Mon, Feb 19, 2007 - Page 12 News List

Fall Out Boy embraces the digital age

Their new album was leaked and their bassist can't keep his pants on, but the US emo stars are turning these gaffes to their advantage

By Fred Shuster  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , LOS ANGELES

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.

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