The four members of Chicago’s Fall Out Boy came together in suburban Wilmette around 2001. Vocalist/guitarist Patrick Stump, bassist/lyricist Pete Wentz, drummer Andrew Hurley, and guitarist Joe Trohman had all been in and out of various units connected to Chicago’s underground hardcore scene. Most notably, Hurley drummed for Racetraitor, the furiously political metalcore outfit whose brief output was both a rallying point and sticking point within the hardcore community.
As Fall Out Boy, the quartet used the unbridled intensity of hardcore as a foundation for melody-drenched pop-punk with a heavy debt to the emo scene. They debuted with a self-released demo in 2001, following it up in May 2002 with a split LP on Uprising that also featured Project Rocket (for which Hurley also drummed).
The band returned on the label in January with the mini-LP Fall Out Boy’s Evening Out with Your Girl, but by this point a bidding war of sorts was already in full swing. Fall Out Boy eventually signed a deal with Gainesville, FL’s Fueled by Ramen, the label co-owned by Less Than Jake drummer Vinnie Fiorello, but also received an advance from Island Records to record their proper debut. The advance came with a right of first refusal for Island on Fall Out Boy’s next album, but it also financed the recording of Take This to Your Grave, which occurred at Butch Vig’s Smart Studios compound in Madison, WI, with Sean O’Keefe (Lucky Boys Confusion, Motion City Soundtrack) at the helm.
Take This to Your Grave appeared in May 2003, and Fall Out Boy garnered positive reviews for their gigs at South by Southwest and numerous tour appearances. Their breakout album, the ambitious From Under the Cork Tree, followed in spring 2005, quickly reaching the Top Ten of Billboard’s album chart and spawning two Top Ten hits with “Sugar We’re Going Down” and the furiously upbeat “Dance, Dance.” The album went double platinum, and earned the guys a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. Fall Out Boy’s star status in the underground — driven by the especially extroverted Wentz, who also gained exposure with his clothing line and Decaydance imprint (of Fueled by Ramen) — had boiled over into the mainstream.
They toured extensively behind the album, both at home and abroad, including spring 2006 arena dates, in addition to appearing on TRL, late-night television, and music award shows. Without taking a break, the guys eventually hunkered down to work on their follow-up record with From Under the Cork Tree producer Neil Avron and, somewhat surprisingly, Babyface. Infinity on High, whose title was taken from a line in one of Van Gogh’s personal letters, appeared in early February 2007, spearheaded by the hit single “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race.” The album continued Fall Out Boy’s streak, debuting at number one on the Billboard charts and going platinum about a month later. Released one year later, the CD/DVD package Live in Phoenix documented the band’s strength as a flashy live act. – Johnny Loftus & Corey Apar