By Matt Pais
RedEye Sound Board
April 12, 2013
Via email, the Fall Out Boy bassist/lyricist, guitarist and drummer chimed in on their evolving sound, what makes them feel old and more.
Bassist/lyricist Pete Wentz
As you wrote lyrics for “Save Rock and Roll,” what topics did you find didn’t interest you as much as they once did, and what took their place? What subject matter will always appeal to you?
It always changes I guess. I guess you will just write or think differently at every period of your life. So it is not topics that I stick to or what not. At the same time you just write differently from age 23 to 33.
What’s something you learned during Fall Out Boy’s hiatus, and what impact did that have?
I learned a lot. I am not sure how much was tangible teaching vs. just reacclimating to life as an adult human. It felt good to just hang out, go to the beach, drive to preschool. I just hadn't been able to get my head around really basic things like that from being on tour so much.
What’s a recent moment when life felt surreal?
Life is super surreal to me always. but flying from New Zealand to Japan I thought back on it all- the whole journey has been so crazy and it's crazy that we just might get a second chapter. It was just weird to travel the world backwards and think back to how it all began.
How often do you think about the old days of the band, and what comes to mind? I can’t help but recall interviewing you at the Panera on Green Bay Road 10 years ago and think about how much has happened since then.
Still got love for that broccoli cheese bread bowl. I think about it a lot- the past that is not the soup. I'm in so much more calm of a place in my life now that it makes reflecting back kind of easier and harder. It's hard for me to understand some of the stuff that I felt back [then] because I think my head was just in turmoil so much more then ... one day it'll all make a great story to tell someone- not that they'd ever believe half of it.
What, if anything, do you wish you could change that’s taken place during the band’s tenure?
I don't really think I’d change anything. It all happened so that we could make it to where we are right now.
Guitarist Joe Trohman
How has the development of the band’s sound changed the way you play? How has it changed the way you perform, if at all?
Well, I've always approached guitar playing in sort of a loose, bluesy manner. I was raised on classic rock from my father, and grew up in Chicago of course. So the blues just makes sense to me as a guitarist. That being said, FOB is not a blues-rock band. I think when we began, I had to throw some of those notions out the window. There was a real tightness and specific way things were supposed to be played within the songs. It helped me to focus on precision playing, which doesn't leave a lot of room for error. It's been an invaluable skill that I've taken with me to other projects.
As well, FOB isn't an improvisational band. While I enjoy improvising live and in the studio, FOB taught me how to hold back. It's an art form in itself to know when to play, and when not to. I still play around with adding in different flourishes, chord phrasings and slight bits of improv. But it has to be minimal and on point. However, there are a handful of songs here and there where I do make up something new every night live. But those are within songs/parts that really call for it.
With the new record came a new way for me to approach playing within the band. It allowed me more room to do some of the things I do naturally, as well as try some brand new things. I've employed a lot more effects and atmospheric guitar playing. I really enjoy sonics, constantly changing up sounds and the idea of making a guitar sound like, well, not a guitar. I've done a lot of that on “Save Rock And Roll.” I also was able to employ some of my abilities as a programmer and synth lover. So I got to have some fun with that too on this record. People would be surprised as to how much I love synths and drum programming outside of just guitar playing.
Also, when making “SR&R,” there were spots where I wrote something in the moment and laid it down. Even though that's not normally the way we did things, we've learned to embrace those aspects [this] time around. Our collective growth, creatively, taught us to embrace the human aspects of making music. Part of being human is to err. Some of that looseness that I have always be drawn to in playing has come to rear it's head with this resurgent band.
When it comes to performing live, I've always been known as the guy that "goes off." I still try to. I think the back catalog sort of requires it. A lot of the older material has this sort of high-octane energy that goes hand in hand with going wild on stage. I try to balance that with serving the song the way it should be played, as opposed to ignoring the playing in lieu of the spazzing. Some of the newer material does require more focus on not just the playing, but controlling the sounds/effects a little more. I still like to feel the music and let that move me in somewhat jarring ways.
What effect did your work with The Damned Things have on your musical sensibilities?
Taking a break from FOB and doing The Damned Things was a big turning point for me creatively and musically. I've always written a lot of music, and TDT gave me that outlet. It allowed me to explode and let my songs and ideas just pour out everywhere. And I had the backing of guys I respect as musicians and creative peers. Doing that band taught me how to hone my skills as a writer further and be super confident in it.
I also think playing with guys like Scott Ian, Rob Caggiano and Josh Newton just made me up my game. I had to keep with guys that have been doing this longer than me. And they are all just monster players. Not only did it build my chops, but it gave me a certain level of playing confidence that I don't think I had before. Not that I didn't have a sense of self prior, but to know I could play with guys like this, and have it all be so cohesive, allowed me to feel like I could just play with anybody and not put too much thought into it. It made me more connected with feeling the music.
TDT also just gave me that avenue to play bluesy, loose, dirty rock music. I had a lot of room to change things up and sort of just let the music carry where we would go playing-wise. That was really freeing. But it also made me appreciate the restraint aspect as well, more than I ever had in the past.
What’s something you’ve been happy to see happen in rock and roll over the last decade, and something you haven’t enjoyed?
I think I've enjoyed seeing bands/artists take risks, do things their own way and still make music that people can connect to. Everything from our friends in My Chemical Romance, who've always stuck to their guns up to the last minute, to Mastodon, who never wavered from the heaviest and most avant garde whilst still making strong material, to a band like the Arctic Monkeys, who did a complete 180 degree turn musically only to come out richer and better for it on the other side.
I think it's also been cool to hear bands like fun and the Black Keys, or artists like Gotye on pop radio or see them winning Grammys. They're pushing boundaries, thinking outside of the box and keeping an energy alive that really is the essence of what rock is. Hopefully, it'll be artists like them that will be flooding the radio, leaving less spots for mediocrity.
Even artists like Skrillex or Frank Ocean are doing things that are more rock n’ roll than half of the bands/artists that make what people would define as meat and potatoes rock.
What’s a recent moment that’s made you feel old?
Aside from having crazy chronic, surgery-related back problems that make me move around like a man 3 times my age, a few things are starting to make me feel old.
I used to be one of those guys (or kids) that knew every single new band, and every single record that was coming out. I had this shit committed to memory. Now, I can't keep up. Yea, it's somewhat because of the Internet making things more vast and difficult to navigate. But kids are on top of this stuff. I don't even know how to be as on top of it. And I don't think I have the time to be honest.
I've also realized that some of our fans, the newer ones, were born in the late ‘90s. Some may have even been born as late as 2000. In '99 I was stealing smokes from the convenience store and drinking mixtures of wine, beer and vodka while listening to Kyuss, busy being the worst type of human ever: a teenager. These kids, they were being born. That shouldn't be weird, but it feels weird. Because I'm not old, and yet, to them, I'm ancient.
Drummer Andy Hurley
The band’s music has really evolved over time. How challenging has it been to adapt your drumming style to songs more likely to inspire dancing than moshing? How do you think the role of being the drummer for Fall Out Boy has changed?
It hasn’t been too difficult as I grew up listening to hip-hop and electronic music as much as I listened to metal. One thing that's always been important to me is to try and build a tool kit, drumming-wise, that was diverse and wide-ranging in terms of what I played. Being the drummer of Fall Out Boy, and any other project I've ever done, is most importantly about playing for the music. Staying out of the way when it's needed and playing more when it makes sense. So, in that, it hasn’t changed at all. But it's definitely always evolving in terms of what I'm playing.
What’s something you gained from The Damned Things that you were excited to bring to “Save Rock and Roll”? Or do you see that time as completely separate from the band, scratching a different itch?
I feel that it was scratching a different itch. But I feel doing TDT has also made me a better and more solid drummer in ways, so of course that is something that is a part of this new record.
What’s a recent moment that’s made you feel old?
Not knowing what SMH or shipping meant. Otherwise, I never really feel old. Young ‘til I die, minus some Internet-speak misunderstandings.
How surprised do you find people are by your soft-spoken nature, compared to your work on record and on stage? Why do you think that side of you comes out in your work and, seemingly, not in person as much?
I suppose people do sometimes not understand the seeming disparity between my onstage personality and my public personality in the press. But I feel that I am definitely a louder, more outspoken person with those I am close to. So it's not that big of a gulf between the two personas. Talking in interviews and being on TV doesn’t always feel natural to me, so I am really shy in that context. Being on stage and recording is where I am most comfortable and confident, so it does bring out the animal in me (the Muppets version, that is).
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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