Photo: Eddie Malluk
Chilling in a Philadelphia hotel room just two days after Barack Obama sailed into the White House, Andrew Hurley is talking a blue streak. It’s an hour before sound check at the North Star Bar, but instead of his usual warm-up exercises, everyone’s favorite vegan anarchist drummer is on his soapbox – something about Obama’s victory being more important than JFK.
The political stakes were so important to Fall Out Boy that new album Folie À Deux was slated for an election-day release. That never happened, but Hurley doesn’t regret moving back the street date to mid-December – although it sure bummed out fans.
“It started to feel gimmicky, and then in interviews the reason for it started to get lost,” says the native Milwaukeean, looking as chicly radical as Trotsky. “Being a band that tours internationally, you really see how our foreign policy affects the rest of the world. You go to other countries and see they’re in an economic crisis, and it’s because of us. A lot of reasons make it a really important election, so I think we just wanted to get out of the way.”
So why are the kings of tween-pop making political statements anyway? Au contraire mon frère, these upper middle-class suburbanites have never gotten credit for the level of sophistication in their hit making, courtesy of vocalist/guitarist Patrick Stump’s Beatles-caliber songwriting, and, especially, bassist Pete Wentz’s splashy oh-so-quotable lyrics characterized by razor-sharp double entendres. What’s the 21st century approximation of Lennon and McCartney to do?
If Folie À Deux is any indication, it means flipping the script. Take first single “I Don’t Care,” a swaggery blues number that might be White Stripes or Black Keys if those bands cared about production values. “That was the point,” Hurley says. “Putting out something that’s different for us but still has all the elements that make it us. The last record was kind of a lot more R&B-ish but then this record has a lot more rock to it.”
Another way of looking at Folie’s tonal shift, at least in drumming terms, is that Hurley is playing on top, almost racing the beats as opposed to that hip-hop behind-the-beat style. Hurley is no drum nerd, though he makes plain his enthusiasm for the record as a whole: “It’s a lot of fun to play.”
The first single’s adrenalized pummeling soon gives way to straight-up Stubblefield funk on “She’s My Winona.” “That song has a drum set that’s different in the verse than in the chorus – that part was actually kind of hard to play. It was hard to keep up because I was playing it over and just, you know, getting it to sound good with the dynamics within it because it has a lot of ghost notes.”
Despite the rock orientation, two of rap’s biggest superstar/producers make appearances on Folie in addition to six or seven other guests – a nod to hip-hop’s cameo-obsessed album architecture. To be honest, Lil’ Wayne’s presence on “Tiffany Blews” is scarcely felt next to the way Neptunes/N.E.R.D. honcho Pharell Williams puts his stamp on “W.A.M.S,” which single-pedal-user Hurley closes out with a wicked blastbeat. “He was really cool and really down to Earth and one of the nicest dudes and just a musical genius,” Hurley gushes. “His hooks, a lot of the time, are rhythm-based.”
A close second for Hurley in terms of drumming pleasure is “20 Dollar Nosebleed” with its rimclick lick, a Hurley signature, only here more complex. “That song has some stuff I really love. Real Jackson 5-type fills.”
For “West Coast Smoker,” Blondie’s Deborah Harry adds her inimitable voice, and the guys were geeked even if they didn’t get to work with her in person. “I wish,” he says. “That would have been awesome, but no. It was all done at different studios. [Harry] was into it, we just sent her the track and she just added to it.
“Same with Elvis Costello [“What A Catch, Donnie”],” he continues. “I know for Patrick, Elvis Costello is his absolute hero, that would have been awesome to actually do it with him but he was kind of rushed. He had some lung sickness. It was hard for him to sing but he did it and it turned out really good.”
The frantic daring-do of the latest Fall Out Boy can be directly traced to Hurley not having the parts mapped out in his head before entering the studio. Normally the band has two weeks of preproduction to whip the tunes into recordable shape, but this time they dove right in. “You could go in and spend six months if you wanted to, but I think you lose a lot of the impulse and a lot of the things that just come to you because you can sit on it too long.”
The only thing recognizably Fall Out Boy-like about Folie is the too-clever-by-half song titles. Otherwise, the stylistic variety makes previous albums look same-y, and that’s especially true of the drum parts.
“I think it just went with the songs more,” he says. “The approach on this record from my end was Patrick and I worked a lot more together on fitting the rhythms with the songs, because this album, I know he wrote more to the lyrics – to complement and carry the lyrics – and I always [talk] with him. We split up into twos and so I always hear his answers to how he wrote.”