Patrick Stump was in a very successful band. And then, he wasn't. Fall Out Boy is technically still on hiatus, not broken up, but Stump is now fully focused on reintroducing himself as a solo artist: His first release, the EP Truant Wave, came out in February, showcasing his move away from pop-punk and toward R&B. He's on a small club tour right now, drumming up excitement for the official debut, Soul Punk, which is finished but has no record label yet attached to release it. Ahead of a string of dates at New York's Joe's Pub this weekend, Stump spoke with Vulture about the risk he's taking on Soul Punk: "I’m kind of gambling everything on this. If it doesn't take off I’m gonna go broke, and I don’t care."
Originally when Fall Out Boy announced the split, it was announced as a hiatus ...
It still is a hiatus. Long story short, after a couple of interviews and conveniently worded pull quotes, it just kind of turned into "the band broke up." We never had that conversation. I mean, the band doesn’t have anything planned. It's a Catch-22 — now I'll say, "The band didn’t break up," and people will say, "Oh, so you’re doing stuff?" We’re all doing [our own] records.
Okay, so why did you guys decide to take a break?
What year's it now? 2011? And we started in 2001? It's been about ten years and for a better part of that we were working constantly. We were tired of the grind. We would play 500 shows in a two-year period, you know? And the other thing — the fact that we weren't all into the same kind of music made the band kind of cool, but it’s very strange when it’s expected that you be monogamous with that band for the rest of your life. Andy Hurley is a metal drummer, first and foremost, and it was really awkward for him to think that he'd never play metal again. It was awkward for me to never sing R&B music again or to never play drums myself. Everybody had their own reasoning. It’s not creative difference. It's just, like, creative wanderlust.
Whenever a band takes a break, it's hard for people to accept that there isn't a more dramatic cause ...
It was all drugs and women! Yeah, it’s weird, man; we've been a band for a long time now, and I hate to sound cheesy, but it does become like they're your brothers. It's definitely bittersweet to say, "I want to do this stuff without you." Not everybody likes hearing that. At the same time if the band comes back, we’ll be way better and stronger as a unit because of it.
Is it fair to say that you were the one who initiated the hiatus?
It was really mutual, man. I'm not just playing politics; I'm not [avoiding] giving you pull quotes. Honest, honest truth, dude: We did so much promotion on the last run, it just got just, like, crushing. The four of us were always healthy and always cool, but when you bring in expectations from outside, when people start freaking out about your first week sales, ticket presales, and you gotta do this radio station meet and greet for whatever ... when it becomes that more of your day is spent doing that than playing music ... [We decided,] "Yep, we’re gonna relax."
Was the band's decision-making process always that democratic?
I liken it to when a family is going out to dinner. If no one speaks up, you end up going to a place no one wants to go to. Everyone’s trying to not step on anyone's toes, but at the end of the day, sometimes being more confrontational about it, you get stuff done. Unfortunately I’m not a very confrontational dude, and the same with the rest of the band. When it’s just me, I can direct it however I want. And when it’s Pete [Wentz]'s bands, he directs it however he wants. And I think it'll make the band stronger [when we reunite] because we'll know more how to run it on our own. The other thing is, I’m kind of gambling everything on this [solo project]. If it doesn't take off I’m gonna go broke, and I don’t care.
Wait, you're funding it all yourself?
Yeah, at the moment. That’s why you’re supposed to make money, right? To do something? There’s a lot of paperwork I’m waiting on, there’s a lot of clerical things, but in the meantime, I bet the farm on my records and my tours. The point is, I don’t care. I don’t have any reason to do this other than it's what I want to do. So I’m pretty psyched about that.
Are you speaking with Fall Out Boy's label, Island Def Jam, about a deal?
There’s nothing on the books, but we’re working it out. I definitely want to work with Island.
Did you have a clear direction when you started recording the solo stuff?
I had a lot of songs, I recorded the record, I did everything on my own, and I said to myself I was finished with it because these were the songs that I wanted to record. And I sat back and looked at it and said, "This isn't a record at all. It's cool. I like the songs. But none of it makes sense." It was not cohesive in the least. So I went back. I had to almost pick a song and write an album around that song. Like, make the album that this song would fit on. I took a song called “Everybody Wants Somebody” that was a personal favorite of mine. I thought that it made a lot of sense sonically; I thought it was the one that was most fertile for me. So I made that album.
The album is finished?
Yeah, it’s done. I self-produced. I did have an engineer, and a friend who is also a producer, and they kind of both co-produced. But all I asked them to do is tell me when I’m full of shit. I’m all right at structuring songs and picking out my sounds and things, I just want to know when I’m totally full of shit. They did a really good job.
With Fall Out Boy, you'd write the music and Pete Wentz wrote the lyrics. Is it scary to step out on your own with lyric writing?
Totally. I was in a band for a long time and I figured I'd kind of seen it all. But one of the things that’s really new to me is criticism of the lyrics. It’s a much heavier feeling because it's all on you. When people don’t like it — and of course there will be lots of people that don’t like it — it's like they don't like you.
Did you ever consider a stage name for the solo project?
[First Fall Out Boy album] Take This to Your Grave sold, before we got signed, like two to three hundred thousand copies. That’s a huge, huge success for an indie record. And had I known that we would have gotten somewhere, I probably would have changed my name. I always thought Stump was kind of like, you dropped something on your foot. It’s not the most exotic rock-star name. I remember I really liked the word Axon [for a stage name]. I never used it and I’m happy I didn’t, 'cause now I’m just me.
You've lost weight and changed up your wardrobe since going solo. How conscious were those decisions?
I started losing weight for health reasons. I was in really bad shape, and you know, you get older, things start happening
Wait, how old are you?
I’m 26. That’s why it's like a shock; I thought I was way too young for “fill in the blank.” And obesity will do that. I lost a lot of weight; I buckled down and worked out. Then my clothes don’t fit. All of a sudden you can try on good-looking stuff. I wasn’t hiding behind hoodies and whatever anymore, and so I kind of went overboard. I just recently realized that I don’t own T-shirts or jeans. I really only bought shirts and ties and sports coats and stuff. So that’s really the majority of it. And, obviously, I’m a musician; I care about aesthetic.
It seems like a front man from a popular band going solo and trying a different musical direction is something that would find more acceptance now than it might have ten years ago.
It's weird, I didn’t realize it when I started doing it, but I was thinking kind of the same thing. I look around and there are a few people doing it. Brandon Flowers did his record, Julian Casablancas; the lane’s wide open. Someone’s gonna take it. But I didn’t think about that until after I had made a record, and I was on promo somewhere, and Oh, there’s not a lot of guys doing this. Had I the foresight, and the materialistic drive, I probably would have thought about it [earlier].
Does it bother you that people want to talk about Fall Out Boy so often?
I’m comfortable with the story. Right now, until I do something interesting, until I put out a record that people love or hate or whatever, there’s no other story. There’s no other reason to call me. There’s no other reason for an editor to let that story happen. It puts more pressure on me to take my record with more seriousness, to take my shows that much more seriously. And to do something interesting. So, yeah, I understand it. But I’m not here to talk about it .