Much (For) Stardust’ as ‘what if Fall Out Boy made a record after ‘Folie’, instead of going on a five-year hiatus’. The result is a spiritual successor to that controversial record, if not a sonic one. “Last time we worked with Neal, Pete and I were not getting on very well, to be entirely honest,” says Patrick.

“I feel like every record has been more and bigger until we got to ‘MANIA’, which was everything, all at once. With ‘Stardust’, there’s a lot of purposeful space,” adds Pete. “Working with Neal reminded us that there doesn’t need to be as much sauce to cover things up if you just start with better ingredients. There’s actually less on this album, but it feels bigger.”

“I don’t want this to sound to boomer-y”

Patrick Stump

“I don’t want this to sound to boomer-y,” begins Patrick, of his vision for ‘So Much (For) Stardust’.

“Great start,” laughs Pete.

“But these damn kids and these damn phones,” jokes Patrick, as Pete checks his. “But seriously, there is a kind of distance to the human experience these days. During the pandemic, there was this forced way of communicating, and I wanted to make a record that was tangible. I wanted to make a record that was touched and was made by hand. The instruments were very much played, and Neal was very serious about getting takes. If I tried to be lazy by suggesting we just tune a line or something, he’d insist we do it properly. I wanted that kind of record, though. It feels like a palate cleanser from this period of impersonal distance.”

As a side effect of wanting to prove that guitar music could still be part of that mainstream conversation, Fall Out Boy’s post-hiatus records have been driven by an ambition to be heard by as many people as possible. With ‘Stardust’ though, “it was more about, let’s craft something that we love, that we think our fans will love. I don’t think this is designed for the wider world,” admits Pete. “We live in a time where going deep with people that care feels so much more important than going wide.”
It’s perhaps why at their recent headline shows, Fall Out Boy have resurrected ‘Folie’ deep cuts like ‘Disloyal Order Of Water Buffaloes’ and ‘Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown On A Bad Bet’.

“It’s okay to feel like this world’s fucked, and it’s not going to get better, but you’ve still got to get up and do stuff”

Andy Hurley

“People always say that ‘Folie’ is their favourite record. Okay, let’s prove that. Plus, songs like ‘Headfirst Slide’ and a couple of others we’ve talked about always went off. I feel like we’re gonna work some more of it in at future shows.”

Pete goes on to talk about how people always return to the music that they first discovered for themselves, that made them feel something. “I feel like with ‘Stardust’, we made an album for those fans that have come on the journey with us.” Instead of still acting like teenagers, though, “it’s like, let’s talk about all the stuff we’re going through now.”

“I love the way you explained ‘Stardust’ – half nihilism, half undeniable optimism. I totally feel that really speaks to the times,” adds Andy.

Pete thinks that undeniable optimism comes from making music alongside “hanging out with your friends and doing things that put joy into the world. It’s usually simple shit, but that goes a long way because we live in a world that isn’t supportive of that at all.”

“But I also think it’s okay to live in the nihilism and feel hopeless,” adds Andy. “It’s okay to feel like this world’s fucked, and it’s not going to get better, but you’ve still got to get up and do stuff. You’ve still got to live. You’ve still got to try.” ■

Fall Out Boy’s new album ‘So Much (For) Stardust’ is out now. Follow Dork’s The Cut Spotify playlist here.

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