While walking across the stage to receive the MTV2 Award for “Sugar, We’re Going Down,” the only thing on Fall Out Boy bassist and lyricist Pete Wentz’s mind was “please don’t drop an f-bomb.” Shortly thereafter the band, originally from suburban Chicago, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. But the accolades didn’t stop there. Fall Out Boy won 3 Teen Choice Awards, and the video for “Dance, Dance” won the MTV Video Music Awards for Viewer’s Choice, and was nominated for Best Group Video.
For all their success, the band members have stayed true to their roots; not in the sense that they haven’t changed, but in the sense that they’re making music they love to hear and aren’t changing to appease the tides of trend. Fame has never been the driving force behind the music for the band, and all the recent success hasn’t quite sunk in yet. “I don’t think of music as a career,” Wentz says, “until certain things jar it for you.” When pressed for an example, he cites the thousands of screaming fans who greet him when he gets on stage.
Self-described nerds, they’d still be working just as hard on their music whether they were playing for an audience of 5 thousand, or an audience of 5. “The more you try to please everybody, the less you end up pleasing anybody,” says Patrick Vaughn Stump, Fall Out Boy lead singer and guitarist. Stump, perhaps the least flappable band member save for vegan drummer Andy Hurley, becomes agitated when people take the reward of music more seriously than the art. “If you gave me 3 million dollars to spend,” Stump says, “I’d find 3 million dollars worth of musical equipment to buy.”
The success of their mega hit album From Under the Cork Tree hasn’t been taken for granted. Instead of resting on their laurels, Fall Out Boy has opted to go immediately back to work in spite of a hectic tour schedule by releasing their next album, Infinity on High. “If you have the songs there, why not record them?” says Wentz. The group’s prolific nature can best be summed by Stump, who enthusiastically proclaimed, “fuck down time,” when asked if he’d like a break from the busy schedule.
The title of Infinity on High comes from a letter written by Vincent van Gogh to his brother in 1888. In the letter, Van Gogh describes the energy instilled in his work due to his new bill of health. Specifically, the line, “Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high. Then life seems almost enchanted after all.”
The first single, “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race” is a tongue-in-cheek look at “the way we are so addicted and obsessed with new arts, cultures and loves” Wentz says. The chorus is a frenetic punk-rock double time, with thumping verses that beckon you to stomp your feet, which Wentz describes as “a bit of ’70s funk mixed with Take This to Your Grave,” the band’s 2003 LP. Officially debuted at the American Music Awards, the song instantly climbed the Billboard Pop 100 airplay charts shortly after its debut.
This album is a departure from the band’s previous work, marking Cork Tree producer Neal Avron’s return along with smash hit making R&B producer Babyface for the first time. “We love his approach to melody,” Wentz says on working with Babyface. “Patrick will sing with a greater range and more soul in our new songs and we wanted to find someone to drive that.”
In “Hum Hallelujah,” the third verse is introduced with a choppy drum rhythm that sounds like an inspired American Indian tribal dance–sans tambourine–accompanied by a choir-like chorus which calls back to Leonard Cohen’s 1985 song “Hallelujah,” a reference to a deeply troubling time in Wentz’s personal life when he struggled with and overcame the isolation he felt while recording Cork Tree.
The album has a nocturnal vibe to it, and at times touches on classical tonalities. In “Golden,” the song begins with a soft, minimalist piano chord that meanders throughout the first poignant verse, with Stump’s voice sounding as sad as the underlying piano accompaniment sounds optimistic. “Thriller” is at once an appreciation for the fans who’ve been with Fall Out Boy since the beginning, and a response to all the critics who said the band would never make it, which begins on an ironic note with Stump and Wentz whispering bad reviews of past albums during the intro.
“The ideal presentation for this album would be for someone to buy it, take it home and listen to it in the dark,” Wentz says. “We love the songs that we play and sometimes that seems to transfer to the crowd, sincerely.” The album aims to do just that. “This is how our band will always be. We feel indebted to our fans and will always try to pay them back.”
Fall Out Boy is:
Patrick Stump – Vocals, Guitar
Joe Trohman – Guitar
Andy Hurley – Drums
Pete Wentz – Bass, Backing vocals