11:47 PM CST, November 8, 2011
It doesn’t take a musical genius to read between the notes of Patrick Stump’s first solo album, “Soul Punk” (Island), to realize that the Fall Out Boy singer and songwriter left a few things unsaid in his old band.
Whereas Fall Out Boy focused on pop-rock, blending Stump’s melodies with bassist Pete Wentz’s lyrics, to become one of the more successful bands of the last decade, “Soul Punk” draws heavily on ‘80s dance-influenced pop and R&B. Stump not only played all the instruments on his debut, he wrote the lyrics – if nothing else, it marks a personal breakthrough for a multi-faceted musician and singer who often stood in Wentz’s shadow in Fall Out Boy.
When Fall Out Boy went on hiatus a couple of years ago, Stump got to indulge some of the musical interests he had to suppress.
“I wasn’t necessarily frustrated in Fall Out Boy, but there were things that didn’t get satisfied, desires left wanting,” Stump says. “We didn’t all meet on the same kind of music. When bands break up, there are all these buzz words that get tossed around to maintain a front for the audience, but in this case there literally were creative differences. (Fall Out Boy bassist Joe Throhman) is a metal head, a straight-up hard rocker. I’m sort of an R&B cat, a jazz guy. Pete (Wentz) is more interested in playing with words as a lyricist, almost beat poetry, whereas my style is a lot more simplistic, minimalistic. There’s also a lot of folk story-telling influences in what I do -- all the things the band wasn’t into.”
On the last Fall Out Boy album, the 2008 release “Folie à Deux,” Stump says the overblown sound was due in part to his desire to stretch the band’s framework.
“I tried to sneak some things in there to see if anyone would catch it,” he says. “Like I’d throw in a second guitar track that would basically be funk. It ended up hurting the material, because we’d end up with these almost funky verses, with a normal rock-song chorus. It was kind of schizophrenic.”
The title of “Punk Soul” hints at a pull of opposites too.
“I am genuinely into soul, R&B and hip hop – all these genres that get slapped under the soul genre,” Stump says. “That spoke to me more than it did to my punk-rock friends. And punk spoke more to me than it did to my soul friends. I basically didn’t fit comfortably in either world. I thought that would be the most punk-rock thing you could do, to call a record ‘Soul Punk’ and not have it sound like the Buzzcocks covering Otis Redding. To me it’s more about the spirit of it. ‘Punk’ doesn’t mean Mohawks and safety pins. It’s about not conforming.”
Stump’s fascination with ‘80s R&B and dance pop may surprise some Fall Out Boy fans. But he says it’s a part of his musical DNA.
“Drums were my first instrument, my first love,” he says. “I need rhythm, something that moves. So people who were thinking I’d move more in a singer-songwriter direction with this, it’s not natural for me. Rhythm speaks more to me than a guy strumming a guitar.”
His first musical obsessions were from that early MTV era, and he never let go of them, even when he was playing in punk bands in Chicago’s all-ages scene as a teenager.
“Back then, I was every bit the indie-rock snob who criticizes my records now,” he says. “I had all the frustration with clichés, the status quo, the easy pop thing. That didn’t mean I don’t like pop. I can’t help but sound like Prince and Michael Jackson sometimes. The pop music of the ‘80s was such a smart era: (Jackson’s) ‘Thriller,’ (Prince’s) ‘Purple Rain,’ Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance.’ Phil Collins had some great stuff, Peter Gabriel’s ‘So.’ Those are smart records. Almost none of those songs are about ‘Baby, let’s get together.’ The majority of those songs, even something lighthearted like ‘The Girl is Mine,’ there is something interesting going on.”
For “Soul Punk,” Stump wanted his lyrics to match the standard set by his ‘80s heroes with some darker-than-usual subject matter: the addict’s confession in “Run Dry (X Heart X Fingers),” the mid-life crisis gone horribly wrong in “Explode,” the recession blues of “Dance Miserable.”
“It’s not autobiographical, but everything is a cathartic reaction to something that I’ve seen or experienced through other people,” he says. “There are serious things I wanted to deal with in these songs through metaphor and stories. Sometimes you look at what (other artists) aren’t addressing in their music, and you think to yourself, ‘Why can’t I do this in pop music?’”
Patrick Stump: 7 p.m. Friday at Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., $24; etix.com.
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