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Music: About A 'Boy'

Pete Wentz of platinum-selling rockers Fall Out Boy keeps busy to keep sane

By Cole Haddon · November 16th, 2005 · Music
  Bassist Pete Wentz (far right) of Fall Out Boy, one of this year's hottest bands, maintains of number of side projects outside of the FOB universe.
Ken Schles

Bassist Pete Wentz (far right) of Fall Out Boy, one of this year's hottest bands, maintains of number of side projects outside of the FOB universe.

"Sometimes it can break you down," bassist Pete Wentz says of Fall Out Boy's tour regimen, which prompted the band to recently cancel their Japanese tour. Their Web site announced: "This was a very difficult decision we made in order to keep things going and avoid the total implosion of Fall Out Boy."

With witty lyrics courtesy of songwriter Wentz and hooks more contagious than E. coli, the Chicago foursome's sophomore effort, From Under the Cork Tree, has become one of 2005's breakout hits; in particular, the winsome first single, "Sugar, We're Goin Down," has become a summer anthem for losers who have no intention of going down without a fight. Still, such success -- including their recent MTV2 award win at MTV's Video Music Awards -- comes with a price.

"A couple of us were going crazy," Wentz says of the potential "implosion" that's been averted, at least momentarily. "We played too many shows this past year, so everybody just went home and figured stuff out."

Wentz pauses, then decides to correct himself. "Like, I'll be honest. I think most of it was on me. I just kind of lost it a bit. I was having really bad anxiety problems and wasn't taking anything for it. So it was mostly me."

"It's weird, because things are going slow and then things happen in the blink of an idea and you don't even remember," he continues.

"Like I don't remember the VMA's. We were on (TRL) yesterday and Jay-Z introduced us at our New York show. But I don't remember any of it 'cause it happened so fast. Then, the things that happen slow, like the long drives and just hanging out with each other. That's what you hang onto -- just being with your friends.

The fame that's accompanied Fall Out Boy's success comes with its price, too, whether we're talking the tour schedule you need to keep selling your albums and the brand you've become or the loss of anonymity that invites teenaged fans to pick through your trash at 3 a.m.

"Celebrity's kind of funny," Wentz says. "It's cool, 'cause you can do cool things. Like we can go out in New York and go to cool places and hang out with legitimate, famous people. But for the most part, it's just about hanging out with your friends. It's just on a larger scale now. To me, it's like when you start believing in your own hype, that's when it all goes away."

Last year, magazine after magazine (including Rolling Stone), touted Fall Out Boy as one of the key bands to watch in 2005. Wentz might not want to believe in his band's own hype, but that doesn't change the fact that they've exceeded it by going platinum. Besides, tongue-in-cheek or not, the lyrics were a response to that very same hype.

"It might've been a general ambivalence," Wentz says, "but when we wrote the lyrics to From Under the Cork Tree, it was kind of like the reaction, what you were going to be saying about us a year from now."

Wentz doesn't keep all his eggs in the same basket, though he's quick to point out that any other endeavors he undertakes are limited by his responsibility and enthusiastic commitment to Fall Out Boy. His entrepreneurial side is just another way for the tattoo-covered wisecracker to express himself artistically. At the moment, he's also co-owner of a record label, the owner of a clothing and merchandise line and an author about to release his second book.

"I think you're limited when you're in 4/4 time; you're limited to certain things and people's brains and ideas are a lot of times bigger than that," he says. "You want to try something different, especially the way Def Jam used to be. It was a culture."

Wentz's record label is called Decaydance and is co-operated by John Janick of the Fueled by Ramen label. Artists include The Academy Is ..., Panic at the Disco and Gym Class Heroes.

"It's just a more artist-friendly home, unlike a lot of labels out there," he says. "I think a lot of times bands are too hungry and want to be on a label so bad that they sign bad deals. I want to be the antidote to that."

Clandestine Industries is an experiment Wentz has started with a few designers, though the scope is a lot bigger than just putting out T-shirts. "It's kind of like a greater house, where we do other things like publish my book," he says, refering to Rainy Day Kids, the follow-up to his first book, The Boy with the Thorn in His Side. "We put out a couple of DVDs as well. It's kind of a place to expand and go beyond, 'cause there're only certain things we can do with Fall Out Boy accessories and merchandise. There're other things I'm interested in doing. There's like high fashion I think that's really cool. So that's what Clandestine kind of offers the opportunity to do. Like if I'm like, 'Hey, man, I want to try to make a blazer,' I can't really do that with Fall Out Boy."

Ultimately, the songwriter behind Fall Out Boy's lyrics and novel-length song titles is in love with words, no matter how he gets to use them. "I'm addicted to them," he admits. "I think verbiage is just about the coolest thing in the world."

It's what keeps him holding on, even when reality gets too much for him.

FALL OUT BOY plays Bogart's on Sunday.


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