My Chicago: Pete Wentz On Growing Up In Chicago, Lollapalooza And Breakfast
Who: Pete Wentz, a Wilmette native best known as the bassist/lyricist of Fall Out Boy, is now in electro-pop band Black Cards with singer Bebe Rexha. In addition to penning lyrics and touring, he owns a record label, Decaydance Records, and a clothing company Clandestine Industries, but still finds time to garden in the backyard of his LA home. CitysBest spoke with Wentz as he prepares for his Black Cards set at this weekend's Lollapalooza.
Years in Chicago: 25. And lived with his parents for “probably a good 7/8ths of that.” Wentz attended both New Trier High School and North Shore Country Day School.
Current City: Los Angeles
Current Gig: Bassist/lyricist for his band Black Cards, DJ and owner of Angels & Kings nightclubs, where he’s been known to host stellar after-parties.
Lollapalooza brings you back to Chicago and the 90+ degree August temperatures. How does it feel to becoming to back to Chitown?
I’m pretty excited to come back to Chicago, especially for Lollapalooza. I feel like Lollapalooza has kind of become a summer tradition in Chicago and I’ve gone a bunch of times and we always go to the after-parties and all that and so it’s really like a big honor and a big deal to come back and actually get to play. Of course, I like to see my friends and my family.
Was the idea for the Black Cards, with its more electro-pop sound, an idea that you’ve been kicking around for awhile?
I never really thought that fun pop music was a scary place or a guilty pleasure for me. I never really felt that guilty about it. I think that it’s definitely a time in my life where I wanted to play music that was escapist, you know, I wanted to play music that was fun for the sake of being fun. I’ve always kind of had music be a cathartic process for me and this is more like, ‘Hey, have a smile on your face and dance. It’s OK to be happy.’
Now that you’ve been focusing on the Black Cards and Patrick Stump has his own thing going on, what do you think it has done for you two as individuals and for your friendship?
I think allowing ourselves to go down different paths and experience things that we wondered what it would be like to experience has been really important for all of our friendships, and especially for Patrick and my friendship. I mean, I think that him getting out everything creative that he was never really able to do with Fall Out Boy has been a great experience for him. And for me, I wasn’t even sure that I was going to do music. I didn’t know really what was going on. So this has been a really cool experience for me because there’s just really no expectation on it, it’s just something that I can go out and do and have fun with and if it’s the greatest thing that I’ve done, then fine and if it’s not, then it was a fun thing to try and a fun experiment. We definitely are big supporters of each other. I’m going to watch him at Lollapalooza.
Where can we find you when you're not on stage at Lollapalooza?
I’ll probably be watching other bands, I’ll go to my parents’ house and have a barbecue or I will be at my bar Angels & Kings in the Hard Rock Hotel.
You're hosting a much buzzed-about after-party at your club Angels & Kings in the Hard Rock Hotel. Word has it that you'll be playing with the Black Cards as well as DJing a set on Aug. 5. Give us a snapshot of what we can expect.
I would say ‘expect the unexpected.’ One year Flavor Flav showed up. I think he was just walking through the lobby and ended up just going to the after-party. We have some surprises planned and unlike the first year, hopefully no one will be barfing on the couches.
Do you have a favorite local watering hole?
The obvious thing would be to say my own, but I actually have a few that I really like. I like Empire Liquors, and Debonair I think is really cool. Those are probably my top two outside of Angels & Kings.
What do you love most about Chicago?
Chicago has represented a lot of different areas of my life. I think growing up on the North Shore definitely shaped who I was as a human being and my affinity for pop culture by a director and legend like John Hughes and just being surrounded by that. I think that there was also something out of the boredom of the suburbia that kind of drove me to go want to check out the city and that’s when we first started going to the Fireside Bowl and places like that and the Metro. I think some of the music that has been most instrumental in my life growing up on, whether it’s bands like Screeching Weasel or Alkaline Trio or whoever it is, I think discovering those and being able to see them firsthand was really important for me. Now for me Chicago has become an escape. I feel very at home when I’m there. At the same time, I don’t feel like there’s going to be someone with a camera around the corner or there’s going to be a car following me as soon as I leave my house, and it’s just not a culture that’s driven by that kind of narcissism. That’s something that I appreciate and that’s something that probably has kept me grounded.
What annoys you most about your hometown?
There’s not a whole lot that does. The humidity annoys my hair.
Where was the last place you were that made you say, "I really miss Chicago?"
My son is super obsessed with trains right now, so we go eat at this restaurant Carny’s, which is a train car and they serve hot dogs and they do a Chicago-style. When I was as looking at the picture of it, it made me think about Hot Doug’s and think about how we all, like everybody in Fallout Boy, used to have an apartment across the street from it and it made me homesick a little bit.
Are there any obscure places in city that you always try to visit when you're in town?
The one that we definitely go to every time I’m in town is probably Pick Me Up Café. And I don’t know if it’s obscure at all, but they make awesome vegan French toast there and they’re open really late. But my most obscure would be the one in my hometown of Wilmette and that’s the Chuck Wagon and I’ve been going there since I was 9 years old, and it’s like just the epitome of the ultimate little burger joint. Also, there’s this little place behind the Shedd Aquarium that, I don’t know if you still can, but you could go behind and watch the dolphins swim at night and it’s a rad place to go on a date.
Favorite place for breakfast after an all-nighter?
Oh man. Probably the one that I go to the most is Clarke’s. That’s where I used to go always. Definitely the one on Belmont.
Anything else you want to tell me?
We’re working really diligently on our set for Lollapalooza and I think it’s going to be a different experience. I think we finally kind of found the groove of where our set is going to be and what it’s going to be like so this is probably going to be the first Black Cards show where we’ve actually figured out what we’re doing. I’m a big proponent of putting out music that can just get to fans and not always having people have to buy it or hunt it down.
Black Cards will be playing Lollapalooza at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug 5 on the BMI Stage.
Pete Wentz will be playing with his band Black Cards and DJing at his after-party at 11:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 5 at his nightclub Angles & Kings in the Hard Rock Hotel. Open to the public.