The guys from Fall Out Boy are probably pretty tired of being asked to explain their decision to push back the release of the band’s sixth studio album, “M A N I A,” until January.
Our first clue? Before a publicist connected our recent call with bassist Pete Wentz, who was getting on the line to promote FOB’s tour stop at Charlotte’s Spectrum Center on Nov. 3, she politely instructed us to limit questions related to the album delay to just one.
Fine with us. Back when the news broke in August, Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump said quite clearly that “M A N I A” “just really isn’t ready,” and we’re inclined to trust that they know what they doing; after all, three of their past four albums – including one prior to the band’s 2010-12 hiatus and two since – have soared to No. 1.
So instead of dwelling on what’s up with “M A N I A,” we engaged the 38-year-old Wentz in a quick but free-wheeling conversation covering topics, from tennis and technical difficulties to monsters (in the music video for “The Last of the Real Ones”) and – more seriously – tweets he posted in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting.
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Q. So what’s going on today?
A. Not a whole lot. I played a bunch of tennis and gotta pick up my kids from school. That’s about it.
A. Yeah, I play with these old guys. They crush my spirits on a daily basis.
Q. Old guys?
A. Yeah. I mean, it’s one of the great equalizers, that game. As long as you can place the ball, you can play it until you’re like a million.
Q. How long have you been playing?
A. I played when I was younger, and then I’ve been playing for the last five or six years maybe. I’m super into it right now. I watch the Open and all that stuff. But I feel like a year from now I’ll be like, “What do you mean, tennis? I was not into tennis!” I feel like that’s the way I’m headed. I’m like that guy from “Adaptation,” who gets really into something for like a year, and then not into it. I do that a lot.
Q. What’ll be next then? Golf?
A. I am really bad at golf. My dad played in college and was really good, so I worry I wouldn’t live up to that.
Q. So, switching gears: I’ve seen you guys twice. First time was “The Boyz of Zummer” in 2015, and then I was at the Madden Bowl XXII show you played at Nob Hill Masonic Center in San Francisco at the Super Bowl two years ago. I don’t know if you remember that show. Do all the concerts just run together for you for the most part?
A. Oh, no, I totally remember that one. ... Those private ones are easy to remember because they’re always at weird venues and s--- like that. Then the other ones, it’s the things that go wrong – the flaws are what you remember. I’m always like, “Oh, that was the show where I forgot what to do here.” That’s what makes the show stick out.
Q. What’s a flaw from a show in the past few years that really stands out?
A. We were playing in Manchester, England, in an arena and we have these in-ear monitors, so they kind of isolate you. But you just can tell by the crowd’s faces what is happening with the sound out front. And I was watching, and I was like, “Oh, something’s off. I don’t know what it is, but something’s not exactly right here.” Well, the board went down and crashed. And all of a sudden there was no sound in an arena of 18,000 people. No sound. We were trying to tell people that it was gonna come back on, but this is the point where it can go really sideways because it’s impossible to tell 18,000 people something if you don’t have a PA system. And Patrick was like, “Well, I’ll just go play acoustic.” I’m like, “Patrick, only the (closest) 20 people or so will hear that.” But it ended up being super-memorable. (Even though pretty much no one could hear him, Patrick) sang a cappella the whole time in between when we were rebooting ... and then when the sound came back on, it was an awesome show.
Q. In terms of the new tour, how much has the decision to delay the new album affected what you might have originally had in mind for the setlist?
A. I don’t think it’s gonna be crazy different. When we’re going out and we’re playing arenas, there’s a lot of people coming from a lot of different eras of our band. We’ve been going for 15 or 16 years, and I think that it’s an amazing thing that we have a lot to pick from. But at the same time, you have a lot to pick from, and people’s entry point into your band is – you know, for everyone it’s gonna be different. So we have to play a lot of stuff, I feel like. Anyway, I think we’ll play the three “M A N I A” songs that are out right now (“Young and Menace,” “Champion” and “The Last of the Real Ones”) and then I think that we’ll also play maybe another one in addition to that. (If we’d released the album in September, as scheduled) I think it would have maybe been one or two songs more than that. Maybe we will play one or two more than that. But I try not to get too heavy on any era.
Q. Alright, tell me about that video for “The Last of the Real Ones.”
A. So we created a video for “Young and Menace” first, and it was supposed to be a darker version of “Elf.” Do you remember in “Elf” when he’s like, “Maybe I’m not an elf?” I was like, “What’s the dark version of that?” You know, like, “Maybe I’m not a monster.” That’s what that video was. And then we had these monster suits that we made (for it), and we were kind of like, “Maybe we should like put these guys in other situations.” So my buddy was like, “What if we did a shot-for-shot remake of Kanye West’s ‘Flashing Lights’ video?”
And I was like, “That’s the most insane idea of all-time.” So we went out in the high desert and shot it in one night on a very low budget. With the llamas – or, the monsters, whatever you want to call them. ... Sometimes the videos are super in-depth and thought out – like “Young and Menace” – and some of them are a little bit on a whim and they’re just kind of supposed to be fun. I think that that’s definitely what “Last of the Real Ones” is. Except that I get murdered in a trunk. (Laughs.)
Q. You said the llamas. I’ve heard them called llamas. Are they llamas?
A. They’re not really llamas. They’re monsters. One looks kind of like a llama, so people call them llamas. But they’re just these weird characters. I was always obsessed with (Jim) Henson’s (Creature Shop) stuff and “Labyrinth”; that was our small attempt at making something like that.
Q. Is it true that your openers for the new tour – Blackbear and Jaden Smith – are in the ones wearing the costumes in that video?
A. I’ve heard that they were in the costumes. Someone else told me that Brendon Urie (lead vocalist for Panic! at the Disco) is in one of the costumes most of the time. I don’t really know. (Laughs.)
Q. On a more serious note, I wanted to ask about the comments you made on Twitter a couple nights after the Las Vegas shooting. You were clearly frustrated with the current state of the world but at the same time optimistic about the future.
A. Yeah, there’s a part of me that is like, “It’s SO sad.” But you can say “thoughts and prayers,” you can say “we’re trying to change this” ... but are we? I mean, if kindergartners being shot at their school didn’t make us change it or address it, what will? “As a modern culture, it’s insane that these things keep happening. And to say “This is just a consequence of having guns”? That’s just an insane thing to say. I mean, we’re the only modern society that has this problem – or one of the very few – and I think that there are some obvious ways to address it and to change it. I just don’t think we’re willing to (follow through). But as I thought about all of this, I thought about my kids (sons Bronx, 8, and Saint, 3), and I really believe that generation will be who changes it. ... These are kids that are growing up engaged globally, with smartphones and with electric cars and all that kind of stuff, and I think that they will think about the world in a different way. I don’t think that they’re gonna be attached to this old guard, to the way our culture is currently. ... So yeah, I’m hopeful.
Q. As a performer, do violent attacks at concerts like Las Vegas, or the bombing outside the Ariana Grande concert last spring – do they make you more nervous about going out there on stage?
A. I mean, there’s these things that are beyond anyone’s control ... beyond the (control of the) performers or the security or whatever – like, there’s just nothing you can do. But I do think that people should feel safe at concerts, and I feel like I do want to go out and tour and make people feel better through music, and make people feel better through art. ... You want to have the best plans in place and make people as safe as possible, but it does not make me not want to do it.
Fall Out Boy
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3.
Where: Spectrum Center, 333 E. Trade St.
Tickets: $30 and up.
Details: 800-745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com.