Patrick Stump may be an entirely new man. He’s on indefinite hiatus from Fall Out Boy, lost a boatload of weight, and is about to release his first solo record, Soul Punk. Even with all these changes, though, Stump’s still Chicagoland through and through. The A.V. Club caught up with Stump before his show at World Cafe Live Wednesday to talk about George Lucas, Google, and why he hates Internet commenters.
The A.V. Club: What was the process like for making Soul Punk? How did you know where to start and where to end? It seems like you’re still fiddling with it a little…
Patrick Stump: It’s done now. After I thought, okay, it feels done, I knew I had to be done. I had to leave it. I could just retouch it forever, but it has to go out, warts and all. I don’t want to be George Lucas and go back after the fact. It is what it is, and that’s what it is.
Actually, I do want to be George Lucas.
AVC: Jar Jar Binks and all?
PS: No comment.
AVC: So do you feel pressure making the record at all, beyond being done?
PS: You have total freedom. It’s like, if you do a solo record, there are no restrictions and you can do whatever you want, good or bad. You can have these passing fancies where you go in to the studio one day and you want to do something like what you did on the way in. That’s dangerous. You have to have some sort of focus.
I actually made a whole album before this one, and then realized it was a total mess. I liked it a lot—well, I liked the songs individually, but it was lyrically all over the place. Same thing musically, as well.
I made a really concerted effort to really focus it. I went back, and not many songs survived in any shape from that first pass.
AVC: Did you make all those decisions, or were people telling you to make those changes?
PS: It was all internal. There weren’t a lot of people there. My engineer and co-producer friend would say, “No, it’s perfect. It’s great. Why would you do this?” It’s not perfect, though. That’s the thing. I always think about opportunity and how you regret the things you don’t do. I don’t want to put out something I’m not psyched on just because I finished it. That’s the stupidest reason to do something, really. I want it to be up to my standards. I don’t want to put out something I wouldn’t listen to.
AVC: What will make this record a success for you? Are you more interested in selling a million copies or is just putting it out there success enough?
PS: It’s more the latter. I just wanted to do it.
It’s funny, because context changes everything. I was planning on making this record on a four-track when I was 15, but I couldn’t afford one. By the time I was old enough and rich enough, I was in a band, and because that happened, you can’t just go off and do your thing. There’s more involved there.
So when I had the opportunity, I took it, I guess. A lot of these songs have been germinating for ten years.
AVC: A couple of songs off the EP, like “Spotlight (Oh Nostalgia)” and “Big Hype,” seem really, really uplifting and positive. How did those come about?
PS: I had kind of a shitty year. A lot of adult problems were happening. Kid problems are when you’re bummed because girls don’t like you or something silly, but then you get older and people start dying and going broke and whatever. People get sick. When you get older these things just happen. This year was full of that.
So, that’s how I dealt with it. Those songs are my catharsis. I write really scathing, angry stuff when I’m in a better mood, and then uplifting and happy stuff when I’m at the absolute bottom.
I don’t see the songs as uplifting, but rather as trying to make lemonade from lemons, or whatever. When I listen to them, I understand the context. I don’t like to pepper songs with my own experiences, though. I want to make them lyrically universal, and I want to metaphorically express what’s happened to me. When I listen to the EP, I think it’s a really fucking dark record.
That you think they’re uplifting is the great thing about this, though. That it resonated in that way, I’m totally psyched on that. I love that. I’m glad that people hear that. It makes me happy. It’s a lot better than where I was when I wrote those songs.
AVC: The video for “Spotlight” is super uplifting, too, with all these people doing bike tricks and cup stacking. How did you find those people?
PS: There’s a short film called Goldfish by Joe Wein, who made the video. I’d seen the short, and he lives not too far from me. He’s a friend of a friend. I was at his kid’s birthday party, and I said, “Hey man, would you want to do a video? I think you’d really nail it.” He really gets innocent optimism in a great way.
I had this feeling like we were so cynical as a culture for a hot minute… well, I guess we always wander between optimism and rampant pessimism. Anyway, the song felt like that.
So, he found everyone. I didn’t want to mess with his thing. I had video ideas, but I didn’t want to give him any notes. I didn’t even know who was going to be there. Everything was more and more of a surprise to me. The kid with the tongue? He didn’t tell me he would be there, and that’s my actual reaction. Codie Rae, the three-legged dog, I didn’t even know was in the video. She wasn’t there when I filmed it, and then there she was when I got the first edit of the video. It was the most pretty shot, too. It was a really nice moment.
Joe’s a showman, man. He’s so good at getting that stuff. So, it was mostly him, and I can’t take any credit.
PS: Well, I shied away for so long because I don’t like the Internet. I don’t like the way people use it, and I think it sucks. It brings out all this cruelty, and everyone’s just a dick. When you have this sort of anonymity, people can use that to just be a jerk all the time. So, that really bothered me, and it scared me off for a long time. I didn’t want anything to do with it. I was very comfortable and happy not being involved.
But the problem with that is that it gets to a point where it’s like not owning a telephone. As culture moves forward, it becomes more of an action than an inaction.
I very often think about doing things that I would want other artists to do. Like, if I’m a fan of whoever, I want to be treated a certain way. So I realized it came off almost elitist to ignore the whole world of Twitter and Facebook. I still don’t really enjoy it, but I was talking to a friend and he said, “Dude, at least you control the info you put out there, and there will be less shitty information if you are online.” That’s true, totally.
It’s kind of rewarding and fun, actually. I’ve learned a lot about things because of the Internet. I’m happy with it, but it’s a long road for me. I’m still definitely a little anti. It’s like… you’re tweeting people? Like you’re texting people you don’t know? It’s kind of like your mom’s trying to figure it out, and she’s still signing e-mails and whatever.
AVC: If you see shit-talk about you online, does it affect you? Do you Google yourself?
PS: I don’t like to Google myself. I try and avoid it whenever I can. Sometimes I’m in positions, though, where I almost have to. The other day, a kid tweeted me that a show was announced, and I was like, “Well, I didn’t announce a show.” So, I had to look online to see where that information was coming from to get the management to see if someone was selling tickets for an unannounced show.
As far as criticism, I don’t mind critics. I mean, I wrote for Rolling Stone for a hot minute. I like criticism. I enjoy criticism. The thing I don’t like is cruelty for cruelty’s sake. You don’t have to be a jerk to say something negative. You can say something in the negative sense and have class.
Some of my favorite reviews of my record have been bad reviews, but they’ve taken the time to say something instead of, “This sucks. He’s an idiot and looks stupid.” If someone’s like, I don’t know, “This lyric doesn’t work,” then they’re treating you how they want to be treated. I’m good with telling people what I think, too, but I don’t know why people are so content to treat each other poorly.
AVC: You still live part of the time in Glenview, right? Why is staying connected to the city so important to you?
PS: First, it’s the only place I really feel at home. For some people, home is family and their mom’s house or their girl or whatever, and I have those experiences as well, but the biggest thing for me is Chicago. I don’t know how to explain it.
I was talking to a friend and they pointed out that they don’t know a Chicagoan who doesn’t love Chicago. If you’re from there, it’s hard to not want to be there. Well, maybe when you’re a kid or something, but you haven’t been out that much.
I was talking to my grandpa last Thanksgiving. He pulled me aside and was like, “This Thanksgiving is the 150th for the Vaughn family in Chicago.” I was like, “Cool, whatever,” but I think when you have a culture like that, you should have a real appreciation for it. My family’s been there forever and I don’t want to leave.
AVC: Do you think it means something different to be from the suburbs at all?
PS: Yeah, but I also think it’s bullshit. I understand that, yes, I’m not from Chicago proper. That’s splitting hairs for sure, but the experience that I had growing up was very close to the people I knew that grew up in the city over by Lincolnwood or whatever. There are plenty of places around that have that shared culture. It’s not like I’m from Illinois or whatever.
I will openly admit that Glenview is a Chicago suburb, but don’t take that Chicago part away from me. I don’t know a lot of cities like Chicago, where you have that big metropolitan area that’s still so succinct. Even in the burbs, people still feel like Chicagoans there. I mean, of course it’s different, because in Glenview, there was a Naval air base and I had Navy brat friends or whatever, but I still think it feels very at home in Chicago.
I lived in the city for a while, too. Remember when that cougar got shot in Roscoe Village? That was my backyard, but after I moved out.