Just like in professional wrestling, a band's entrance music provides a pretty good forecast of what's to follow. When Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" filled an arena, Hulk Hogan's irrepressible fortitude wasn't far behind. The sound of glass shattering typically prefaced a Stone Cold-style beat-down.
And this past summer, when Joe Esposito's "You're the Best," off "The Karate Kid" soundtrack, rained down upon an unsuspecting rock club, it meant that one of the most immodest bands around was about to deliver its musical equivalent of a jump-front kick to the head.
"We thought it was the funniest thing," explained Fall Out Boy's sarcastically slanted songwriter/bassist Pete Wentz when asked why the band used the Cobra Kai's cocksure anthem for its theme music. "We'd come out and be so stoked. That's, like, the best song."
The one thing the 4-year-old Chicago band didn't count on was that the song, used in just one scene in the 1984 flick, was lost on their relatively young fanbase.
"There wasn't one moment where a kid got it," lamented Wentz, who himself was only in kindergarten when Ralph Macchio beat up the bully, got the girl and earned a cherry ride after first waxing on, then off. "So we stopped that pretty quickly and started coming out to Jay-Z instead."
Wentz is reflecting on the past year while on a break from recording Fall Out Boy's third album. Following a demo (which featured a scene from "The Karate Kid" on its cover) and two albums on indie labels, the work in progress is the quartet's first LP for a major label (Island), so the circumstances surrounding its recording have shifted from the conditions that spawned last year's Take This to Your Grave.
"The last record we made in Madison, Wisconsin," Wentz said. "We had to sleep on a girl's floor who we didn't even know — we had just met her when we got there — for two weeks. We ran out of cash halfway through the process. The studio would buy a six-pack of Sprite and a six-pack of Coke per week for us. So we asked them if they could buy us peanut butter and jelly instead. That's how we lived."
Holed up in a Los Angeles studio, Wentz's diet is still sandwich-heavy, but he's now able to stuff his face in the lap of luxury.
"I recorded my bass parts in a hot tub this morning," he joked, still fascinated by the lavish accouterments found in the city he's dubbed "Plastic Town." "Seriously, the cool thing now is that we can just focus on the music. We don't have to worry about making money to live. We can all sleep in a bed at night."
With songs such as "Austin, We Have a Problem," about their showcase at the annual industry fest known as the South by Southwest music conference; "I Liked You a Whole Lot Better Before You Became a MySpace Whore," a distasteful ode to an online community; and "I Got a Dark Alley and a Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your F---ing Mouth," a threat Wentz issued in jest to singer/guitarist Patrick Stump, it would seem that the most difficult part of making the album — coming up with imaginative titles — is over. The band is expected to finish recording in January, Wentz said. The album won't depart too much from the hooky rock sound that made Take This to Your Grave and 2002's Fall Out Boy's Evening Out With Your Girl emo standouts, but he said the languishing over yesterday's loves that he and dozens of other singers have depended on is getting old.
"It's a little bit more introspective," he said. "We're realizing where we are as a band and that no one's going to care three years from now what my girlfriend did to me. [If those are the only songs you're writing], you have to ask yourself, 'Why do I keep putting myself in those situations?' Maybe it's something intrinsic in you? I think that's where the introspective part comes from — seeing what we do that's sincere versus what we do for attention."
There's surprisingly little pressure in the Fall Out Boy camp. Whereas most bands pore over every last detail when it comes to their major-label start, Wentz and his bandmates have their sights set on more executive decisions pertaining to their album, expected to drop in May.
"I want to do a co-release with the new 'Star Wars' movie," Wentz deadpanned. "There are a lot of coincidences that go way back between me and George Lucas. I supported him through [the made-for-TV movie] 'The Ewok Adventure,' the 'Star Wars' Christmas special and the Jar Jar Binks incident. I'm a strong supporter, so I hope he'll look out for me."
With confidence — whether genuine or feigned — of becoming a rock star of more established proportions, Wentz is ready to premiere some of the new material at a series of shows later this month. And it might be of little surprise that Wentz already has the entrance music chosen for their proud moment: Tag Team's "Whoomp! (There It Is)."
Fall Out Boy tour dates, according to Island Records:
- 12/26 - New York, NY @ Irving Plaza
- 12/27 - Philadelphia, PA @ Electric Factory
- 12/28 - Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues
- 12/29 - Chicago, IL @ Metro/Smart Bar
- 12/30 - Chicago, IL @ House of Blues