TAKE NOTE YA'LL: these are my opinions and mine alone. Nothing said in this blog reflects the opinion of Son Lux in any way. All clear on that? Ok, read on...
Maybe you've heard... Fall Out Boy heavily sampled Son Lux on their new album.
How this all came about is a pretty entertaining story, which I have told enough times that it feels deserving of a blog. I don’t consider myself a natural storyteller, or a “blogger” by any means, but I’m going to give it a shot for this crazy tale of how Fall Out Boy ended up karaoke-ing Son Lux’s “Lost It To Trying” for their major label single.
On 11/25/14 I was sent an email from Universal Music requesting clearance for a Son Lux “sample” that was to be included in a new Fall Out Boy song. Here is a screenshot of the actual email:
I had never heard Fall Out Boy, but I knew that they were one of those “huge bands” (to this day I think my only evidence for this perception came from an episode of 30 Rock). Next, I did what I would normally do in this situation: forward to the band with the general attitude of “whatever you guys want to do is cool with us."
But then I listened to the track… What I was expecting was a pop-punk song with some vaguely discernible elements from Ryan’s song buried in the mix. What I actually heard was more akin to karaoke. It was a "bait and switch." The beginning was 100% Son Lux, but then it went down the worst possible trajectory... Similar to if you were at a bar and Queen’s “Under Pressure” started playing, but then before you know it - no, that’s not Queen and Bowie, that’s Vanilla Ice…
A/B test for yourself right here:
Son Lux version
Fall Out Boy version
It took me 7 minutes between emails to write back Son Lux and retract my initial licensing blessing with the following message:
What came after this was about 4 weeks of negotiations between JNR's lawyer and Universal. It was a weird and annoying process, all dealing with industry standards that I am not accustomed to… but my position hadn’t changed. Unless we were getting seriously, SERIOUSLY paid I did not want this song to exist. We absolutely had the power to say no, which would have probably, seriously fucked up Fall Out Boys’ release plans since they had already recorded this piece of shit (and I highly suspect they already had the vinyl in production), but that's their problem. Unless it was ridiculous money, I would rather have saved the world from this abomination.
I have to admit, I was slightly more protective of this song than I would have been with other releases in our catalog. And the reason for that requires a bit of backstory…
Rewind a year and a half... Son Lux is finishing the album that would become “Lanterns." Now, I don’t normally play a strong role in editing our artists’ music (I have never taken a “production credit” or anything), but in the case of “Lost it to Trying” I actually did help shape the song. Check out the original version of the song Ryan submitted right here.
I felt that there was severely missed potential with this version, and I knew how to fix it. But I had the distasteful job of convincing a guy with a masters degree in composition to alter the “final version” of his song. So, I chose my words carefully, and sent Ryan this email:
Within 15 minutes Ryan wrote back, and began working on a revised version, which is the song that we all know today.
So, when Fall Out Boy wanted to take a giant shit right on top of an incredible song that I actually kind-of played a role in creating, I took particular offense. It also didn’t help that their song was called “4th of July”, which is my birthday.
ANYWAY, after weeks of telling them no for any price other than an outlandish sum of money, we finally came to an agreement and let Fall Out Boy use the sample (which my lawyer assured me is 4x the industry standard for this kind of thing). In my mind it still wasn't enough, but I was starting to piss off the Son Lux camp with my incessant naysaying. I heard several stories from "industry insiders" that we really put Universal through the ringer, and they were pissed... which was not my intention. I just didn't want that goddamn song to exist. In any event, we agreed to those terms, and the Fall Out Boy track was cleared for release.
It's now one year after the agreement, and after a lot of pestering, we finally received our first installment of this elusive “Fall Out Boy money." You can trust that we’re using it to support some incredible artists. We are Robin Hood-ing this shit by funding some truly amazing music with the blood money... Hopefully enough amazing music to counteract the sin of letting “Fourth of July” come into the world.
xo Karl and JNR