Listen to a backstage interview with Pete Wentz from this summer’s Warped Tour. Click here >>
It’s a beautiful late summer day, the kind only found in the suburbs: A hazy quiet drapes over the trees, interrupted by the gentle whir of a lawnmower, the hiss of a garden hose, and the sound of giggling emanating from three middle-school girls riding bikes on the sidewalk. We’re in Wilmette, Illinois, a posh enclave 20 minutes north of Chicago, the old stomping grounds of notorious high school prankster Ferris Bueller. But recently a darker sort of outsider has returned — a medium-size punk with chipped black nail polish, a too-tight T-shirt half-hiding arms covered in Tim Burton-inspired tattoos, and underwear-exposing jeans that hang loosely around his upper thighs. When the outcast opens the wrought-iron gate that protects his parents’ house from the rest of the neighborhood, the girls stop giggling, and their bikes screech to a halt.
Then they start screaming. The punk in question is Pete Wentz, the bassist/lyricist/figurehead of Fall Out Boy, the biggest thing to come to (and from) the suburbs since housewife desperation. For the girls, who ask the 26-year-old if he “really went” to the same school they go to (yes) and if he’ll go with them to the dance that night (no), Wentz and his three bandmates — singer/guitarist Patrick Stump, 21, guitarist Joe Trohman, 21, drummer Andy Hurley, 25 — are irresistible because they look like the boys next door. Neither pinup pretty nor Hollywood slick, Fall Out Boy combine AIM-ready lyrics with pop professionalism and have transformed their band from class clowns into unlikely stars. But in a sense, Wentz has been preparing for this moment his entire life.
“Instead of riding bikes or whatever, me and my cousin used to write books and sell them up and down this street from the back of a wagon,” he says, shaking his head at the girls’ fawning. “I guess Fall Out Boy is just a magnification of that. I’m still going around with the wagon trying to sell stories door-to-door.” He glances back at the starstruck kids now pedaling away. “Only these days, it’s considerably more successful!”PrintEmail