For a band that's made a gigantic splash on the Internet, Fall Out Boy sure was burned when a couple of songs from their new album leaked into cyberspace the other week.
Pete Wentz, the chart-topping pop-punk quartet's photogenic, hoodie-wearing bassist, immediately demanded the culprit be tracked down, cuffed and uploaded into a cold, hard jail cell — without DSL access. A few days later, though, it just didn't matter anymore.
FOB's ubiquitous, exhilarating new single, This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race, had opened at No. 2 on the Hot 100, the highest US debut by a rock act since Aerosmith's coup a decade ago.
That was followed a few days ago by bigger news. FOB's fourth and latest album, Infinity on High, debuted at No. 1 on the albums chart. At this point, nobody at Camp FOB cares what the fans are getting up to on the Internet.
“It's kind of flattering so many people spend so much time and energy to be the first to hear your music before anybody else,” says FOB's singer-guitarist, Patrick Stump, 22. “But, on the other hand, if you're in our position, you suddenly remember that a lot of people at the label just spent the last nine months planning the album release for maximum impact — for our benefit. So, yeah.”
In the digital realm, Fall Out Boy rules: It set the record for most consecutive weeks as the No. 1 streaming artist on Clear Channel radio station sites, performed an AOL Music Live concert Feb. 10 at the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles that was seen by more than 500,000 people, and took over the entire MySpace music page for a week. They also happen to have the most-trafficked artist Web site in the US.
“It's a weird time to be doing this because everything's changed,” Stump said while hanging out in the Roxy's cramped dressing room last weekend. “The fans really now have the final say on everything. Their word is what matters most. Just like on American Idol, the public is voting with their computers. If you aren't any good, the public is going to know it, and they're not going to keep it a big secret.”
The four members of Fall Out Boy — singer-guitarist Stump, bassist-lyricist Wentz, lead guitarist Joe Trohman and drummer Andrew Hurley — came together in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette around 2001. All had been in and out of various units connected to Chicago's underground hardcore scene.
As Fall Out Boy (the name was nicked from superhero Radioactive Man's sidekick, Fallout Boy, on The Simpsons TV show), the quartet drew from hardcore's intensity and high-energy presentation as a basis for melody-drenched pop-punk with a heavy debt to the “emo” (emotional punk-rock) scene. A self-released demo was followed by several indie CDs until their Grammy-nominated major-label debut, From Under the Cork Tree, hit big in 2005. The latest top-seller, Infinity on High, which has a cameo from their Island/Def Jam label boss Jay-Z and a couple of winning cuts produced by Babyface, was issued Feb. 6. It immediately bounced Norah Jones from the top of the US charts.
“We still can't believe any of this,” Hurley, 26, said at the Roxy. “It's still like, ‘How did we get here?’ ... I don't know a musician in our scene that ever expected any kind of mainstream success. We do it because we get such a kick out of it. Playing shows is what we live for.”
An hour later, Stump proved it in a blistering hour-long FOB set that had the small West Hollywood club throbbing as the live signal, featuring a five-camera shoot and a pristine sound mix, was uploaded onto AOL and blasted throughout the universe. More than 100,00 viewers watched live, with 500,000 more logging in to the AOL music archive in the next week.
“Our audience loves all things Fall Out Boy,” said Jack Isquith, executive producer of AOL Music Live. “They have a very strong online presence, and that contributes to a strong personal connection with their fans. They're a great band, and the Roxy show was one of our biggest online rock events ever.”
Minutes after the high-spirited concert finished, comments flowed in from all over the place, showing that FOB fans are nothing if not passionate. “Thank you. This was the best hour of my week — and I really mean it,” one snowed-in boy posted from the Midwest.
Along with sharply crafted songs, pointed lyrics, a terrific singer in Stump and a positive, life-affirming stage act, Fall Out Boy has a homegrown media star in the extroverted Wentz, whose dark, moody good looks are accentuated by habitual use of guyliner. His love life has reportedly included close encounters with Ashlee Simpson, Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Michelle Trachtenberg and Nicole Richie. “I have ADD (attention deficit disorder) as far as dating goes,” he said. “I've ended up having good friendships with all these people, but we haven't really had relationships.”
Wentz, 27, has clearly enjoyed some good friendships. Cell-phone photos of his personal, er, fall out boy, have widely circulated on the Internet. Wentz told Rolling Stone magazine yup the pics are all him, but the only fallout came from his mom, in an e-mail that said, “Be more careful next time.”
Wentz (who also has a clothing line and Decaydance record label) and the other three FOBs have essentially been touring nonstop for two years. In 2005, they dominated the Vans Warped and Nintendo Fusion package tours, then headlined their first major market arena trek the next spring. And the band has just announced it will headline the 44-city 2007 Honda Civic Tour, supported by +44 (featuring Honda Civic Tour alumnae Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus, formerly of blink-182), The Academy Is, rapper Paul Wall and Cobra Starship.
Even with a jaunt through Australia and Europe coming up next month before the April start of the Honda tour, Stump says Fall Out Boy doesn't plan to take much of a break at all.
“I have no patience for those types that ignore their art,” he said. “Those celebrities who forget what they're supposed to be celebrated for and end up just going to restaurants and Hollywood parties — that's (junk). If you're going to make art you want to be proud of, you've got to care about making it.”
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