With slick production, commercially minded songcraft, and a tabloid-grabbing bassist, Chicago’s Fall Out Boy rose to the attention of emo-pop in the mid-2000s. The band’s four members first came together in suburban Wilmette, a bedroom community just 14 miles north of the Windy City, around 2001. Vocalist/guitarist Patrick Stump, bassist/lyricist Pete Wentz, drummer Andrew Hurley, and guitar player Joe Trohman had all been in and out of various albums 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 foursome 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, not long after it up in May 2002 with a split LP (released on the Uprising label) that also featured Project Rocket, for which Hurley also drummed. The lineup remained with the label for the release of a mini-LP, Fall Out Boy’s Evening Out with Your Girl, but a bidding war of sorts was already in full swing.
Fall Out Boy eventually signed a deal with Fueled by Ramen, the Florida-based label co-owned by Less Than Jake drummer Vinnie Fiorello, but also received an advance from Island Records to record a proper debut album. The advance followed 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 producer Sean O’Keefe (Lucky Boys Confusion, Motion City motion picture soundtrack) at the helm. Take This to Your Grave appeared in May 2003, and Fall Out Boy garnered positive reviews for subsequent gigs at South by Southwest and assorted tour appearances. Their breakout album, the ambitious From Under the Cork Tree, followed in spring 2005, rapidly reaching the Top Ten of Billboard’s album chart and spawning two Top Ten smashes with “Sugar We’re Going Down” and the furiously upbeat “Dance, Dance.” The album went double platinum and acquired the musicians a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.
Fall Out Boy’s underground star status — driven by the especially extroverted Wentz, who also gained exposure with his clothing line and Decaydance record label (an imprint of Fueled by Ramen) — had boiled over into the mainstream. They toured extensively, to back up the record with international performances, arena dates, TRL visitations, late-night television gigs, and music award concerts. Without taking a break, the musicians then hunkered down to work on their follow-up album 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 one month later. issued in early 2008, the CD/DVD package Live in Phoenix documented the band’s strength as a flashy live act, while the full-length studio effort Folie à Deux followed later that year.