My small part in the career of Fall Out Boy

In January of 2016, an author by the name of Ben Welch reached out for permission to use my 2012 essay on Fall Out Boy's album From Under The Cork Tree. I gave him the go-ahead and a quick interview about my small part in that portion of Patrick Stump's career.

Sometime between then and now, I completely forgot that this exchange ever happened. Today, while searching for an old "best of list" from 2012, I found a Google Books page highlighting a portion of Ben's book, cheekily titled Our Lawyer Made Us Change The Name of This Book So We Wouldn't Get Sued (aka Fall Out Boy: The Biography). It's all there, portions of my essay, portions of Patrick's response, and my thoughts on the event.

The discovery of this lost interview comes at an interesting time, as I've been sitting on a blog post for about my small, but nevertheless existent role in the Fall Out Boy reunion. For 8 years, I thought my post and Patrick's letter was the end of it. I only learned last year that it was that very letter which prompted Pete Wentz to reach out, which, in turn, led to the first writing sessions between the two in several years.

From Rolling Stone:

Right around the time Stump posted the letter, Wentz reached out to him. “I was like, ‘Let’s write some songs or something,'” he says. “I was in a dark place and I needed a creative outlet. Patrick is such a nice guy that he wrote the songs with me, but I don’t think his heart was in them. They were kind of ‘meh.’ I’d equate it to some lost weekend thing that only one fan on the planet would care about. It was kind of a wash.”

Undeterred, they tried again not long afterwards. Eventually they came up with the song “Where Did the Party Go.”

“Pete got really excited, and that got me excited,” says Stump. “It gave us a ton of momentum. Then we decided it was time to call everybody else.”

I'm not under any delusion that Fall Out Boy reuniting was my doing, but it's hard to discount that it was a catalyst for the reunion happening when it did. It's still a very weird thing to me that a piece I wrote about my childhood became a part, however small, in the grander story one of pop's biggest acts. Being that it is such a large part of my own career in the field of music writing, I'm glad that my thoughts were published somewhere.

Here's an extended excerpt wherein I discuss my thoughts 4 years after the fact:

"I think I was turning nineteen, and I decided that was the day that I wanted to publish this thing I'd written," Tender recalls. "I was going to college in southern Ohio at the time and my mother brought my sister and my best friend from back home just to spend the day and hang out. So I didn't even look at the piece for the rest of the day to see how it was going or how many hits it was getting or anything like that. It was after a friend of mine, Zack Zarrillo, sent me a tweet. It just vaguely said, 'you're about to lose your shit.'"

For Jacob Tender, the experience of entering into the narrative of Patrick's life in such a profound way was bittersweet. "When I initially got the link and saw the line 'There's this really nice piece at by Jacob Tender,' I was just like, 'The singer of my favorite band who no one's heard from online in three or four months is now singing my praises.'," he recalls. "That was really strange. That was surreal. And I read through the whole thing, but I don't think I really absorbed it—and I don't think I did for three or four days. Once I'd had some time away from the high and exhilaration of all the praise and the random Facebook requests I was getting from Fall Out Boy fans, I dug into it to see what was actually going on in his mind and it was kind of depressing. On the one hand, he was saying that this piece that I wrote really affected him in a strong way. But that's not necessarily a good thing."

Tender, too, was impressed with how open and honest Stump was, and was struck by the crisis of identity that he wrote about. "What he spoke about there was the way that a lot of his fans were unhappy that he and the band were changing," he says. "And Patrick Stump has never been the guy that wanted to be in the limelight. I think he was always happy to step to one side and let Pete Wentz take the frontman role. But I can see how for him a lot of that change could be difficult, going from being in this very successful pop-punk band that was touring the world, then reeling back and trying some of his own stuff, some pop-driven stuff, that didn't go over quite as well. Then everyone seemed to be saying, 'Oh, we want Fall Out Boy back - we don't want you, we want the band that you were a part of."

That was a feeling that Tender himself shared, being a fan of the band who wanted to see them get back together, but where he differed from Stump's most outspoken detractors was that he had no issue with the band's desire to evolve and change. "I was definitely one of the ones that wanted Fall Out Boy back. I wasn't rallying for it, but I definitely wanted the hiatus to end so we could get some new stuff," he explains. "There's that line I wrote that he quoted himself that goes, 'I didn't like those pretentious assholes who didn't like anything after Take This To Your Grave. I now know that I'm one of those assholes...' I didn't mean that in the way that I think some people reading it took it. What I was saying there was essentially that there are a lot of people that are unhappy that Fall Out Boy or their favorite band change. They go through a creative evolution. And to a certain degree, yeah, of course I'm gonna wish for more songs like the ones that I liked but not for any good reason. It's just nostalgia and nostalgia hits a lot of people pretty hard and blinds them to the good stuff that's in front of them."

Though it had brought to mind some sour feelings for Stump, Jacob had written the piece as nothing but praise. "I had no intention of making people believe that I didn't like the work that he put out after," Tender explains. "I think that the last record they put out before the hiatus [Folie à Deux] was my favorite Fall Out Boy record of all. This one [From Under The Cork Tree] just happened to be the one that hit me first and made such a big impact on what it was that I chose to do."

At the same time, though, it's clear Stump was exorcising some demons that had been haunting him for a while, and that 'A Cure to Growing Older' offered him a way in to start discussing them. "I [Tender] still feel really conflicted about it... I still feel half bad. He was obviously going through a pretty rough time at that point. Though a lot of the stuff that he wrote in response to my piece wasn't necessarily in response to my piece — really I think my post was just a catalyst and a starting point for him to say probably what he had wanted to say for a couple of months at that time.'

It's somewhat ironic, too, that although it is not mentioned in his article, Tender was and is a big supporter of Stump's solo material. "I loved Soul Punk," he says. "I loved that record. I think I'm one of three people I know that actually sought it out on vinyl. Somewhere I have a zip folder where I ripped all of the YouTube covers he was doing—of Kanye and stuff like that—which I put on a mixtape. Patrick has such a great voice and his sensibilities come from such an interesting place — there are so many awesome influences, from Elvis Costello and his deep roots in blue-eyed soul." And Tender is one of the many admirers of the band who recognize how bright a talent this softly spoken, retiring frontman singer and songwriter is. "I'm not saying Patrick makes the band. There's obviously Pete's writing and the musicianship of Joe and Andy. But what makes Fall Out Boy special for me is Patrick Stump's voice. [...] I think he sounds better now than he ever has, and he's really a fantastic musician."

As far as the book goes, I've yet to read it; I just ordered a copy today. Still, to be interviewed for a historical document of one my favorite bands is pretty neat. I only wish the author would have reached out when the book was new to promote it!

If you'd like to grab a copy for yourself, you can find the book on Bookshop, Thrift Books, Amazon, or read the chapter including my words here.