It’s hard to believe that a member of a band that plays sold-out shows around the world could walk into the vegan café he co-owns on the South Waterfront in Portland, Oregon, and go unnoticed. But that’s exactly what happens when I meet up with Andy Hurley on a sunny Friday in early summer. Oracle Coffee patrons barely look up from their laptops as the Fall Out Boy drummer enters. In a town known for its tatted residents and plant-based fare, Hurley—5’5″ and covered in colorful tattoos—fits right in.
Where he doesn’t fit is into the typical “rock star” mold. The term evokes brash musicians, hard living and destroyed hotel rooms. Hurley, by contrast, is unassuming, soft-spoken and serious about issues of compassion and justice. He prefers black coffee and dreads dealing with the stacks of mail that pile up when he’s on tour. A straight edge vegan with a CrossFit obsession and a fondness for hardcore punk bands, the only thing he’s likely to have destroyed is his most recent WOD (workout of the day, for those unfamiliar with CrossFit lingo).
Finding distinctive passions hasn’t just made Hurley one of the most principled musicians on earth. It has guided his career, and it may even have saved his life.
We photographed Andy at his home in Portland, Oregon … so yeah, the CrossFit box you are about to drool over is his private fitness cave. Fall Out Boy’s mantra may be “Dance, Dance,” but Andy’s is a little more “Double Under, Deadlift.”
Hurley grew up in Wisconsin—a state where Cheesehead hats are a thing. After discovering Destroy the Machines, an album by the metalcore band Earth Crisis, in the mid-’90s, Hurley became interested in the same social and political issues the band supported. He became vegan when he was 16. Veganism made sense, even if his environment didn’t necessarily accommodate his new diet.
“I remember scrounging for vegan food at the Pick ’n Save because it had a natural foods section,” he says. “It was mostly packaged tofu and soy milk in cardboard boxes, but it was cool to be vegan back then. It makes me appreciate how far we’ve come.”
Before restaurants began offering plant-based substitutions for everything under the sun, Hurley mostly dined on fried tofu in garlic sauce with broccoli and rice. It was easy, cheap and, most importantly, enabled him to eat while staying true to his beliefs.
Finding the straight edge community
Hurley also committed to being straight edge when he was 15, commonly defined as being “poison free.” For Hurley, that means no drugs, alcohol or smoking. The level of discipline required to maintain the vegan straight edge lifestyle, particularly in a culture of wine memes and sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, has changed everything for him. The community has been especially helpful to plug into when he’s going through rough times.
“I have an addictive personality,” he says. “Addiction runs in my family. The vegan straight edge community was a lifeline for me. It was something that I needed. I think it can change people’s lives.”
Finding his fitness tribe
In 2013, Hurley made another life-changing discovery: CrossFit. The fitness regimen was a natural fit with his hardcore roots—he was immediately drawn to the intense workouts. Going to the box (aka a CrossFit gym) five times per week quickly became routine.
“The intensity sets it apart from different workouts,” Hurley says. “It’s hard work, and it’s cool to see it catching on with the greater fitness world where most programs focus on a lot of easy steps. With CrossFit, the harder you work, the fitter you get. It’s just logic.”
Because the results are data based, CrossFitters are always testing themselves against previous benchmarks. The wide range of physical activities—everything from running and gymnastics to burpees and box jumps—exposes everyone’s physical weaknesses. That means there’s always something to work toward, and the successes feel sweeter.
“You’re always finding things that scare and challenge you,” says Hurley, who struggles with the upside-down balance required to master handstand walks. “My favorite thing to work on is the Olympic weightlifting snatch because it’s so complex.
“There are so many factors to perfecting the mechanics,” he continues. “I’m always chasing that perfection. When you hit it just right, you know it. You can feel it. I have an addiction to getting it right—even if it’s only one out of every 100 times. That’s when I feel the strongest.”
In addition to the personal successes, Hurley keeps coming to the box for the community, which is similar to the vegan straight edge community in terms of the diehard vibe. There are boxes all over the world, and he makes it a priority to find them, even during the chaos of touring. When he returns home, the box is his first stop to reset his clock and put touring behind him.
“There’s an extra level of camaraderie in the CrossFit community,” he says. “You make instant friends.”
The rigors of international touring with Fall Out Boy (most recently throughout Asia), playing shows one weekend each month with the straight edge vegan band SECT and tending to a behind-the-scenes role at Oracle* can make it hard to train consistently. Hurley wouldn’t change it for the world. He’s appreciative of every minute. After all, he’s come a long way.
Finding that drum kit
It’s funny to picture now, but Hurley kicked off his musical career playing the saxophone. While his woodwind days were numbered—he was waiting for an open spot in the middle school drum program—he credits the experience with teaching him to read music. He met friends in high school who played guitar, started bands and never looked back.
Today, he has too many career highlights to list. They include moments on Fall Out Boy’s recent MANIA tour, like three sold-out stadium shows in China and performing for a crowd in Singapore that was so boisterous, he couldn’t hear the song the band was playing. That speaks to Fall Out Boy’s astounding longevity: the band rose to fame and influenced pop-punk music in the early 2000s (remember “Sugar, We’re Goin Down”?), but its sound has continued to evolve.
While Fall Out Boy gets most of the attention, hardcore band SECT is an important part of Hurley’s life, too. SECT’s music is darker, sharper and a whole lot angrier, fueled by problems ranging from police states to ecological disasters.
“I wanted to do the vegan straight edge band to show people I still care about these issues. They’re still important to me,” Hurley explains. “Mostly, I wanted to make a statement with that genre of music. The vegan straight edge band stretches a different muscle.”
Finding success—and failure
Ultimately, Hurley credits his ethical, active lifestyle with empowering him to succeed professionally. He says it’s saved him from being broke—and potentially much worse. The biggest lessons were about life.
“It can be hugely helpful to learn that a workout can look or feel really hard, but no matter how hard it actually is, most people are unwilling to start because it’s scary,” he says. “Whether it’s a goal, a band or a dream you have, there’s nothing you can’t do.
“The more you fail, the more you become comfortable with it,” he adds. “It’s okay to try and fail because you’ve done more than most and learned in the process.”
Andy’s tips for scoring plant-based eats on the road
- Research your options. Veganism is catching on abroad, and Hurley says some countries have impressive vegan innovations. Germany, for example, has plant-based pizzas and oat milk beverages that you can’t get stateside. Even in Japan, where fish flakes used to be a staple in rice, restaurants now have plant-based dishes. Do a little digging into your destination. You might be surprised.
- Keep it simple. While you may not find the fanciest fare everywhere you go, be sure to look for places where you can pick up fresh produce or easy-to-eat items you can prepare in a pinch. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request modifications to a listed menu item. Most places are happy to accommodate dietary restrictions.
- BYO backup. Hurley often brings protein bars and powders to supplement his diet when he has trouble finding plant-based foods. Touring also makes his eating schedule inconsistent. Grab-and-go options ensure he gets proper nutrition, even when he’s not eating as much as he should.