Patrick Stump rose to fame as the soulful lead singer of the successful punk rock band Fall Out Boy. But while on an “indefinite hiatus” from the band (rumors of their breakup have been unsubstantiated), Stump went ahead and recorded a solo album called Soul Punk. Apparently, he took the solo part literally, since Stump wrote, performed and produced it all by himself. On the record, Stump bathes his songs in synth, recalling ‘80s new wave, but there are, as the title suggests, elements here of soul and rhythm and blues. Here, Stump talks about his new sound, diagnoses mainstream music, and sheds light on his post-Fallout Boy career.
You recorded Soul Punk by yourself. What was that like? It was weird, because it was so day-to-day and I didn’t really have to work with anyone but myself. It felt freeing and there was a different kind of vibe. There weren’t really a lot of like big experiences, since most of the time when making a record with a band, there would be arguments about something, a fight, some sort of roadblock. If anything, it was the most relaxing experience. If I wanted to go get lunch, I could go get lunch.
Why did you name the album Soul Punk? A lot of reasons. Obviously, one of the things being that I always felt a little out of place in the punk rock scene. While I was listening to a lot of the same punk rock bands, I was also listening to a lot of R&B, soul, jazz and hip-hop. Those were all great influences on me. And in the same way when I was producing and writing, I would still refer to a hip-hop or R&B record. I also wanted to put my stake in the ground about the two genres, and invoking what those things mean to me. A lot of people use ignorant words to explain what those words mean. The idea that punk is just pink-haired mohawks and complaining about school lunches. I always saw it as a state of being rather than a fashion statement. I found a correlation between the two and I wanted a catch phrase. I also wanted to play with people, because when you say “soul punk” there are expectations of what that should sound like.
Do you have any favorite artists from R&B and soul that you look up to? The renaissance of Charlie Wilson has been amazing. He can make his voice crazy. I never just listen to something that is exclusively R&B, but at the same time, I also can’t think of any rock singers that I appreciate that aren’t also inspired by R&B. We could go way back to Jackie Wilson, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, to the artists of Prince’s time in Minneapolis. And now, they are some talented new people coming out. I’m excited about Frank Ocean.
What is the first sinlge “My City” about? I kind of wanted to make a statement about our city culture and the suburbs, because the suburbs are the city. They are an extension, and it was a way to talk about my personal relationship with it. There seems to be this idea in America that you’re not real unless you live in a small town, that people are realer in smaller towns. I don’t think people realize how arrogant that is. Most people live in a city in the United States, and I was thinking about that. Something really stuck with me after Katrina, and I was thinking about New Orleans. I remember someone said after everything had happened, “They can move.” I was like, No, they can’t. The people that live there, their homes are there, their culture is there. You can’t just get up and move. So it’s a very simple song, and easy to get, but I wanted a song for that feeling. I wanted something that people could stand up and say, “No, this city is my city”.
Do you have anything to say about mainstream music? I think the mainstream is always one step behind what’s happening everywhere else, but I also don’t feel there is anything wrong with it. I think for the most part, music right now is cool. I’m a little worn out on the bounce-off-the-floor dance beats. I think there is a lot of great music out there, but it would be nice to have something else on the radio.
What’s the song “Dance Miserable” about? That song is openly political. It’s one of the more impassioned times for American politics. There’s the Occupy Wall Street protests, and then on the other side, you have the Tea Party movement. With all of these different movements, I was thinking about how a lot of times an answer for people in protest is to attach religion to politics. I was a little bit concerned with the idea of separating church and state. If you are religious, you’re faith can’t determine what happens after our lives, but it is supposed to take care of what happens here. And why I wrote “Dance like you’re disappointed” is because people are focused. People are voting, and laws are getting passed about what goes on in people’ lives, and it’s like, people are out of jobs, losing homes, they need clothes and food, and all you’re concerned about is who they are sleeping with and whether they are smoking a blunt? I don’t care about any of those things. What they need is food and shelter. People are going wild, losing their jobs and families, and I just feel like it is irresponsible.
Did you ever feel pressure or a need to prove that you’re not just the lead singer of Fall Out Boy? Whatever it is I’m not trying to, I don’t go into anywhere, any room, any radio station, and assume that anyone gives a shit because I’m the guy from Fall Out Boy, you know what I mean? I don’t rest my laurels on that. While promoting Soul Punk, I’ve got a lot to bring. If you’re going to use a word like “soul,” you’ve got to prove you have it. If you’re going to use a word like “punk”, you’ve got to prove you’ve got it. I’m trying to get to a place in which I feel I deserve to be there.