Fall Out Boy's falling out commenced in late 2009, about a year after releasing a fourth record, "Folie a Deux," that flopped by the band's commercial standards.
That was part of the story anyway. The other part had to do with Fall Out Boy's bigger-than-life bassist/lyricist Pete Wentz (and then-husband to Ashlee Simpson), who was becoming more a tabloid than a music sensation. He actually admitted he had become "a hindrance" to Fall Out Boy, saying, "I think the world needs a little less Pete Wentz."
The world, for the most part, didn't disagree.
After touring together for eight years, producing such Top 10 hits as "Dance, Dance" and "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race" and topping the charts with third album "Under the Cork Tree," the Illinois band turned off the switch.
"We were pretty tired," says singer-guitarist Patrick Stump. "Also, creatively, we were having a hard time seeing eye to eye, because the thing that always drove us, I think in a cool way, is that we were all very experimental with music. We all like different kinds of music.
"All four of us were trying to figure ourselves out individually. So I love R&B and funk and art-rock or something. And Joe [Trohman] is really into hard rock and blues rock and metal and stuff. And Andy [Hurley] is a serious hard-core kid. And Pete is really into [electronic dance music] and electronic music. So we kind of needed a break to rediscover the band."
Fortunately, for the reunited Fall Out Boy, which plays a sold-out Stage AE tonight, none of them blew up like Justin Timberlake during the hiatus. The Hurley-Trohman team took part in metal supergroup The Damned Things. In addition to working his clothing and record labels, Mr. Wentz played in the experimental ska band Black Cards. Mr. Stump got a spiffy haircut and a suit for his 2011 debut solo album, "Soul Punk," which seemed the most groomed for pop stardom.
"Which I don't think was ever really the intention," he says. "But it's so weird because when I look back on it, it looks like that's what I was trying to do. It's very weird how life plays out. Obviously, that becomes one of many stories you have to live down. At no point was I ever saying to myself, 'Well, I'm going to quit this band and go become a pop star.' But there was a moment right before my record came out where, through many miscommunications, I started to wonder, well, maybe the band broke up. If that's the case, this record that's coming out better be a hit because now I don't have a job. And I coincidentally had lost a lot of weight and now I look at this record cover and think, 'Oh, I understand how I got here, but this very much looks like I was going for some kind of pop/R&B stardom.'"
That didn't happen, and by the summer of 2012, Fall Out Boy was in an LA studio working on a comeback record in secret, at least until unlikely video collaborator 2 Chainz posted about it on Instagram. At that point, the band came clean.
"Everything timing wise was just all about waiting on the music, waiting for the four of us to write songs together that demanded we put them out," Mr. Stump says. "That's really the key, because you can get together and write songs, easily, but by that point we had created something of a legacy. We had done enough to where if I died in my 80s my obituary would still say something about Fall Out Boy. So that's kind of a tough thing to mess with. We didn't want to put something out if it wasn't going to be worthy. All four of us liked what we were doing, and here we are."
The chart-topping album, cheekily titled "Save Rock and Roll," is a loud, fun, arena-sized pop-rock record with an eye on Top 40 production.
"Butch Walker is a successful Top 40 producer so I'm sure there's some of that influence in there," Mr. Stump says. "In terms of the songwriting and that kind of stuff, really it was trying to meet in the middle somewhere between Pete's [electronic dance music] and my R&B and Joe's blues-rock and Andy's hardcore. Somewhere in between all those things is this record.
"I always feel like we've been one of those accident kind of bands where we never knew we were going to be an emo band. We're from the Midwest, where there is a very defined emo scene that we were very definitely not allowed to be part of, and the same thing with the pop-punk scene, but somehow the music we made, coincidentally, had a parallel evolution of being somewhat like that. The funny thing to me is that I barely knew any pop-punk bands when we were being called a pop-punk band. I didn't listen to any of that stuff. I was just making the music we were making. Same thing with this. I don't really know a lot of the stuff on pop radio. I've heard that this record sounds like pop radio. I don't know, we get lucky sometimes."
Even if you've never heard of Fall Out Boy or emo or pop-punk, by now you've probably heard "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)," which has become a ubiquitous sports anthem overnight. Another lucky stroke, according to the singer.
"We played Leno, and Magic Johnson was there and he came up and was like, 'Man, that's a great song for sports, I hear it every game.' The funniest irony, something I've heard ever since our first record, people say, 'Aw, man, you're my favorite record to work out to, or my favorite record for playing sports.' And I'm like, 'I don't work out enough and I [stink] at sports, so I'm glad that happens.' It's all coincidence. Pete keeps up on sports, but I don't know much about it myself."
Elsewhere on the new record are guest spots from, among others, Elton John ("just one of the coolest things I've ever gotten to do," Mr. Stump says) and Courtney Love ("this generation, I don't think they know how vital she was, and how vital she still is").
Fall Out Boy is now on a theater and large club tour to be followed in the fall by an arena tour. Having come out the other side of this hiatus, there's a slightly different dynamic between the band's two principles.
"It's funny because I think both of us have kind of leveled off in some ways where he's quite a bit more reasonable and I'm quite a bit more confident, and goofy. So we kind of met in the middle somewhere. But for a good 10 years there I was the shy, quiet background character and he was the assertive, in-your-face Pete Wentz. I look back at those records and I'm like, 'Wow, I'm proud of this.' We couldn't have done this if I didn't have Pete to bounce off of and he didn't have me to bounce off of, so now it's like second nature and it's easy. I literally wouldn't know how to do a band without him."
Scott Mervis: email@example.com; 412-263-2576. Twitter: scottmervis_pg.