Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz on the changing face of music and playing the Leeds Festival

Fall Out Boy are among the headliners at this summer's Leeds Festival.
Fall Out Boy are among the headliners at this summer's Leeds Festival.
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With pop punk band Fall Out Boy headlining this summer’s Leeds Festival, Chris Bond caught up with bassist Pete Wentz.

“IT was pretty crazy,” says Pete Wentz, recalling when Fall Out Boy last played Leeds Festival two years ago. “We brought these fire dancers up on stage and we were probably lucky we didn’t burn the stage down.

The US band formed back in 2001.

The US band formed back in 2001.

“We have a history with Leeds and the festival, where we’ve built up our support, so it’s cool to be able to incrementally build and come back and headline.”

Fall Out Boy have become godfathers of the American punk pop scene and though they topped the bill at Leeds two years ago, they shared the slot with Biffy Clyro and this summer’s event will be the first time they’ve headlined outright.

“It’s such a big deal for us,” says Wentz of the festival they have played numerous times during their 17-year musical journey.

“I think British festivals have a real sense of culture, they’ve got a longer arc, they’ve been going for longer, so there’s a real sense of culture. We don’t have that in the US. I think you’ve got to prove it yourself at a festival in the UK. It forces you to be at the top of your game.”

It’s a surprise they hadn’t filled the spot themselves before – their music has been a staple of the radio stations for at least a decade. But Wentz thinks the timing is “just right”.

“We started pretty low. We would watch the headliners and you learn a lot and, as a band and a festival, we earned the respect of each other.

“It’s not too late. I think sometimes when you’re in a band and it can happen too fast and it’s hard to appreciate, it’s hard to wrap your head round it. It’s cool to have some perspective with it, have a bit of runway before you take off.”

Playing festivals has its pluses and minuses. “The minuses are you might end up hanging around in the mud all day, but the pluses are you’re going to play in front of some people who aren’t hardcore fans and it’s your chance to earn a crowd and it’s what we cut our teeth doing. So to come here and play at places like Leeds is pretty awesome.”

When the line-up was announced in February, (the Illinois band are joined as headliners by Kings Of Leon, Kendrick Lamar and Panic At The Disco!) some fans claimed the festival had lost its rock roots. But Wentz disagrees.

“It’s reflective of what young people are listening to,” he argues. “Clearly they are taking advantage of the way music is distributed today and picking the stuff they want to listen to.

“It doesn’t need to be ‘This is a rock festival’, or ‘This is a hip hop festival’. And I know I’ll get dragged out and shot for that, but I think it’s got to reflect on what people who are going to the festival listen to.”

The band racked up more than five million sales with their first three albums, but appeared to have crashed and burned with their fourth record, Folie à Deux, when fans booed its politicised songs when they played them live.

“I think the dynamic of pop music changed at the exact moment that we were putting that record out,” says Wentz. “You have ups and downs but that’s just life, it doesn’t just plateau, and sometimes you have to ride it out.”

A hiatus followed and then they came back in 2013 with a US Number One album, Save Rock and Roll, and earlier this year they released their record, Mania, which has been winning plaudits.

The music scene has altered radically since the band started out in 2001 and the boundaries between genres have blurred. 
It’s something Wentz is pleased about, as he is by the fact Fall Out Boy weren’t an overnight success.

“There are moments like when you play your first arena gig but they’re compressed and also you remember the days driving around in a van when you’re playing to a handful of kids.”

And being in a band is still something that excites him. “When a kid comes over and says they started playing drums because of your drummer or one of your songs got them through a rough time in their life, that’s what makes all the jet lag and everything else all worth it, when it makes a real impact... that feels pretty awesome.”

Fall Out Boy headline the Leeds Festival on August 25. For tickets and information go to www.leedsfestival.com

Rise to the top of the pops

Fall Out Boy formed in a Chicago suburb in 2001.

The band’s debut album, Take This to Your Grave (2003), became an underground success and established them on the US emo, punk pop scene.

Their first three albums clocked up five million sales.

The band went on a hiatus in 2009 before returning four years later with Save Rock and Roll which topped the charts across the Pond.

They have provided songs for several Hollywood movies including Immortals for the Disney film Big Hero 6.

Their latest album, Mania, came out in January this year.