By Rebecca Bulnes
By Lee Zimmerman
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There is no better way to dismissively sum up a rock band than by labeling it "emo." This is probably why Fall Out Boy's bassist and de facto face man, Pete Wentz, insists the term doesn't apply to the group's breakout album, Infinity on High, released in February. "I wanted it to be more than about eyeliner or our haircuts," he says.
The band's 2005 debut effort, From Under the Cork Tree, propelled both him and the group into the popularity stratosphere and made them MTV darlings. With that enormous success, of course, comes plenty of potential risks.
"Your second album really defines a career," says singer Patrick Stump, who, unlike Wentz, tends to shun the spotlight. "You can either try to recapture the success of the first one using formulas and contrivances, when on the first one you probably didn't do much contriving at all ... or you can realize you can be on the cover of Rolling Stone one minute and totally fall off the face of the planet the next. In 20 years there's a good chance the only person who's going to be listening to your album is you." He pauses, laughing. "I worried about that audience."
But by creating an album the bandmates believed in, they scored a commercial hit, and, astonishingly, a critical one at that. "I was, more than anything, surprised," Stump says. "I had less than no expectations of ever getting a good critical review."
Wentz, meanwhile, is taking the momentum and running with it. Despite the fact that he says his real purpose is to play soccer, he also makes no bones about wanting to rule the world. Fall Out Boy, sold-out arena shows, the Rolling Stone cover — it's all just a means to an end. Wentz says the process is supposed to go something like this:
Step 1: Become the face of one of the biggest bands in the world. Check.
Step 2: Create a record label — DecayDance — that churns out megaselling bands like Panic! at the Disco. Check.
Step 3: Well, this step involves taking over the world, and that requires time.
"I think, to me, it's that this is a brand," Wentz says. "It's a culture. We've taken notes from, like, older Def Jam, back when LL Cool J was there. You bought every record that came out of it. The last record was so hot; you didn't know what the next record was going to be, but you knew you were going to buy it.
"Also I think when you get to be a band of our size, corporate involvement is just a necessary evil, so I think why can't you just be that corporation? Why do you need a middle man?" Wentz continues. "There's definitely a part of me that's not ashamed to admit I want to be in the biggest band on the planet."