Fall Out Boy just released the new album So Much (for) Stardust, and where their last few records dabbled in a more commercial sound, the new LP harkens back to the band’s most rock-heavy days. In a new interview with Variety, Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump looked back on their evolving sound, explaining that their previous shift toward pop — specifically on the 2018 record Mania — was a result of trying to “survive” pop radio.
Guitarist Joe Trohman wrote in his 2022 memoir that he didn’t exactly love the sample-heavy Mania, so much so that he didn’t really participate in its creation. When asked if Trohman’s bristling inspired Fall Out Boy to return to rock on So Much (for) Stardust, Wentz replied,
“I feel like our thoughts on Mania were taken a little out of context. Two records before, we were making albums in a landscape that was not particularly friendly to bands, and so we were just trying to figure out how to survive. It was like ‘The Last of Us: The Pop Radio Version, starring Fall Out Boy fighting the zombies that do not want bands existing.’”
Wentz continued, “I think Mania was a direct response to all that. There’s a frustrated sound on there. I think it’s intentionally noisy, semi-intentionally polarizing, and the sound we landed on for Stardust wasn’t. I don’t think it was a reaction to any of that. I just think being with Neil [Avron, producer of the band’s album’s From Under the Cork Tree, Infinity on High, and Folie à Deux] and wanting to create something that is tangible and that we took our time with was super important. The record spans the whole gamut of things that we’re into.”
For his part, Stump said the new record’s sound “was only a reaction insomuch as I wanted to do a different methodology. It really wasn’t so much conscious of rock or any style or stylistic choice. To me, I felt like I had gone down this road of experimenting with technology and that was really fun and fulfilling. But we did that for three records and really culminated with Mania. I was kind of like, ‘I had my fun with that. Now I want to see what happens with strings and horns and guitars and harmonies,’ and those kind of things, really tangibly.”
Mania came out on the precipice of an emo revival, where, thank to Gen Z, pop punk went from being considered cringey to cool. Where the genre was once countercultural — and, as Fall Out Boy puts it, not necessarily beloved by FM radio — Paramore are now playing the biggest stadiums of their careers, and My Chemical Romance reunited to a swath of rabid fans. Wentz chalked the revival up to the cyclical nature of nostalgia and trends.
“The pendulum swung so far the other way, away from guitar music, the emotional core of the lyrics,” he said. “Also I think there’s something to be said for the actual, cyclical nostalgia. My kids are dressing like it’s the ‘90s and the early 2000s. I feel like we’re at a time now where people can discover art themselves. There’s a renaissance of all these different kinds of art and music because people go and discover it for their first time. To me, a counterculture, whether it’s hip-hop or pop-punk or punk rock or emo or goth music, always builds and swells, especially in times when the monoculture becomes so heavy-handed. You saw it during Reagan.”
Wentz continued, “There are also a couple of artists, like MGK and Lil Uzi Vert and Willow Smith, that are new to playing rock music. The planets are all aligned perfectly. There was probably a group of kids that were just a little too young to have gone to see My Chemical Romance when they came back, or emo night. And they can go now — it just all lined up perfectly.”
Read Fall Out Boy’s full Variety interview here. This summer, the band will embark on a North American tour with support from Alkaline Trio, Bring Me the Horizon, and New Found Glory. Grab tickets to a show via Stubhub, where orders are 100% guaranteed via Stubhub’s FanProtect program.