Fall Out Boy a long way from Wilmette


May 6, 2005


When I last checked in with Fall Out Boy, several months after an energetic showcase at South by Southwest 2003 made me an instant fan, the Chicago quartet was one of the most-buzzed bands in the punk underground, touring relentlessly behind its debut album, "Take This to Your Grave."

Bassist Peter Wentz, guitarist Joe Trohman, vocalist Patrick Stump and drummer Andrew Hurley initially came together in suburban Wilmette, relocated to Chicago and signed with Fueled by Ramen. Co-owned by Less Than Jake drummer Vinnie Balzano, the indie label benefits from a promotion deal with Island Records, and the connection helped the group sell 200,000 copies of its debut.

Now, the band is gearing up for its major-label debut on Island proper, and the years of hard work are paying off. "From Under the Cork Tree" arrived in stores Tuesday, but an advance sales campaign at Tower Records found the group selling 2,500 copies in one day, the biggest first-day numbers in Tower history, bettering more established bands such as Thursday, Thrice and Modest Mouse.



  • 7 p.m. Saturday
  • Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine
  • Sold out

  • Two years ago, Fall Out Boy was anxiously looking to make the leap from the Fireside Bowl to Metro. Now, it's headlining a sold-out show at the Riviera Theatre and has landed a prime spot on this summer's Warped Tour.

    "It's all gone so much further than we ever thought it would, and we've been so surprised by what's gone on -- I mean, just the fact that I'm talking with you again is bizarre!" Wentz says, laughing. "I could've been working at Borders right now!

    Instead, the band has gotten a crash course in the realities of the music business. It has studied hard and stands poised to benefit from everything it has learned.

    "When I think about it, I went from 21 to 25, and the difference between me then and now is amazing," Wentz says. "In the past two years, we've played over 500 shows. We've been to Manchester [England] and seen where Ian Curtis and the Smiths hung out. We've seen the inside of the clock and met the clockmaker himself.

    "There are amazing sides of the music industry -- people who have been dedicated for 30 or 40 years, people who believe in music -- and there is the other side, people who are just snakes. Who you open up to and who you feel comfortable with and who you feel comfortable trusting -- that, more than anything, has really influenced us."

    Recorded in California with producer Neal Avron (Yellowcard, New Found Glory), "From Under the Cork Tree" shows evidence of the group maturing. The band has always straddled several genres: It plays with hard-core intensity. Its lyrics -- which are written by Wentz -- rival the emotional honesty of the best emo bands. And its bounty of hooks and strong sense of humor owe a lot to the pop-punk movement.

    Among the standout tracks (and memorable song titles) on the new disc: "Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Title of This Song So We Wouldn't Get Sued," "I Slept With Someone in Fall Out Boy and All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me" and "Champagne for My Real Friends, Real Pain for My Sham Friends."

    "We've always sort of considered ourselves 'soft-core': We're in love with hooks, but at the same time, we like smart music," Wentz says. "Part of the problem with the emo scene or the screamo bands is that they take themselves too seriously. If you're onstage doing one of your moves and you fall down, if you can't get up and laugh at yourself, it's pretty much all over. We ride the line between those two things."

    Not that it's always fun and games for the group. Conscious of the dreaded sophomore slump, the band felt the pressure to top itself on the new disc. After writing an entire set of 15 songs, it realized it was over-thinking things.

    "When we are 80 years old, none of those songs would have mattered to us, and we had to write the record that mattered to us," Wentz says. "So we threw all of them away and said, 'You know what? We are just going to write what comes out naturally.'

    "We wanted to have to deal with each other in a room and not be dealing with our agents, our management or our label. So we started writing songs and lyrics and having our own ideas again. We were on Planet Fall Out Boy."

    And even as it stands at the cusp of a national breakout, Planet Fall Out Boy is still where the band feels most comfortable.

    "It's weird," Wentz says. "All you wanted all your life is for someone to pay attention to you, and all of a sudden the whole world is listening and it feels weird to be under the microscope. It's something you only thought about when you were 10, watching Axl Rose get off the bus in 'Welcome to the Jungle,' and now you're living it."

    But it couldn't happen to a more deserving band.



    As one of the founders and driving forces in the visual arts team of Hipgnosis, Storm Thorgerson was responsible for some of the most striking album covers in rock history. He floated that giant inflatable pig over the Battersea Power Station in England to produce the cover of Pink Floyd's "Animals," and he mined the depths of his subconscious to create the striking photo illustration on the creepy and slightly lurid cover of Led Zeppelin's "Houses of the Holy," to name only two of his hundreds of unforgettable images.

    "Art is about flights of the imagination," Thorgerson told Q magazine in 1992, and while Hip-gnosis is history, his imagination is still running strong: Among his recent album cover credits are the indelible visuals he created for Audioslave, the Cranberries, Phish and the Mars Volta.

    Now, the artist is the subject of a gallery show, "Taken By Storm: The Album Art of Storm Thorgerson," which opens today at Inspire Fine Art, 435 E. Illinois. And in the age of shrinking album-cover art because of CDs, it should be a real treat to see this work in its original and much larger formats.

    Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. There will be an opening reception from 6-9 p.m. Thursday, and a "fan night" from 6-9 p.m. on May 20. For more information, call (312) 595-9475 or visit the gallery's Web site at www.inspirefineart.com. And of course, Thorgerson has a spectacular Web site of his own, www.stormthorgerson.com.