For example, the verse in “West Coast Smoker” that goes ’… Knock three times …” is followed by three snare hits, a trick that Hurley knew Stump would dig because it references one of the singer’s favorite Ray Charles songs. “That’s actually something that someone could listen to the album a hundred times and never hear unless they were looking for it, like one of those Beach Boys Pet Sounds things. Unless you listen to the album with headphones you don’t hear these little subtle things that I’ve thrown in there.”
And if you don’t notice these little twists, Hurley won’t be offended. “I did that with a Metallica song the other day. I just remember hearing it and going, ’I’ve been listening to this record since I was nine and I’ve never heard this.’ I love these records that have flavors that present themselves down the line.”
Fall Out Boy did the indie-to—major-label transition seamlessly and passed the sophomore slump phase of their career with flying colors. It’s natural that their fourth album should be their Sgt. Pepper’s, the one where they swing for the fences. Interestingly, the band stuck with longtime producer Neal Avron instead of getting a new personality to shepherd the process. It makes you wonder how they were able to step outside their comfort zone.
“Neal is just like the fifth member, kind of like George Martin for The Beatles or Nigel Godrich with Radiohead,” explains Hurley. “Different people have that, and Neal’s just kind of a member of the family. Neal really understands where we’re coming from and he’s just grown with us. When we come with songs that sound like the last record he’s kind of like, ’Eh, this is good, but I think you could push it.’
“At the same time there is a level of comfort that really works well. We can just go in the studio and magic happens because we just work so well together.”
Drummers will be delighted that Hurley isn’t larding as many of the tracks with Garage Band beats as he has in the past. In fact, the ones on Infinity On High and From Under The Cork Tree are crappy template beats left over from Stump’s demos in the early composition stages. The preponderance of live drums this time around is Avron’s influence at work.
“He hates triggering; he hates over-editing,” Hurley says. “So for him I never punch, I do full takes. And we record to tape for drums, which I love. I think Pro Tools for everything else is fine because there’s not a lot of difference that you can hear, but, you know, as an engineer, he really thinks that there is an audible thing [in tape to Pro Tools].
“I’ll do a song six, seven times, even if I played it perfectly the first time, just to have full takes, because he hates [splicing together drum parts], and I agree – it just sounds more natural. And when you get the actual player playing it the full way through, there’s an energy there that you can’t punch in and edit in.
“I think he, like Patrick, really does understand rhythm. He can hear when things go against each other, so he definitely helps with that. He does a lot of setups, like every song we go through different bass drums, different snares, to kind of really get the right tone for the song, which I like too. Some people I’ve recorded with, it’s just a race to get through it. But lately I tend to blaze through too. I can track pretty fast these days.”
Okay, time to put the cards on the table. We’re cornering Hurley and forcing him to define what sort of drummer he is. It’s a maneuver that finds the normally voluble speaker somewhat tongue-tied. “Aw, man, that’s tough. Relative to other players, you mean?” What follows is an excruciatingly long pause, until Hurley is able to crystallize his thoughts. “I strive to be a really solid drummer.”
Nice smokescreen, Holmes. Solid as in consistent or as in a heavy-hitter? “Well, both. Live I definitely try to hit heavy, and in the studio I definitely play really hard. I could definitely say I’m an energetic drummer – tons of people tell me I look like Animal [from The Muppet Show] when we play live, but technique-wise, I came from marching band in high school. Very rudimentary. And when I practice that’s what I work on. And I guess that’s it: I’m a very rudimental drummer. I like consistency in drumming. I like the choruses to be the same every time.”
Worried about coming off like a finicky instructor, Hurley quickly adds: “I love players like the Mastodon drummer [Brann Dailor], who’s filling the whole time, but that’s not what I’ve ever done.”
There’s plenty of heavy hitting throughout the entire FOB discography: tom-thudding galore, crash-bashing workouts, and muscular down strokes. Still, it’s not enough for the tireless Hurley, which is why he has no less than three side projects back home in Wisconsin, including the metal-oriented Departed.
The nice thing for detail-oriented FOB fans is they can expect to hear different parts live than what’s played on record. “I always wonder if they can tell,” he muses. “I’ll play a little fill that’s not on the record and think to myself, ’Did anyone get that?’”