Mar 4, 2007

Rolling Stone: The Boys With the Car-Crash Hearts

Fall Out Boy make teen-punk tragedies for the star-crossed Romeos and Juliets of the text-message set, and bassist Pete Wentz lives the script


>> EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Watch as Fall Out Boy take time out from their Rolling Stone cover shoot to throw down in a lightsaber battle.

>>This is an excerpt from the new issue of Rolling Stone, on newsstands until March 9th.

As the cookie monster-barking vocalist of the metalcore band Arma Angelus, Pete Wentz was already a Chicago hardcore-scene celebrity in 2001, when Fall Out Boy began to take shape. "We're all kind of extreme versions of what we were," says drummer Andy Hurley, an introverted comic-book fan who played with Wentz in both Arma and a band called Racetraitor (the name was intended as an anti-racist statement, for the record). "Pete may go to hot-spot clubs now, but he was hanging out with A-list hardcore dudes back then. He was obviously the dude you want to know, such a magnetic personality."

Future FOB guitarist Joe Trohman toured on bass with Arma one summer when he was just sixteen, after Wentz used his considerable powers of persuasion on Trohman's mom and cardiologist dad. "I definitely got initiated on that tour -- they would rip my underwear off me every day," Trohman says. "I hated it, dude. I should have stopped wearing underwear."

After that tour, just as Trohman started talking with Wentz about forming a new, poppier, more Green Day-like band, he met a long-sideburned kid his age at a Borders bookstore: Patrick Stump, who was then drumming in a proggy band that sounded like Rush playing emo. Stump wanted to sing and write songs, and Trohman introduced him to Wentz. "I had heard all these legends about Pete Wentz," says Stump. "That he was in six bands at once, that he was the world's greatest Casanova. But when we met, Pete and I looked at each other and went, 'Who the fuck is this guy?' We sucked at first. We were horrible." They got their name -- a reference to a comic book that Bart reads in The Simpsons -- at random: They asked the crowd at an early gig for suggestions and someone shouted it out. They recorded an entire indie album before they finally got Hurley -- a precision-tooled drummer influenced by Slayer's Dave Lombardo -- to join the band. "I don't consider it Fall Out Boy until Andy joined," says Stump.

On the first track of the band's now-disavowed, pre-Hurley debut, 2003's mostly dreadful Fall Out Boy's Evening Out With Your Girlfriend, Stump sings, "I got an honorable mention in the movie of my life -- starring you, instead of me." The singer, who's sitting at a glass desk in his room in Times Square's W Hotel, his friendly features cast in shadow by his ever-present baseball cap, nods and half-smiles when I bring up those lines. He wrote them himself, before Wentz took over lyric duty. "I know exactly where you're going with this -- the whole Pete thing," he says, glancing out the forty-eighth-floor window. "But those lines were about how I felt in high school. It didn't actually refer to Pete, as ironic as it is now."

Director Alan Ferguson - who worked on Fall Out Boy's last few videos, including the self-mocking clip for Infinity's first single, "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race" - sees the bespectacled Stump as a skilled character actor to Wentz's leading man. "He's my Philip Seymour Hoffman," he says. Adds Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, the unlikely guest producer whom the band recruited to work on two Infinity tracks: "Patrick is one of the baddest dudes I've seen in a long time. . . . He has a great voice -- very soulful." But Stump is self-deprecating to the point where you find yourself reassuring him of his charm. "I hear all sorts of things slung at us," he says, "one of my favorites being the boy-band accusation. I'm like, 'Boy band? I'm fat! If we were a boy band, I'd look good, I'd dance and I'd be charming -- so what the fuck are you talking about?' I write songs, that's all I do."

Until recently, Stump -- who rarely speaks onstage during Fall Out Boy's infamously sloppy live shows and hardly moves from his microphone stand as Wentz and Trohman bounce around him -- was lost in Wentz's shadow. But lately, he's been coming into his own, even producing songs for the Decaydance alt-hip-hop act Gym Class Heroes -- he sings the Supertramp-derived hook on that act's "Cupid's Chokehold," which sits alongside "Arms Race" in iTunes' Top Ten.

On the hotel-room desk in front of him is a silver laptop armed with Apple's GarageBand software, which he uses to record Fall Out Boy demos, hip-hop beats and random experiments. He plays a bunch for me; many of them are startlingly close to the finished songs, and some of the beats sound Hot 97-ready. Two of the funkiest songs on Infinity on High -- "Arms Race" and the album closer, "I've Got All This Ringing in My Ears and None on My Fingers" -- were originally intended to be hip-hop tracks.

The day before, Stump met with Jay-Z to play him beats and discuss production projects -- and last year, Jay invited Stump into the studio to write a hook for a Kingdom Come track. "All of hip-hop showed up -- Jay walks in with Timbaland, then Swizz Beatz walks in. Beyoncé was there, doing that dance you see on TV," says Stump, who was intimidated -- the scene from the "Arms Race" video where all the hip-hop dudes laugh at him is inspired by the incident. In real life, Stump never even got behind the microphone. "I had the worst writer's block," he says. "So I was like, 'I fucked up the Jay-Z thing, so I better write the best fucking Fall Out Boy record ever now.' "

Arguably, he did: On Infinity, Fall Out Boy morph beyond the boundaries of their genre to embrace rhythms and vocal inflections that show Stump's affection for Prince, Zapp and Earth, Wind & Fire. "I was like, 'This dude's got something to prove,' " says Wentz, whose working relationship with Stump has its tense moments -- the otherwise mild-mannered singer punched him in the face once during an argument over lyrics. "I think he was holding back before, so I just let him put the music where his mouth is -- or the music where my mouth is, maybe."

Edmonds -- no stranger to love songs -- was struck by Wentz's achingly personal lyrics, which the bassist said were written about one particular girl. Last year when we first met, Wentz told me the same thing: that many of the new songs he was writing were inspired by a doomed relationship, that the girl in question had driven him so crazy that he'd put his hand through a car window, that he was done with her forever.

It looks just like a scene from a Fall Out Boy video: Pete Wentz and a striking young woman with a septum piercing and an aloof air stare soulfully at each other as they sit side by side. They look alike, their eyes enshrouded in the same amount of makeup. Wentz occasionally takes her hand, but says nothing. They're at a Fall Out Boy photo shoot, and the girl looks camera-ready too: Her hair is a punky shade of red, arranged in spikes. She's wearing knee-high leather boots over strategically torn stockings. Her name is Jeanae. She's just shy of twenty, a hairdresser from Chicago. "This is way more boring than I expected," she says as flashbulbs go off. Wentz keeps sending wounded little looks her way -- and seems unnerved when he sees me talking to her.

Wentz appears distracted as the shoot continues at a warehouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, hardly speaking to his bandmates. He does brighten when Stump mentions an obscure Star Wars spinoff: two live-action Ewok TV movies from the mid-Eighties. "You've got to see the second one -- it's awesome," he says. Meanwhile, Hurley pauses from a vegan lunch and logs on to MTV's Web site to see the TRL position of the "Arms Race" video. The site promptly crashes his browser, and he goes back to his food.

Eventually, everyone piles into a van, headed back into Manhattan. Wentz and Jeanae sit in the last row. The conversation turns to Morrissey, Prince and then Young Jeezy's new album: Stump hates the rapper's trademark "ha-ha!" laugh, while Trohman -- the only member of the band who drinks and smokes pot -- is a fan. "We should bring him on tour," he says. "It's my dream to smoke weed with that guy."

Wentz and Jeanae seem to be ignoring this discussion. Wentz has the hood of his sweat shirt up, and they're whispering. Two days later, Wentz will tell me about her, how he can't let her go, how she's crazy, how she's the only girl he really wants. But I'm already starting to get the idea.
rohman and Hurley get less attention than their bandmates, which can be a source of frustration. "We mean a lot to each other as musicians and as people," says Trohman. "But sometimes we start believing what people write about us: That the band is just one guy or two guys. That can be harsh for the soul." Trohman's playing combines heavy-metal riffage with Johnny Marr-inspired atmospherics -- along with high-jumping, headbanging onstage showmanship so intense that he's given himself shinsplints. "Joe wants to put on a good show," says Stump. "There's a dichotomy there: He wants to be the guitar player where people stand back and say, 'Wow, he's good,' but at the same time, he can't help but go ape shit onstage." Trohman also has a segment of the Fall Out Boy fan base all to himself. "Middle-aged women love me -- they say I look like Dr. McSexy or whatever his name is," says the guitarist.

We're cabbing over to Rudy's Music Stop on Forty-eighth Street, where Trohman spots a Fifties Les Paul Junior and inquires about the cost. "Eighteen-five -- it's a good price," drawls a salesperson.

"Dude," Trohman whispers, "does that mean $18,000? That's a lot of money. Even for me." We walk out, but then Trohman heads back in to play a gorgeous 1972 black Telecaster. A different salesperson takes him into a back room. "What guitar are you playing at home now?" he asks. "I've got a whole bunch," Trohman replies, cranking Metallica riffs through an amplifier. The clerk takes a blind stab: "You guys in a band or something?"

"He is," I say, pointing to Trohman, who's wearing a Dior hooded sweater over an old Pantera T-shirt.

"Oh, yeah? Which band?"

"It's called Fall Out Boy," Trohman says and kicks into the chords of "Back in Black." The salesman's eyes light up with dollar signs, and Trohman walks out five minutes later, lugging his new $4,495 impulse purchase in its battered original case. "I'm gonna feel guilty about this for a while," he says, looking not at all guilty. "It's the Jew in me -- like, 'Oh, no, you spent money!' "

Andy hurley is eating macaroni with vegan cheese and talking about the end of the world. We're in a cozy East Village vegetarian restaurant, fresh from shopping for comic books at Forbidden Planet. More than anyone in the band, Hurley has stayed closest to his left-wing hardcore roots: Besides his vegan diet, he's so serious about being straight-edge that he pulls his shirt collar up over his mouth and nose when Trohman smokes pot.

Hurley's father died when he was just five, and he was raised by his mom, a nurse. He was inspired to start drumming by Metallica's Lars Ulrich: The first albums he bought were Ride the Lightning and Van Halen. "Andy is a musician, he's the instrumentalist of the band," says Stump, who as a drummer himself is a tough critic.

Hurley -- who lives in Germantown, Wisconsin, about an hour and a half from Chicago -- has some radical political views, part anarchist, part environmentalist. "My whole thing is I'm not into civilization as a whole," says Hurley, who's wearing a Starter-style jacket with the Public Enemy logo on the back. "The only actual solution is the eventual collapse and demise of civilization. . . . I think it needs to happen, but no one, not even me, really wants it to happen." It's not that hard for him to reconcile all this with his band's success. "Ultimately I am an employee of a corporation, and that's weird, and does contradict some of the things I believe in," he says. "But at the same time, I have to make a living."

So will there be rock bands after the collapse of civilization? "Probably not. Music would probably go. A lot of art would," he says, looking sad for a moment. "That's what I'm saying -- I'm really into comics and movies and video games, and I don't want to give that stuff up. At the same time I think it's filling the void for stuff that we're missing." [source]

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