And then we interviewed them.
A couple months ago, Fall Out Boy and Ryan Adams got in the studio and made some songs together. That’s cool and random, but what’s cooler and random-er is that the resulting tunes ended up being a rock-solid collection of Misfits and Black Flag-indebted hardcore punk songs. How do I know this? Well, yesterday I trekked up to midtown and hung out in an RV with Pete Wentz and Joe Trohman to listen to the tracks and talk about them. Pete explained that they didn’t really want to have a proper “listening session” for the songs; since they were recorded in a low-key, zero stress environment, the best way to play them for the media was off a laptop in the back of a bus, arranged by a publicist at the last minute.
After our makeshift show-and-tell session, Pete, Joe, and I talked about what Ryan Adams is like as a producer, what it feels like to subvert everyone’s expectations (even your own), and why structure sucks.
Noisey: How many songs did you record during the sessions?
Pete Wentz: We came in with four or five ideas, but it went beyond that. Ryan was like, “Do one on the spot.”
I remember Ryan Adams used to do entire shows consisting of songs he wrote in his dressing room.
PW: That’s kind of what we were going for. It was a great experiment as a band. It’s not what we do; we’re not that kind of band really.
It seems to me as Ryan Adams was fulfilling more of a Steve Albini role as a producer where he’s more of a director.
PW: Yeah, totally. One of the big parts of recording Save Rock and Roll was when we were with Butch (Walker) and the idea that a lot of the demo stuff and the stuff that was done on laptops beforehand would actually make it to the record. That was so digital, and it was definitely not something as a band we’d ever done. So to go back and do something that was so purely analog was really good. I think that, for us, that felt good to know that it existed out there in the world.
Do you see these recordings existing in antithesis to Save Rock and Roll, or more of an exercise that’s going public?
PW: I think it was an exercise, but I do think it’s definitely the antithesis of Save Rock and Roll. Kids can say whatever, like, “Oh, where’s the guitars if you’re gonna call it Save Rock and Roll?” And there was a part of us that really wanted to withhold that. Rock and Roll needs to be challenged right now. The most Rock and Roll thing you could do is do what, like, Skrillex is doing right now. It felt good to get in there and make some noise that was what people would have thought of as standard “Rock and Roll.”
Joe Trohman: People would have expected a bunch of remixes after the album. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but this is not what people expected us to do, and that’s exciting and fun, to flip people on their head, so to speak. Also, one aspect of this that is a continuation of Save Rock and Roll was that it was an exercise in not doing as many layers of things. This is even a further distillation of that. It’s like a Black Flag record where it’s like, there’s very few tracks and everything that’s there is what’s there.
Wentz, Trohman, and the author doing Rap Squats.
Was the session fun?
PW: It was a lot of hanging out. It was really funny and fun. With Ryan’s mind, it’s hard to connect the dots of where it’s going to. One minute he’s making up these crazy jokes, and then he’s like, “We have to play pinball NOW.”
JT: Or, like, “Check out these weird Russian copies of GI Joe toys.
PW: There was no “Oh, we gotta get this done!” It was great, especially coming off a promo run where there’s a lot of the not-as-much-fun part of being in a band, where you’re helping tell somebody why they should like your record or what’s interesting about it.
I feel like when you’re doing promo for your record, you’re structuring your time in a way that’s not conducive to coming up with something you’re happy with for the next record.
PW: No. It’s really hard to be creative on a schedule, especially a schedule that’s doing interviews in Germany.
JT: It’s a good thing, but there’s nothing new and fresh in that process.
PW: That’s why it was fun to just, like, do the songs. I’m glad that people will get to hear them, at the same time when we were making them it was like, “Wow, this is literally just fun to do.”
JT: It was a hangout where music got recorded. I think it’ll be left up to people as far as how it gets interpreted. Like, some dumb songs we did or a collection of songs they could call a record. We get to leave this up to our fans, or non-fans even.
What was the vibe you were going for?
JT: Misfits, Black Flag, Descendents, Dag Nasty, anything real late-70s, early-80s punk and hardcore stuff was influential in the creation of the music, and I think even the lyrical content too. That was the inspiration behind the entire session—to emulate the stuff that we grew up on, and the stuff that Ryan grew up on. We all really connected much there and were able to volley ideas back and forth. It wasn’t a forced interaction.
Does it kind of feel weird to have to do interviews about this thing that you did for fun and now suddenly you’re having to justify why it exists?
PW: Maybe the world will spin it a different way, but I’m guessing I won’t be at, like KISS FM talking about these songs. For me, those are the interviews that get tedious because I end up having to talk about the pop culture stuff of the day.
JT: We’re privileged to have people to want to ask us about anything we do, so it’s not worth complaining about. But it’s more fun to talk about something new. Especially about this. Talking about something that’s fun is actually fun.
Drew Millard is Rap Squat Game Zelig. He's on Twitter - @drewmillard