In another reality, Pete Wentz should be getting ready to leave for a seven-month international stadium tour alongside Weezer and Green Day. Following the release of Fall Out Boy’s closing-of-an-era greatest hits record ‘Believers Never Die Vol. 2’ that came at the end of last year, the tour was reassuring proof that Fall Out Boy weren’t going on another hiatus.
Today though Pete, like the rest of the world, is in lockdown at home and unsure of when we’ll be allowed out again. Still, he’s keeping busy – and last week dropped ‘Check Your Phone’, a collaboration with UK duo Cheap Cuts. Taking influence from the big beat world of Fat Boy Slim and The Chemical Brothers while leaning into the spoken word emo of Twenty One Pilots and the rapidly-beating heart of FOB’s ‘MANIA’, the track is full of joy, fear and uncertainty – as well as being the first ever have a Pete Wentz as a featured artist. From here, he has more plans to go it alone. We hopped on Zoom to find out more…
Hey Pete. How did you come to be involved with ‘Check Your Phone’?
Pete: “When I first heard this song, it was a more UK version with a female vocal, but it reminded me of the Baz Lurman song ‘Sunscreen’. I’ve tried to do a version of that song like 100 times. I did one about 10 years ago but it just felt angry. This one felt right. It got the irreverence of the whole thing. I’m not a dad standing on a porch telling you how bad phones are, we’re part of this thing. I don’t know what the answer is, but it isn’t to get rid of your phone and go churn butter.”
People have been labelling this track as ‘anxiety rap’….
“Anxiety rap – that’s so good and it makes sense. Now is probably the time for it as well. The news is overbearing and it’s different information. It’s dread then it’s not dread. I don’t know if you want that from your entertainment. I get up early with our kids and sometimes I’ll just watch The Office because it’s funny and the opposite of the pit I feel in my stomach which is what I want right now.”
You’re really quite open on this track. Does it feel weird to be doing that outside the safety of Fall Out Boy?
“It is really safe to do Fall Out Boy because I’m hidden behind Patrick and he’s hidden behind me. As much as people think we keep expanding, there is a lot of stuff that we write that just won’t work for the band. There are actual pop songs that are beyond the scope of what Fall Out Boy currently is. I know how much that band means to people so I want to keep the reverence for it. This Cheap Cuts song is an output where I don’t have that pressure. It’s a goofy song about a phone. It’s a different thing and in some ways, that’s freeing. “
You should have been warming up for the Hella Mega Tour right about now, right?
“Yup. Two weeks before quarantine began, we got together and rehearsed our set with our staging, our video and our lights because it’s a stadium, so you can’t just do it the week before. Now it’s like we’re circling, waiting to land. Nobody knows anything and it’s hard because we really want to do this tour. It was a hard thing to orchestrate because there are three bands, you have to figure out who’s doing what and everyone had to really want to do it. I know as much as you do about what’s going to happen with it.“
Plus, you must just be looking forward to watching Weezer and Green Day every night?
“We did a mini version of the show at Whiskey a Go Go and when Green Day play songs like ‘Basket Case’, those songs are so massive it’s like they’re baked into people’s DNA. Fall Out Boy aren’t there yet. Is that somewhere we could potentially get to? Yeah, I believe so. We grew up listening to Green Day. You have to think about what the 16-year-old version of you would think about you getting the chance to play with Weezer and Green Day. It’s super cool. Are you going to turn it down because you think you’re too big? Nah.”
Had Fall Out Boy started working on anything new?
“We hadn’t worked on anything new yet. How Fall Out Boy works is that everyone has to be on a similar page. When everyone’s on that page, it’s easy to do – but Patrick and Joe have a bunch of kids, Andy has a bunch of bands that are basically kids, so getting everyone on the same page is harder to do, but it’s something I want to do. The reason it’s so easy to do stuff like the Cheap Cuts song is because it’s just me.”
You’ve now got one feature under your belt, are there more to come?
“It would have to feel right. I have a space in my head that’s always been more of an album. I have a concept for it, I have a lot of time on my hands and I kinda want to do it. Are we going to be in our houses for another six months? If we are, there’s going to be an album. I also have one other song I want to do with Cheap Cuts. Sonically, it’s an expansion on ‘Check Your Phone’ but thematically it’s about that first five minutes in the morning when you wake up and you’re in that post-dream state.”
So you’ll be making a Pete Wentz solo album?
“There’s this bit in the movie Reality Bites where Ethan Hawke’s character talks about seeing his dad after he found out he had cancer. They’d talk about life and he gave Ethan’s character a pink seashell to help explain things. He realised the shell is empty and maybe life is pointless. ‘It’s all a random lottery of meaningless tragedy in a series of near escapes’, he says. That’s why he enjoys the little things in life, like eating a burger or smoking a cigarette. I think there’s a whole record from that perspective, taking part in these little pieces of life without the consequence. It’s important to not forget those little granular moments of life. To me, there’s a record in that pink seashell.”
How are you finding life in lockdown?
“It’s a different day every day, but it’s the same different day. We started with a schedule but it quickly became ‘let’s just survive the fricking day’. My 11-year-old and me have a cinema club where we watch movies and rate them, then we argue about the rating. We’re just trying to stay active and do things. To me, it doesn’t work to sit there and do nothing. I shut down in a bad way. I just have to do things and they don’t all have to have a point.
Are you keeping inspired?
“It’s like Star Wars – they had the limitations of the times they lived in, but the ideas were bigger than that, so they just found a way to create it. You can get lazy if you have everything at your fingertips. Limitations force you to expand your vision. I’m sure we’ll see a lot of weird art coming out of this. People are making Scorsese movies on TikTok, it’s amazing.”