Fall Out Boy

What’s up with this Fall Out Boy? It sells out nearly every friggin’ venue it plays, its album just debuted at No. 9 on Nielsen SoundScan and it’s been dubbed the band to watch by those in the know.

Then again, FOB isn’t exactly all over MTV or “The O.C.,” either. How did a band come out of relative obscurity and catch everyone by surprise? Why wasn’t Pollstar hip to this band all along?

The answer is, we’re squares. And this band is fueled by the interconnection of Internet-savvy kids. The pop-punk/emo FOB tours constantly, but its popularity was generated the same way Jason Mraz and OAR found much of their initial fan bases

through high-speed connections.

At first, we thought bassist/lyricist Pete Wentz wouldn’t appreciate our question: Why don’t we know more about you guys? His answer took about 12 minutes.

“I think there’s a band that’s a best-kept secret in every town, and I think Fall Out Boy is the biggest band like that,” Wentz said. “Kids like having this band in their back pocket in this little world that they have kind of made up. They loved being the first person at their school to be, like, ‘Yeah, blah, blah, blah Fall Out Boy.'”

The band wasn’t getting picked up by the major labels or even the indies, so Fall Out Boy began selling its music online. Soon, it was the first band to sell 1 million downloads at Purevolume.com, then the first at 2 million.

“We were like, ‘This is kind of bizarre,'” Wentz said. “The only magazine that covered us was Alternative Press and even they were about a year after a lot of things happened. The industry never cared, either.”

Meanwhile, the kids in cyberspace created their own street team. Some were even skipping school to get the word out.

“I was like, ‘Some of this is almost cultish and, you know, not healthy?'” the bassist said. “You couldn’t have made this street team. You couldn’t have written a marketing plan like this if you tried. … We weren’t at the wheel, really. We were, kind of, but all these kids were doing it on their own and steering its destiny.”

This Chicago band was so busy handling this crowd that it didn’t get into publishing deals or other career moves before it was ready, which was a blessing. The downside was, the kids get a little intense.

Fall Out Boy

“It’s a blessing and a curse being a kids band,” Wentz said. “It’s the reason why we’re here and it’s the reason why my parents get phone calls at 3 o’clock in the morning. You can’t have one side of it, with a club packed with kids, without the other side existing. The other side definitely does exist. It’s kind of cool, but it’s kind of weird.”

The band decided to make a special T-shirt that’s not on display at its merch table, which reads, “The Secret Order of FOB” – another way for kids to be part of an inner circle. Wentz has also written a children’s book that is selling at Hot Topic, and he believes it’s popular because “it’s another piece of the puzzle” – another way for fans to learn more about him.

The band’s agent, Andrew Simon, told Pollstar he is bombarded by e-mails from FOB fans, most wanting to know when the band will be returning to their city or why FOB passed them by the last go-around.

“We get kids saying they drove four-and-a-half hours to the shows. You get that a lot from the jam bands, but I’ve never seen that as much with punk bands.”

During the last Vans Warped Tour, organizer Kevin Lyman had to shift Fall Out Boy from the Vulcan sidestage to the main stage out of safety concerns, Simon said.

“They had to shut down the sidestage because it got trampled. I think Fall Out Boy got to play three songs. That moment, more than anything, really helped solidify things.”

The agent added there have been plenty of promoters who have helped raise the band’s profile, including Electric Factory’s Jon Hampton, Ritual’s Perry Lavoisne, the folks at Chicago’s Metro, and House of Blues Concerts’ Michael Yerke and Anthony Nicolaidis. Still, to this day, Simon needs to let promoters know that they might be in for a big surprise and should prepare by adding a barricade and extra security.

Manager Bob McLynn told Pollstar he initially had a hard time getting Fall Out Boy on a bill. Then, because of the band’s sudden success, McLynn chose not to put FOB on a lot of tours because the band would outsell the headliner.

Wentz credited McLynn with letting FOB keep its live show the way the band wanted it – unlike a lot of managers who had approached them.

“A lot of bands go nuts live but there’s something different about Fall Out Boy; it’s kind of like this frantic nerd rock thing,” McLynn said. “I basically told them don’t listen to anyone and do what you guys do because it’s awesome. It’s definitely something that sets them apart from other people and I wanted to encourage that, and not the opposite.”

The band is on the Warped Tour again this summer, and close to announcing a fall outing in rooms of up to 5,000 capacity.