Pete Wentz first realized his band Fall Out Boy was huge when the floor started to collapse at a gig. He was playing bass on a Warped Tour stop in Detroit last summer and 4,000 kids were packed into an area meant to hold 350.
"It's like being one of the guys on the Titanic -- you don't realize it's sinking until they tell you it's sinking, but you notice these bizarre things happening," recalls Wentz, 25. "Like, the stage isn't level."
Fall Out Boy cut off their set after two songs that day, but the melodic Chicago punk quartet survived for a Warped encore -- on the main stage this summer. Helped by relentless touring and an aggressive online marketing push, the band's second CD, From Under the Cork Tree, debuted at Number Nine earlier this month, selling 68,000 copies.
Judging from ironic song titles like "Champagne for My Real Friends, Real Pain for My Sham Friends," Fall Out Boy aren't too interested in embracing their newfound fame. "In L.A., doing the record, we could have gone to a lot of parties and bumped into celebrities," says Wentz. "But there's a song on the record I call my 'AMA Song,' because I stayed home and wrote it instead of going to the American Music Awards."
There's more sweat than buzz behind the group's success: Fall Out Boy's indie label, Fueled by Ramen, spent two years pushing singles to punk Web sites. "We put everything we had into the record," says John Janick, the label's co-owner.
A promotion partnership between Fueled by Ramen and Island Records kicked in two years ago, giving the band even more visibility at record stores and Web sites. MTV2 and Fuse airplay helped as well. Still, don't expect any big-budget videos in the near future.
"It's wonderful," twenty-year-old singer/guitarist Patrick Stump says of his group's success. "But for us, it's just about being in a band and playing music."