Less than a month ago, Flappy Bird – a game where you steer a little bird through retro green pipes – became the most popular free app in the Apple iOS App Store. The controls were simple, but the game proved to be insanely difficult. This past weekend, the game's Vietnamese designer, the 29-year-old Dong Nguyen, pulled Flappy Bird, either because he was worried it was too addictive or (more likely) because too many frustrated players spewed hate in his direction.
Now Fall Out Boy have stepped into the breach with the release of Fall Out Bird, a Flappy Bird clone where you can play as any of the band's four members (if you've always thought Patrick Stump would look better with wings, you're in luck), while their single "Young Volcanoes" plays on the soundtrack.
"We were over in Japan, playing Flappy Bird when it went crazy," Fall Out Boy bassist/lyricist Pete Wentz tells Rolling Stone. Because of jet lag, the band would all wake up around 4:45 a.m., and then discuss Flappy Bird in the pre-dawn hours: Was the designer pulling the game just as a stunt? "It seemed genuine that this was not the kind of attention that he wanted," Wentz says. "There's a million Flappy Bird memes where it's 'I hate this fucking game.' It took me a while to realize that's how the Internet tells you it's thinking about you. You have to think about how in Internet culture, everyone that's loved is hated."
Wentz relates: he says that only now can he play songs from Fall Out Boy's 2005 breakthrough record From Under the Cork Tree and appreciate people enjoying it, as opposed to worrying about accusations of being a sellout. "I had so many neuroses in my twenties," he confesses.
Feeling an allegiance to Nguyen as a kindred spirit as Internet argument-starter, Fall Out Boy decided to pay homage. (It's not their first videogame tribute: back in 2008, they released a version of the classic educational game Oregon Trail.) Wentz says his personal high score on Flappy Bird was a paltry 7, and he fondly compares it to some of the insanely difficult Nintendo games of his youth, including Ghosts 'n Goblins, Silver Surfer and Top Gun. ("I could sometimes land on the aircraft carrier in Top Gun, but I could never refuel.") Now he plays Candy Crush and a game where you make customers hamburgers. "It's almost like a fantasy of working at McDonald's," Wentz says, fully aware of the irony of a rock star spending his spare time pretending to be working a minimum-wage job.
The band are still promoting their 2013 album Save Rock and Roll – they'll play the States this summer with Paramore. Wentz says that after years of touring, he now makes a point of exploring whatever city they're in. So in Tokyo, he visited the Studio Ghibli museum and the Robot Restaurant. ("I can't even describe it — you'll have to look it up.") And he and singer/guitarist Patrick Stump spent some of their Japanese trip writing new songs, which Wentz describes as being gloriously unfettered by genre.
Asked what he thinks Fall Out Boy's legacy is after 13 years, Wentz responds with a Metallica metaphor: "At some point, Metallica stopped being called a thrash-metal band, or the Black Album band — you just think of them as Metallica. I know our band's not there yet, but it'd be cool to get to that point, where the best descriptor is the name." Wentz laughs, as indestructible as a video-game bird. "Just surviving is a big part of being an artist."