By Jay Tilles
Pete Wentz has checked off quite a few boxes on his bucket list. In 16 years, the Fall Out Boy bassist has graduated from playing in underground hardcore bands to teen heart-throb to television host to successful entrepreneur and is still looking to add to his list of accomplishments.
The launch and subsequent tour for Fall Out Boy’s fifth album, Save Rock and Roll, took fans by surprise and soon after they began rolling out a series of violent videos called the Young Blood Chronicles boasting surprise cameos and a plot twistier than Lombard Street.
But the band hasn’t stopped there. With a successful video game launch already under their belts with the Oregon Trails-inspired Fall Out Boy Trail, the band seized an opportunity last month and released Fall Out Bird, an app that pays homage to the wildly popular and now unavailable Flappy Bird. On the heels of that success, the band will soon launch an updated version 2.0, inadvertently solidifying themselves as bona fide players in the app world.
“To me this game’s done on a lark. It allows us to have a conversation with Pop Culture,” says Wentz.
Radio.com caught up with Wentz to discuss the band’s surprise comeback, their foray into video games, and how they just want to be like Metallica and what it means to be a successful entrepreneur.
Radio.com: The band’s comeback announcement shocked a lot of unsuspecting fans. Does that sound accurate?
Pete Wentz: I think that some people expected a comeback tour, a reunion tour, that kind of thing but I think that because there was an album, an immediate song and that we were playing a show right away, I think that took some people by surprise. It’s hard to say what the reaction was because for us it was like ‘if we get a cult reaction that’ll be cool. That’d be enough.’ So for us to be able to go out on tour and do a couple headlining shows with Paramore and to get songs on the radio, that was a big deal for us. It was not something that we really expected in any way.
You released a song, album and tour announcement all at once. How much thought went into the relaunch?
Yeah, that part of it was crazy. I was thinking about bands like… If The Smiths every got back together, or bands that we’re fans of… As fans, how would we want to receive it? For me it’s like, you want a song right away, you want to be able to go to a show that night and know that an album’s already recorded. There’s nothing worse than having to wait for everything. Like the announcement comes then you have to wait for everything. That’s why we tried to come out fast.
The track “My Songs Know What You Did Last Night (Light Em Up),” was a smash at radio and is still getting airplay. Did you have any idea what kind of legs it would have?
No, not at all. It was one of those things where we played it for some of our friends… I played it for one group of friends and they said, ‘Oh my God, there’s like an ‘80s hair metal scream on this. This is not a good idea.’ And then we played it for a buddy of ours, 2 Chainz, who was in the video, and he was like, ‘Oh my God, this is awesome. This sounds so different and should be all over the place.’ So it was really polarizing initially so we really didn’t have that expectation at all.
Is there anything you can tell us about the two remaining Young Blood Chronicles, “Miss Missing You” and “Save Rock And Roll”?
Just finished an edit for “Miss Missing You” and that’ll be the next one. To me we had a beginning, middle and an ending ready and the ending keeps changing… or keeps getting tweaked.
Don’t even think about pulling a Lost on us.
No no no. [laughs] I think everything is going to be wrapped up and squared away. But I don’t know that it’s a happy ending. I don’t know. I’m not sure… It depending on how you’re viewing the story. I think the actual last shot might be one of our most epic video images.
Your Angels and Kings pub is doing well in Chicago. Do you expect to open any new locations?
It think it’s possible. You know, we’ve opened in a couple different places and some we’ve closed down because some places I think that I felt a little strange where we were serving people, and your job at a bar is to make sure people are served, but not completely over-served. But nobody goes to a bar to not get a little over-served. Thing about the Chicago one that I like is that it’s in a hotel. So I don’t feel anything on my conscience if people get over-served because they can just go up to their hotel room and the worse they’re gonna do is crash into a wall on the way to the elevator. So, I think it’s possible but that’s the model I would definitely want to follow. I would want to put them into hotels.
What happened to the Hollywood location?
It was awesome. It was so down and dirty and rock and roll but I think the problem for us the first or second night we were opened a guy got hit in the head with a baton right in front of our spot so on Hollywood Blvd. and it was just a hard place just to maintain a rock and roll bar and not have us ending up with a ton of litigation. But being with the Hard Rock in Chicago has been an awesome partnership because it’s got a rock and roll lineage to it and that meets up with the idea of Angels and Kings.
How did Fall Out Bird come together and when can we expect 2.0?
We were in Japan when Flappy Birds was peaking and at the time I thought that Flappy Birds was really cool in the way that it made me nostalgic for old NES games like Ghost & Goblins, Top Gun and Silver Surfer… these games that were virtually impossible but you just drawn to. We already had a relationship with Mass Threat; we’d done this version of Oregon Trail about four or five years ago and we’d developed a relationship with the them. We’d been working on another Fall Out Boy game for a while, more of like a story-related game (that’s going to take forever for us to get finished). But we were like ‘Flappy Birds is done.’ This is something that we should pay homage to but it needs to be done really fast. We reached out to the programmer there, this kid David, and he built Fall Out Bird in about 22 hours. Because we were moving so fast, the bigger tweaks are going to come in 2.0 which will have different weather patterns and different songs. 2.0 is coming out soon, maybe next week.
With Flappy Birds having pulled in a reported $50k per day in revenue, how do you gauge Fall Out Bird’s success?
To me this game’s done on a lark. It allows us to have a conversation with Pop Culture. But would I say that this is a game that I would quit Fall Out Boy for? That’s not the case. We’ve heard from fans of Fall Out Bird and fans of Flappy Bird. We got good feedback so to me that’s the success.
When you read about King, the creators of Candy Crush, having IPO’d last week and is now worth over $7 billion, how does that make you feel?
It makes me feel like I was one of those people that delivered their profit to them, I love playing Candy Crush. To me it’s inspiring when people come from left field with a vision that works and that can change the gaming model as they did. I remember reading an article on King and they had perfected this model of giving super positive feedback and then allowing users to buy levels and buy codes just when people were ready to break and that’s really interesting to me. I don’t think that that’s something that Fall Out Boy or our games have considered.
Who in business do you look up to?
I like what Ashton Kutcher has done as far as the stuff that he gets behind; It seems that it’s really authentic. I think that he’s smart in the way that he invests in things that are authentic to him and his brand. A friend of mine, Cash Warren, I like a lot of the stuff that he’s done. He’s been involved in a lot of the YouTube channels and is working on Honest, with his wife Jessica Alba and I think that that’s another company that’s been really smart. And I think that Jay Z is ultimate guy that’s been able to create a business model that makes sense with his entertainment career.
Where would you like to see yourself musically and in business in ten years?
Business-wise, it’s been a learning process for me. When we started with the record label I didn’t know what an end cap was. I didn’t know anything about marketing. I didn’t know anything about price positioning and that kind of stuff. For me it’s been constant learning; learning to be ahead of the curve, and even having been in the music business for as long as our band has been, we were at the tail end of album sales, and seeing the streaming model take off and seeing people embrace that. That’s been really interesting. As far as business goes, I want to be relevant but still learn about how that side of it [marketing] works.
Musically, I look at a band like Metallica and when people talk about Metallica, Metallica is the descriptor for the band, like when people say “such-and-such band sounds like Metallica.” I would love to be a band where people say “oh that band sounds like Fall Out Boy.” And I think that the way you do that is by creating a legacy and by remaining true to who you are and most importantly, just surviving.
The longer your band has been around and you’ve remained relevant the more you’ve created a legacy for yourselves.
Save Rock and Roll is available now on iTunes.