Considering bassist and lyricist Pete Wentz is very much the public face of Fall Out Boy, it's easy to forget about the Chicago band's three other members—especially the quiet longhair (drummer Andy Hurley) and that other guy (guitarist Joe Trohman). Singer-guitarist Patrick Stump is more difficult to overlook, though compared to Wentz's gossip-column shenanigans, he lives a far more low-key life. Unlike Wentz, Stump still lives in Chicagoland, but like him, Stump takes his band's massive popularity in stride, keenly aware of the expiration date faced by groups in his position. He has also learned to deal with the starlet-dating, naked-self-portrait-taking, media-mogul-emulating ways of his best friend Wentz, who fosters passionate loathing among FOB haters as much as swooning among their teenage fanbase. The overexposure that followed FOB's 2005 major-label breakthrough, From Under The Cork Tree, saddled its superior successor, Infinity On High (released in February) with plenty of non-musical baggage. In reviews, FOB's musical ambition often took a back seat to the cult of personality around Wentz, shortchanging Infinity's ambition and hook-laden songs. Stump spends little time worrying about it, as he told The A.V. Club during a stop on the band's current arena tour.
The A.V. Club: How do you think the record has done?
Patrick Stump: I still like it, and that's what I was shooting for. Even though it's our fourth record, I think it's the second record that the general public thinks we've ever put out. Because there's a very strong likelihood that most everyone sophomore slumps, most everyone disappears after the hit, this was our last chance for someone to pay for strings, horns, and studio time, so I'd better make the best of it. Because in 10 years, there's the 90 percent likelihood that me and the three other guys in the band would be the only people listening to this record.
AVC: At the same time, though, you want to make your mark and do well. How do you balance the understanding of fleeting success with that in your decisions?
PS: I think it's like knowing when you're going to die means you can't ever be scared. More than anything, I don't know how long we'll be around. I don't know if next week, the new grunge will come in and wipe us off the map, or if we'll be U2 and be playing for the next 20 years. But the thing that I do know is what you do with the time that you have, that can't be undone. If you're Kiss, and you put out "I Was Made For Loving You," you can't take that back. That's kinda where we are. I don't ever want to do something to cater to some trend that's happening or something like that, because those are the mistakes you live with forever. At the end of the day, James Brown never had a number one single, and Jimi Hendrix had one top-10 single. These are legendary artists, and technically they weren't as successful as we already are. But their impact is so much more, by and long. At the same time as I say that, I'm also implying Terrence Trent D'Arby on paper should be more successful than, I don't know, Ray Charles. But the thing is that that's not really how it happens, so you can't get too caught up in numbers and things like that, because they don't really mean anything. The only thing that matters is whether or not you actually believe in what you're doing. I'm sure it's hard for some people to believe that I did my time in the local punk-rock scene, and I didn't choose indie rock. I actually appreciate the music that we make, and that's where we are.
AVC: Do you have a specific memory of when you realized that Fall Out Boy had gotten huge?
PS: Honestly, literally my only goal with the band was that I wanted to play [legendary Chicago venue] Metro. All my other little bands had never gotten to play there, and I had really just wanted to play Metro. So, after that, there were really no goals. Juxtaposing that with the time that Jay-Z came out and introduced us in New York, that was probably one of the craziest things I've ever seen, just 'cause he's an icon to the point like a Michael Jordan or something. He's colossal. Seeing that and knowing, here we are, we're this little pop-punk accident that was really just four guys trying to delay going to college a little longer. That was definitely an eye-opener, like, "Holy crap. Take pictures, remember this." I still can't really reconcile it. It's weird. I love the anonymity of being this band that's really excessively famous with a really vocal minority of kids—and totally invisible anywhere else. We'll end up at awards shows, and security looks us up and down, like, "How'd you get in here?" I think that's always going to be a part of us, that we don't really belong in the pop-culture mainstream because I don't know how the hell we ended up in it. [Laughs]
AVC: Pete said in an interview that it's really hard to process, especially because FOB is such a polarizing band. You've got people who absolutely despise Fall Out Boy. Why do you think that is?
PS: I really don't know, but we are one of those bands. Some of the meanest things I've heard anybody say about anybody have been about my band. I've been accused of ruining music, which I suppose if I was some evil mad scientist, that would be a feather in the hat. [Laughs.] But maybe it's because… I really have no idea, I have no idea, I have no clue what it is that pisses people off so much. I suppose that comes with the territory.
AVC: On Metacritic.com's summation of Infinity, someone posted in the comments that a lot of the reviews were more a referendum on Pete than an actual assessment of the music. How accurate is that?
PS: I have encountered that a lot. I think it's frustrating for Pete, a lot. It's hard to quantify it, but he doesn't go out and seek it all the time, but then the one day that he does, a billion cameras show up, and he's a "glory hog." But I know the guy better than anybody, on any given day, he's the quietest, politest guy I know. His bad day is always on camera. It's a thing that's become distracting, and I think it's frustrating for all of us because he spends more time, more honest labor on his craft than anybody I know. He takes songwriting very, very seriously, and I take songwriting very, very seriously. I'll open up a review, and they'll talk about Pete's dick, and I'm like, "Awesome. So you're telling me I basically cut off myself from friends, family, and the world at large to have my entire work pared down to Pete's genitals. Awesome." [Laughs.] So that definitely gets annoying, obviously. Everyone's seen his dick; let's move on. But at the same time, you have to have some good humor about it, because it's funny.
AVC: The cult of personality around him could sink another band. How does Fall Out Boy deal with that?
PS: The thing is that we know each other very well. Pete's probably my best friend in the world; I think he understands me better than a lot of people, and I understand him better than a lot of people. And that's the way we get over it. If they make you into a wrestling character, into that great mythical kind of bad guy, it's really easy for people to make you into something, to decide who you are. At the end of the day, the Pete that I read about, yeah, I don't like him 'cause I've read he's a total dick. But the thing is I actually know Pete Wentz, and he's a really good guy, he's a really quiet guy, he's a really polite guy. He's a really mellow, honest, loyal guy. He's not this cold-hearted mogul. It's the funniest thing; if Pete Wentz really cared about money, he'd probably make more. He wastes and loses more money than anybody I know—he gives it away. At any rate, whatever, I don't want to gush about him, but that's how we overcome that whole cult of personality. At the end of the day, they deify you or demonize you, but you're really just some guy.
AVC: There's that old saying: "Money doesn't change you; it changes the people around you." Have you found that as well?
PS: People like you a lot more all of the sudden. I think that that's one of the things that's really cool about being in the band. You have three other people who know exactly what it's like, and couldn't possibly care about your money or what you have to offer, other than your most likely shitty sense of humor and poor taste in everything. So that's something that's really cool, and we've become a better band because of it. But yeah, it definitely is weird. I never got hit on in my life until I had a double-platinum record. Then girls started coming out of the woodwork. Hey, cool, that's not totally transparent.
AVC: You're on the Honda Civic Tour now, which makes people scoff because of its corporate sponsorship. But what kinds of deals has FOB turned down?
PS: Oh, everything. Beer commercials—we won't do alcohol anyway—where we would change lyrics to our songs to match or include jingles. Shit like that. We've gotten everything. We've gotten cigarette tour-sponsor proposals. All sorts of stuff, it's weird. We stick to our guns as far as that stuff goes. You won't ever see us promote something without good reason.
AVC: You haven't done My Super Sweet 16, right?
PS: [Laughs.] No, not yet!
AVC: How much do you think it would take to do My Super Sweet 16?
PS: I don't even know. We don't believe in doing private-party stuff; we actually set this arbitrarily exorbitant amount of money for private parties basically to scare everybody off from ever wanting to do it. But then the day someone calls you up and says, "Okay, we'll pay it," and you're like, "Well shit, I guess I have to do it now." But in general we don't really do that stuff. If I may go on a minor tangent, that's something that's been a huge, huge weight on me. We're not rich rich, but I've definitely got more money than I ever planned on having in my grand scheme of life, and it's actually a concern of mine now that, if I ever have kids they [could] turn out like any one of those kids on that show, I have no idea what I'll do. It's now a major goal in my life to do everything in my power to make sure that my kids don't turn out like that at all. I'll tell you what I did on my 16th birthday: I think played a show, and I had some cupcakes.
AVC: Have you thought about what comes after Fall Out Boy?
PS: No, not a clue. Probably fatherhood, and I want to do acting—little theater shit. That's about it. I'm perfectly content doing Fall Out Boy for a long time.