Pop music is a fickle lover—the genre’s rapidly shifting tastes and upended business model have made mainstream success wildly unpredictable. Keeping said success for any meaningful amount of time is near impossible.
Fall Out Boy has had it luckier than most. The group rose up from the hardcore scene to become kings of the early-to-mid 2000s pop-punk/dance-rock explosion, and reunited after a few years away to “save rock and roll” and find their second wind—and a totally reinvented sound.
At a recent event showcasing the similarly-reinvented Guitar Hero game, EW caught up with Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz to chat a bit about tricking people out of their musical comfort zones, Fall Out Boy’s plan to become the biggest band on the planet, and why genre doesn’t matter as much as it used to.
Entertainment Weekly: How’d you get involved with Guitar Hero?
PETE WENTZ: They hit me up. I think, as a guy who grew up on bands in general, anytime you can get guitars in popular culture is awesome. And I have a 6-year-old who’s super into video games, so any video game we can do is fun. And when it’s something that involves music, it’s pretty cool! So if I can play it with my kid, it’s awesome.
Guitar Hero, like Fall Out Boy in recent years, is really broadening its musical palate. How do you get people to listen to music they wouldn’t normally consider?
Infiltration. It’s the same thing as when you’re getting fed food when you’re a little kid, being tricked into it. Because then, all of a sudden, you’re eating salmon or tilapia, and you’re like, “Oh my god, this is awesome, what is this?” And they’re like, “This is fish.” And you’re all, “bleeeeeh!” you know?
For us it’s [via] video games and sports—it’s almost subversive in a way, because there is not necessarily a traditional media [outlet] focused on rock music, so finding different ways to get people to check it out is great.
Going back to the idea of infiltration—where do you want Fall Out Boy’s music to go where it isn’t already?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I want to be on the biggest band on the planet, just because I believe in the thing we do. But we were talking about this earlier, and I think it would be cool to go to what they call “Emerging Markets.” Which aren’t necessarily emerging markets [in the literal sense]— places like India, or deeper into China. We’ve been to China, but we’ve never really gone far into it. I think it would be cool to make it a complete global culture.
Is there anything that you’re listening to now that you wouldn’t have necessarily before?
With stuff like YouTube, Spotify and Soundcloud, you’re able to have a larger sampling—you can just follow these things down rabbit holes and end up at like, Young Thug or Fetty Wap or Jack Ü—whatever it is, just stuff that I wouldn’t have normally come across on my own, or if I just stayed in our lane.
Genre means so much less now than it did before. When you talk to kids—the kids in my kid’s school go up to like, 12 years old—they like songs. I don’t even think they know the artist’s name. They’re like “I like this song, I like that song.” At the MTV Movie Awards, we just did a performance where we played our song and then we backed up Fetty Wap, when he did “Trap Queen”—10 years ago, I don’t think that would’ve made as much sense.
I think it’s awesome. I think our band has always had disparate tastes, and we kind of always wanted to bend genres, but it was more about like, “stay in your own lane”—and that doesn’t mean, you’re never going to see us like, being rappers (laughs). But I think that you can use influences in ways that you couldn’t have before.
Are you planning on doing more stuff like Guitar Hero in the future?
As an artist, and with our audience in particular—anything that we do that’s authentic to us, people will give it a shot. When you do things where you’re like, “I wanna make Fall Out Boy hairbrushes'” or something—if it doesn’t make sense, people will smell that out.
We’ve talked about doing a musical before, we’ve talked about doing a long-form movie that was a series of videos, and I think people are open to it–we put out a punk rock EP with Ryan Adams. People will say, “we will give it a shot,” because you believe in it. And that’s why this is so easy, because it’s a first-person rock band [game]! That’s so in line with what Fall Out Boy already does, that it make sense. I think when you go beyond that is when you get into trouble.
Could you see Fall Out Boy premiering a track via something like Guitar Hero?
Yeah man, definitely! I think that goes back to infiltration—I don’t care about the system of delivery, I just want people to access it. If people can access it through that, then that’s cool, I think that’s awesome. “Traditional” is kind of an antiquated idea, as far as music is delivered now.