Pete Wentz is rarely at a loss for words – just look at some of those old Fall Out Boy song titles for proof. But ask him about the band’s unlikely ascendance to the top of arena playlists around the country, and he struggles to find an explanation.
“It’s not a very predictable course, that’s for sure. If this was a biopic, it would not seem very believable,” he laughs. “The guys in the girl jeans with the guyliner – now they write songs for sports teams!”
It may sound hard to believe, but there’s no denying that Fall Out Boy have become the go-to guys for sports-broadcast soundtracks and stadium-approved anthems (“Jock Jams,” in layman’s terms). In 2013, their comeback single “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” showed up in broadcasts of the NBA and NHL playoffs, driver intros for NASCAR races, NFL Monday Night Football montages and MLB postseason promos. Last year, their track “Centuries” was chosen by ESPN to be the theme for its coverage of the inaugural College Football Playoff, and, as anyone who watched even a moment of the games can attest, the Worldwide Leader certainly got its money’s worth, squeezing the song within an inch of its Suzanne Vega-sampling life.
In between, Fall Out Boy have reaped the benefits – both songs became staples at sporting events across the country and rose into the upper reaches of Billboard‘s Hot 100 singles chart – and proved to be willing accomplices, performing at the NBA Slam Dunk contest, NHL All-Star Game and NFL’s Pro Bowl. This Friday, they’ll take the stage at the league’s annual pre-Super Bowl concert in Glendale, Arizona.
In short, the relationship between the band and the sports world has become a symbiotic one; though that doesn’t make it any less weird.
“To be honest, it became kind of strange when you’d be watching sports, and you’d hear one of our songs, or my dad would be like ‘Yep, they played you at the Northwestern game,'” Wentz says. “But you can’t keep going back to the Seventies for stadium music. At some point there has to be something else.
“For a band like us, when we’re going after Top 40 radio, honestly, the lane does not exist. There’s one, maybe one-and-a-half other bands on pop radio, so we needed to find other ways to infiltrate,” he continues. “So when ESPN is like, ‘We’re doing the College Football Playoff,’ I’m all for it. We want to write songs that could get played in arenas and stadiums, because we could play there. And it just so happens that other things happen there, too. Like sports.”
For much of the past decade, the well-established line of demarcation between sports and music has been disappearing, though truthfully, Fall Out Boy may be the first rock act since Queen (or Gary Glitter) to straddle both worlds so effortlessly. Unlike other recent jock jam staples – the White Stripes’ stadium-uniting “Seven Nation Army” or Blur’s rowdy “Song 2” – hearing “Centuries” on ESPN doesn’t seem like an accident.
“For a long time, it seemed like there’s been this big hole for rock bands here. But, honestly, it kind of makes sense [for us],” Wentz says. “There was a time when sports and music were separate, but with the Internet, that’s done. Now, I look at someone like Michael Jordan as an artist. Bo Jackson is like the Beatles, you know? So much greatness in such a short period of time.”
“I’m the guy that, his whole life, didn’t know anything about sports. But I’ve learned more about them in the past six years than in my entire life,” frontman Patrick Stump adds. “There’s some commonality there. If you walk into a room and talk politics, someone will get angry. If you try and talk religion, people will get angry. But if you talk sports or music, people will disagree, but there’s a good-natured quality to it.”
That doesn’t mean that FOB have become hard-core sports fans – Wentz and drummer Andy Hurley are committed to the cause (Hurley, a diehard Packers fan, is aggressively rooting against the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl) while Stump and guitarist Joe Trohman remain, as Stump puts it, “On Team Not Paying Attention.”
But they’re smart enough to realize they’ve stumbled onto a winning formula, so don’t be surprised if you hear Fall Out Boy at some point during Sunday’s telecast of Super Bowl XLIX. To borrow a sports cliché, they’ve been on a hot streak as of late, and from here, the jock-jam possibilities are endless.
“I think the new record represents where we want to be, but it also represents us understanding that, if you want to be a part of pop art, you need to work,” Wentz says. “So we’re thinking of getting into SoulCycle next.”