Fall Out Boy have come a long way since their “Dance, Dance” days. The quartet, comprised of Patrick Stump, Joe Trohman, Pete Wentz, and Andy Hurley, has evolved its sound through the power of reinvention. From its beginnings, 17 years ago, to its subsequent hiatus and now comeback, the group has long found itself experimenting with different sounds.
Following the commercial success of 2015’s American Beauty/American Psycho, Fall Out Boy were ready for a new sound. One year later, Stump played Wentz “Young and Menace,” a track that would become the lead single of M A N I A. The single seemed to signal a change for the band, an opportunity to challenge its own limits. In an effort to do just that, the musicians even pushed their release date back five months because they wanted to stand fully by what they were putting out. The result is M A N I A, an exploratory record of vibrant EDM, pop, and rock.
To find out more about the album and Fall Out Boy's current status, we caught up with Wentz to talk about the group's attempts at EDM, how the way we consume music has changed the industry, and playing with nostalgia.
What was the process of making M A N I A like?
A bit more complicated than what our other albums have been in a way that we realized halfway through, [after] we made a couple of songs we didn’t love. So we pushed the record back. We’ve never pushed a record back or anything like that. That was a bit strange, but I know that it benefitted the record. It's better because we took the time to reconfigure the way we were looking at making an album. I think it’s interesting for people to make records [now] because the way people listen to music [now] is so different.
Were you all on the same page about pushing the record back and changing the music?
Yeah, we were all on the same page. But I think one of the reasons we had to reset the date originally was because we never really talked about it.
I feel like a lot of people were surprised by the EDM direction, but you guys have always been reinventing yourselves.
I think with songs like “Young and Menace,” there’s definitely an electronic quality to it, but there are other songs like “Bishops Knife Trick,” which is a guitar song to me, or “Heaven’s Gate,” which is neither, so I don’t think that the album is overly EDM-influenced. I don’t think that’s what any of us were really listening to. But maybe it was the first song out of the gate, it’s what pushed people into what the project would be. I do think we have always tried to move ahead and push the ball forward, so it shouldn’t be too much of a shock for anyone, but I guess it is anyway.
You’ve been in the pop-punk scene for a long time. Is there anything you wish was different about the scene now?
I think people listen to music differently now. When you have a playlist culture, you’re able to curate it yourself or have someone curate it for you. There’s a SoundCloud rapper scene, so I think it’s really interesting. We live in a hip-hop world. I go to my kids’ school to pick them up, and everyone there is dressed like a little Kanye or a little Migos. I think that’s interesting, and it’s interesting playing rock music when you think about the world on those terms.
How did you come up with the title M A N I A?
I think we live in a manic world and manic time, so that and the all-consuming waves that are on the cover came together in the same way.
What did you do between records?
In-between when we’re not working on a record, everyone does their own thing. We finished the touring cycle for American Beauty/American Psycho. When we played Reading and Leeds in 2016, Patrick played “Young and Menace” for me. It’s such a specific sound that it’s kind of polarizing. We didn’t want a whole record that sounded like that or felt like that. I think that’s one spectrum of the record, so it took some time to put it together.
What was the songwriting process like?
It’s always been kind of similar. This time, at first, we started without a producer, and we were rewriting, but then we ran into roadblocks. It’s hard to get four people on the same page and to feel that way creatively. Sometimes having a producer helps to filter that. We worked with a guy, Illangelo, who worked with The Weeknd and some other producers. Once we figured out the production, it helped the songwriting. Even when you’re making the album in the playlist, you still want the album to be a cohesive thing.
There are a lot of fun pop culture references on the record. Did you write the Tonya Harding reference before you knew about I, Tonya coming out?
Yeah! We wrote that before then. I think that people’s nostalgia starts to all catch up at the same time. I was thinking how funny it was that the movie came out and that we had this Tonya Harding line on the record. Waves of nostalgia must hit people at the same time or everybody talks.
I liked the Britney Spears reference, as well.
We had a bigger Britney Spears reference, too. To me, Britney Spears is a mirror we hold up to pop culture: We build her up, tear her down, root for her or against her. I think it says so much more about us as a culture than it does about Britney herself. That line was, “Oops I did it again/ I’ve got my head shaved and my umbrella out/ I just forgot what I was talking about.” The idea is that everybody feels mad or out of their minds at one point, and I think it’s interesting to watch someone be a human being in public for 15 years or longer. But I took it out because I don’t feel comfortable talking about what someone else has been through, and it was more-so that we all feel that way, but some people have to do that in a public way.
What would a future record look like for you guys? Have you talked about that?
We’ve talked about it a little bit. I think what’s so interesting right now is that maybe it doesn’t need to be a record—it could be some songs or a movie. The way that technology and art are meeting up... it would be a shame not to do something interesting because I think people are so open to it.