Behind The Scenes w/ Fall Out Boy

By | January 11, 2007 at 1:14 PM

The quartet’s comfort in La-La Land has nothing to do with the Hollywood parties they’ve been frequenting and everything to do with the vibe of their long-awaited new album, ‘Infinity on High.’ Though ‘Infinity’ was born in the San Fernando Valley suburb just a few exits from Hollywood off the 101 freeway (“We’re a Burbank type of band,” bassist Pete Wentz says), the unique characteristic of Tinseltown was an unavoidable subject matter for the new album. “This is one of the best places to observe people,” he says. “And the interesting part about it is that Hollywood’s not actually, like, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. It’s the 90 percent of the people who don’t make it.” Though Wentz says that particular strangeness “probably influenced the lyrics more than anything else,” the hodgepodge of personalities that makes up L.A. is analogous to the musical grab bag that is ‘Infinity.’ “I think this record is a little more eclectic than anything we’ve done before, but it’s never without purpose,” frontman Patrick Stump says. “We’re into hip-hop and we’re into R&B — you know, ’70s funk. We’re into metal — like, legit metal. There’s a gazillion things going on as far as influences, and we just kind of let them out this time.” Those influences are evident as soon as the quartet starts its performance with ‘Thriller,’ a song that kicks off with a machine-gun intro by drummer Andy Hurley and is quickly vaulted into full rock glory by the perfect posturing of Wentz and guitarist Joe Trohman. Because the album is not due out until February, the material is still very new to the band. “There’s at least one of the songs that we haven’t played together since we recorded it and, I guess technically, some of us haven’t ever played it together, so it’s kind of weird, like your first time,” Wentz says. “No one knows where their hand is supposed to go.” But the band really comes together on the second take of the album’s lead single, ‘This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race.’ Live, the song takes on an impassioned energy, its melding of funk licks, pop hooks, punk pacing and soulful refrains embodying the album’s eclecticism. While the ferocious intensity comes from the band’s years of touring — including multiple stints with Warped, and a graduation from clubs to arenas — the song’s hybrid feel is a direct result of the foursome’s willingness to branch out. In a move that surprised many of their longtime fans, the band recorded two tracks with producer/R&B star Babyface, whose hit-making career includes work with Usher and Mary J. Blige. “We kind of pulled a Jedi mind trick on him,” Wentz says. “When we were getting wound up to start writing and recording, we were like, ‘Yeah, we’re maybe gonna work with Babyface.’ We said that in a bunch of interviews before we contacted him at all, and then his people were like, ‘Babyface, I hear you’re working with Fall Out Boy.’ ‘I guess — OK.'” Drawing the interest of someone like Babyface — as well as hanging with the likes of Jay-Z, which the band recently did at an American Music Awards after-party in L.A., and of course, selling 2.5 million copies of their 2005 album ‘From Under the Cork Tree’ — is proof that Fall Out Boy arrived. But in addition to their star status and proven prowess as a live act, the band hopes that fans pay attention to the new album for its lyrics this time around, and the story that recurs through it. “I’m really into verbiage,” says Wentz, who cites Bob Dylan and the Cure’s Robert Smith two of his favorite songwriters. “So I like it when people pick apart songs and make them into what they think they are. There is, like, a red thread and it kind of runs through the record and is an undercurrent, and I hope that people can kind of find that and have it speak to them.” Adds Stump, “As a songwriter, I want us to get to the point someday where you can have a song that a Rhodes Scholar, his two-year-old niece, and his 90-year old grandmother can all appreciate. I hope we’re a step closer to that.”

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