Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz has spoken to NME about the band stepping up to headlining Download Festival 2024 for the first time – as well as celebrating “weirdness” on their current tour.
The band were announced to be topping the bill at the legendary rock festival last night, alongside Queens Of The Stone Age and Avenged Sevenfold. Speaking backstage in Germany, Wentz told NME that he wasn’t feeling pressured about the slot.
“So many of the bands who have headlined Download before have been such a big influence on us,” he explained. “We grew up watching videos of Metallica playing Donington and most of our band was informed by that era of the band.
He continued: “Headlining a festival for the first time is always a new thing though. We’re not stressed about it, but we want to honour the festival and honour the bands that have played before us.”
The band have only played Download once before, in 2014 as part of their comeback ‘Save Rock And Roll’ tour. “There was some stress because we just didn’t know what to expect and UK festivals are always such a different vibe,” remembered Wentz. “We were welcomed more warmly than we’d expected though. I don’t know why, but maybe it’s because we are just unabashedly who we are. We’re not worried about coming back.”
Talking to NME last year, Download booker Andy Copping named Fall Out Boy as one of the first-time headliners he wanted to book, alongside the likes of Green Day, Blink-182, Paramore, Panic! At The Disco, Royal Blood, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Foo Fighters. “It’s about widening the net,” he explained.
Fall Out Boy will be performing at Download in support of their eighth studio album ‘So Much (For) Stardust’, which was released back in March. Speaking to NME at the time, Patrick Stump likened ‘So Much (For) Stardust’ to their divisive fourth album ‘Folie à Deux. “We just wanted to make something that we loved and that meant something to us. We weren’t worried about singles or hits,” he said. “It’s not about having anything to prove.”
Now, Wentz has elaborated on how FoB were”trying to bring the two eras of the band together” but “they’re not super complimentary of each other” – talking about the pre and post-hiatus chapters of Fall Out Boy.
“They’re a bit like oil and water,” he told NME. “So sewing them together, and then trying to drop new stuff within that, we always knew it had the potential to be a niche thing.”
However, ‘So Much (For) Stardust’ has quickly become a fan favourite. “That positive reaction felt really good because we did it from the heart,” said Wentz.
Since the record was released, Fall Out Boy have toured North America, Europe and UK with further tours pencilled in for Australia, another North American run and that appearance at Download festival. Across the run of shows, Fall Out Boy have been airing rare and previously unplayed tracks from across their back catalogue via piano medleys and a Magic 8 Ball section, alongside a selection of covers.
“With Taylor Swift’s ‘Eras Tour’ and Metallica playing a different set every night of their stadium shows, it felt like that was destined to happen,” said Wentz, with their current tour a celebration of every corner of their back catalogue rather than a greatest hits set. “We’ve always mixed things. We like R&B, but we came up in the hardcore scene. Now though, we live in this time where people are much more comfortable with that. It’s like our band has been waiting for this genre-less thing to really happen.”
He continued: “There’s also more spontaneity with it. We got into the habit of thinking that if we were going to headline arenas and festivals, then we needed to perfect the set. We were trying to do that in an era where pop music was dominated by dance and hip-hop, and we were trying to be part of that global conversation.
“It’s amazing to see the songs that connect with such a large number of people but in just doing that, you lose what could happen. This tour is more interesting, because it’s not perfect.”
Likewise, the production for their ‘So Much (For) Stardust’ tour is a world away from previous headline tours. “For the past 10 years, we’ve been playing in front of a giant video wall and it’s been about creating a video experience,” said Wentz. By contrast, this run of shows features physical props including a giant dog’s head and a magical tree alongside the real-world magic of Wentz disappearing from the stage only to reappear in the middle of the crowd.
“The whole show was meant to push us outside of our comfort zones,” he explained, with frontman Patrick Stump also taking the spotlight for a solo performance on the piano. “I don’t think anyone is coming to the show to see an illusion, but it’s something we wanted to craft into the show,” said Wentz. “We wanted to make each show feel like an event.
“Coming out of the pandemic, my kids were playing a lot of Fortnite and I had friends talking about NFTs. That’s all great for a digital space but I always want to turn left when everyone’s turning right. I wanted to make something tangible.
“When we first started Fall Out Boy and conceived it at the biggest level, our influences were Jim Henson [creator of The Muppets] and [special effects legend] Stan Winston. These people who created worlds that felt real.”
The original version of the ‘So Much (For) Stardust’ show was going to feature a figure building the set as it played out in real time. “By day, it would be your typical rock show but at night, he’d have these wild, vivid dreams,” explained Wentz. The show still follows that plot, but a layer of narration has been removed to make it more straight-forward. “Stories are so important though. That’s when art really connects – the thing linking George Lucas and The Beatles is great storytelling.”
He went on: “When you were younger, you don’t know what any of the rules are and things are so much more interesting. As an adult and a creative, you can get so caught up in questions like, ‘Is this us enough?’ or, ‘Is this cool or corny?’. We wanted to get away from that and do stuff just because we thought it was interesting. With this band, I’ve realised that our first gut instinct is usually the most Fall Out Boy one.”
Speaking about what he hopes fans take away from a Fall Out Boy show, Wentz explained: “We want people to be able to excel in their weirdness. We want people to feel comfortable creating, knowing that others will embrace it.”
“I was thinking about this last night. When I was younger and I saw a film or watched a band, it never made me feel like I could do that. We came from a little attic practice space in Chicago. We played countless shows that nobody came to. We didn’t have people telling us we were going to be pop stars. I really hope people walk away from a Fall Out Boy knowing that us playing an arena in their town means that they can do it too, whatever their version of the thing is.”
Despite ‘So Much (For) Stardust’ only being released earlier this year, and with many hours spent dusting off golden oldies for the live show, Wentz said that he already has an idea of what will come next.
“There’s potential for us to do the occasional single here and there, but I’ve really been thinking about the next big thing Fall Out Boy does,” he admitted. “It’s extremely difficult to come up with something that feels new, that also feels clever, that doesn’t feel like it’s chasing something. With ‘So Much (For) Stardust’, we had COVID to push back against and it gave us a new perspective on the band.
“Whatever comes next, it could go anywhere, but it has to be something that’s a little bit beyond what we’ve done before. It could be a musical, but I don’t think we can just get together in a studio in Los Angeles and follow this record up. That just can’t happen for us to be creatively satisfied.“
Download festival will return to Donington Park from June 14-16, 2024. General tickets will be on sale from 9pm on November 9 and available here.