One For the Kids

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Posted April 2, 2009 in Feature Story

With Coachella increasingly skewing towards an older crowd (this year’s headliners include Paul McCartney and The Cure; last year 65-year old Roger Waters topped the bill), The Bamboozle Left—West Coast cousin of The Bamboozle in New Jersey—has become the SoCal music fest for Hot Topic boppers. In 2006, at Cal Poly Pomona, the debut Bamboozle Left brought us youth-approved acts like Thrice, Dashboard Confessional and Brand New; last year, at Irvine’s Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, My Chemical Romance, Paramore and All-American Rejects headlined.

 

The of-the-moment theme continues with this year’s Bamboozle Left (on April 4 and 5, again at Verizon), with bands like Fall Out Boy, The Used, Taking Back Sunday and Cobra Starship amongst the fest’s big names (as well as 50 Cent, Deftones and the returning Thrice). We chatted with Fall Out Boy guitarist Joe Trohman and Used drummer Dan Whitesides about The Bamboozle Left, festivals in general, and their respective new releases.

 

FESTIVAL FALL OUT

 

“It’s just cool to be a part of Bamboozle and play with all these bands that we’re either friends with or we’ve never gotten a chance to play with,” enthuses Trohman. “Also on this tour it’s our only close-to-L.A. date, so it’s a chance for all our L.A. fans to come out. I remember playing Bamboozle in New Jersey and it’s always fun, it’s always a good time. I end up seeing a million dudes that I haven’t seen in so long and it’s nostalgic—it’s definitely a very positive atmosphere.”

 

Fall Out Boy, currently touring behind their fifth studio album, last September’s Folie à Deux, headline The Bamboozle Left’s first night (Saturday).

 

“I always forget that we’re even considered big enough [to headline],” says Trohman, speaking from a tour stop in Munich, Germany. “Not that I’m not appreciative and excited, it’s more that, (a) I don’t like letting anything go to my head and, (b) I’ll never believe that I’m anything but some regular dude and we’re a regular, ‘whatever’ band! I don’t think we ever thought we would headline—we were honored just to get on some of these festival bills.”

 

“Playing at night is always better than playing during the day too. We’ve done Warped Tour a few times in a row and definitely when they would make us play at 11:20 in the morning versus, like, 8:30 at night—it’s a different beast, y’know? The beast in people really emerges at night!”

 

Formed in Wilmette, Illinois, in 2001, Fall Out Boy emerged from the emo pack with their major label debut, From Under the Cork Tree, in 2005 and sold over 2.5 million copies in the U.S. alone. Two years later, Infinity on High consolidated the band as a mainstream fixture. Fall Out Boy’s obsessively self-promoting bassist/lyricist Pete Wentz has helped keep them in magazines with a suicide attempt in 2005; a leak of “sexting” photos to the Web the following year and his relationship with pop princess Ashlee Simpson (who he married last May)—events which have also hurt the band’s hipster and critical cred.

 

Though long regarded as a rather run-of-the-mill mopey, Warped-ready post-punk pop band, Infinity on High revealed that Fall Out Boy—who’re completed by singer/guitarist Patrick Stump and drummer Andy Hurley—are an altogether different proposition. Stump writes songs with the ultra-melodic instincts of Squeeze or Elvis Costello, and his falsetto-crowned vibrato recalls pre-meltdown Michael Jackson. Folie à Deux is more of the same, only with even more ambition and variety.

 

“I think Infinity on High is a very transitional record,” mulls Trohman. “We have parts of it that feel like From Under the Cork Tree, and then you have parts of it that can bridge to this record, I feel like lyrically [Folie] has got a different tone—it’s definitely not autobiographical for the first time. It’s written from different peoples’ points of view. And even though it might immediately come across as having this down-trodden commentary, it’s actually very satirical and pokes fun at the way people are apathetic about things.

 

“We always try to make sure that when we make a new record we are bridging the gap from the last record to this one in an organic way. We definitely don’t want to come out with something that sounds so vastly different that it can be off-putting. We’ve seen a thousand bands do that and it can be a dagger to the heart. Musically I feel like we’ve been able to extend our creative forum, so to speak, and to do things a little differently and do some bigger things. We got hyper-collaborative on this record and really went all-out.”

 

No kidding: Folie à Deux boasts contributions and vocal cameos from   Elvis Costello,   Lil Wayne, Debbie Harry, Pharrell Williams, members of Panic at the Disco,  The Academy Is . . .  , fellow Bamboozle Left-ers Cobra Starship and The Cab, and more.

 

“I don’t think we realized how much that was going to overshadow other aspects of the record,” mulls the affable Trohman. “It’s purely a musical thing—we feel like there are certain lines on the record that need to be expressed in different voices. Some need more commanding voices. Like ‘What a Catch, Donnie’—it’s got a line that Elvis Costello sings, which we really wanted to have a lot of authority. So what better authority is there than Elvis Costello as far as musical authority? He’s a rock icon who we look up to and take things from for sure.

 

“And then the end of the song has those re-occurring lines from older Fall Out Boy songs and we have guys from Cobra Starship, The Academy Is . . .  and The Cab sing. These are bands that have known us since the incarnation of some of these songs and so I think that it’s very apropos to have them sing different lines rather than just have us do it—kind of turning it into our version of ‘We Are The World’!”

 

But, Lil Wayne?

 

“It is a very a cappella part and we thought he would do something crazy and cool with it—and he really did do something crazy and out of the box with it! The only real collaboration we did on this record, apart from with [longtime FOB producer] Neal [Avron], was with Pharrell on ‘w.a.m.s.’ and I think that created probably the weirdest song in Fall Out Boy history—but weird in a good way.  It’s something we wouldn’t have made without Pharrell.”

 

And Fall Out Boy, considering their relatively tender ages (Stump is only 24), have some perhaps unlikely throwback influences—as well as the aforementioned Squeeze, Costello, and Michael Jackson (FOB released a version of “Beat It” last year), Trohman references Black Sabbath, The Kinks and even The Temptations.

 

“My father listened to a lot of classic rock and a lot of Motown,” he recalls.  “How can you not love The Temptations? Some of the best songs ever and the biggest ballad in the world—“My Girl.” Man, incredible!”

 

In fact, think blustery classic rock meets syrupy Motown and you’re getting close to FOB’s musical blueprint.

 

“On this record, production-wise, we took a lot of influence from Queen. I think that’s a band that a lot of us overlap on. Here’s four different dudes in this band and while there are artists we overlap on, there’s a lot we don’t. But I think what makes us sound interesting is that we all nurture the fact that we all come from different musical directions . . . I think there’s an ‘opposites attract’ that goes on.”

 

So what can Bamboozle Left-goers—especially those who’ve never seen Fall Out Boy live—expect on April 4? After all, this is a band that, despite their years of hard touring, has a rather mixed in-concert rep. See, they’ve not always been the, ahem, tightest of bands.

 

“We’ve been going through a lot of phases in the band,” Trohman says, frankly.  “I think there’s been times when we didn’t play to a click [track] and we sort of didn’t give a shit and we went out there and ‘punk rocked it,’ so to speak. And I think that served it purpose for the time—I don’t know if we’re necessarily that way much anymore.

 

“But I think at the same time we keep a human aspect to what we do. I mean, you look back at old Led Zeppelin and Queen videos and they’re awesome—’cos you know the songs and they’re insane and you’re watching them do it back in the day—but they’re not, like, the tightest things in the world. They’re sloppy and that’s rock ‘n’ roll—and we’re a rock ‘n’ roll band.”

 

NEW BUT VERY USED

 

The Used’s motivation for playing The Bamboozle Left—apart from much-needed exposure for their imminent fourth album, Artwork—is pretty basic. “We’ve never played it before,” Whitesides deadpans. “So we really wanted to play it . . . we’ve always wanted to.”

 

“It’s more personal when we’re on our own show and it’s our show and it’s smaller and more intimate. But at the same time the cool part of [festivals] is that you can go and check out some bands that you’ve really wanted to see. If it wasn’t for playing festivals I never would have been able to see bands like Muse . . . And there’s a ton of people there who haven’t seen you before and maybe haven’t ever heard of you or thought they didn’t like you, and then they see you and they’re like ‘whoa—I actually do like these guys!’”

 

The Used, who formed in Orem, Utah in 2001, are a famously nocturnal band even in their famously nocturnal screamo subculture.  In fact singer Bert McCracken (who’s perhaps best known as Kelly Osbourne’s beau when The Osbournes reality show was at the height of its popularity) is downright vampirish in his habits. So will rousing them for their relatively early Sunday slot at The Bamboozle Left impact their performance on the day?

 

“I don’t think so. I think we’re all excited to play,” Whitesides insists. “I really don’t care what time we play—in fact I’d rather play a little bit earlier ‘cos otherwise you’re just waiting around all day to play. When you play a little bit earlier, you can play the show, have some fun, go out and hang out and walk around. And you can drink—because I don’t drink before I play.”

 

Having spent much of last year writing and recording Artwork, and with their previous two albums not living up to the promise (or sales) of their 2002 self-titled debut, The Used (who’re completed by bassist Jeph Howard and guitarist Quinn Allman) really have something to prove with the new disc.

 

“It’s done; it’s mastered—they just want to get some things done that didn’t get done for the last record . . . the last record was not as prepared as this album’s going to be as far as promotion goes,” says Whitesides, who joined The Used in 2006 after the less-than-amicable departure of founding sticksman Branden Steineckert (who has since joined Rancid).

 

“It’s aggressive, just like all the [Used] albums. It’s really aggressive and it’s original. That’s one thing I always like about The Used: in my opinion, before I joined the band, I’d never really heard a band like The Used before. The new record’s got your heavy songs that you can rock out to, and then there’s a ballad on the record like always.  I think the difference with this album is it’s a bit heavier and dirtier than anything The Used has ever done.”

 

Artwork is the first album The Used have made without producer (and former Goldfinger member) John Feldman—who all but discovered them and who’s sometimes been referred to as the band’s ‘fifth member’.

 

“We had a plan.  We actually started writing this record right after [The Used’s third album] Lies for the Liars,” Whitesides explains. “We had an idea long before we decided not to go with Feldman—we wanted to make a dirty, gross-sounding record, but with a pop sensibility at the same time.”

 

Artwork was eventually produced by Panic at the Disco producer Matt Squire—but don’t expect something radically different from The Used’s Feldman-guided works.

 

“It’s really not a very big departure from what the band has done before, other than its darker and heavier,” says Whitesides, for whom Artwork is the first full studio album with The Used. “And I think lyrically and vocally it’s probably the best out of any of the albums. Bert has done an amazing job. He worked really hard and his lyrics . . . his lyrics have always meant something to me, but on this album he just went out and did a great job.”

 

Whitesides denies that any yearning to recapture The Used’s former commercial glories impacted the writing and recording of Artwork.

 

“There’s pressure coming from the label and management blah, blah, blah . . . but I don’t think that The Used has ever really given a shit about that. We write what we want to write and if people like it, that’s awesome—we want to share that with them—and if they don’t, that’s cool too.  We’re writing for us and I know that’s how the band has always been.

 

“Obviously you want people to like your record. We have some great fans and I know that the diehard fans are going to love [Artwork]. They’re going to love it because it’s The Used. But I really think that if people give it a chance, there’s a song on this album for everybody.”

 

Fall Out Boy, The Used, 50 Cent and others, Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, 8808 Irvine Center Dr., Irvine, (949) 855-8096, www.thebamboozleleft.com; Sat. and Sun., April 4-5, 2PM; $47.50 (single day), $90 (both days)


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