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An Interview With Panic At The Disco

Article Ref: #PanicAtTheDiscoInterview

Ines Punessen - 18th February 2013

Photography: © 2013 Ines Punessen

The Pro Audio Web Blog

TPAWB: Apparently you recorded a track with Weezer´s Rivers Cuomo, yet it is not on the album. What happened to it?

Urie: Yes, we did. This was pretty early one when we were still writing some demos for the studio and it just came up as an offer that he was looking for people to write with and they asked us; “Would you like to write with him?” and we thought yeah, why not. It´s a chance to meet Rivers Cuomo, somebody we have definitely admired for a while. It was awesome, he is a super nice guy and the writing was fun. We were a little bit nervous because we hadn´t written with anybody before. It was pretty cool. I guess it sounded really different than the stuff we were writing at the time. I still like the song, it just never got used.

TPAWB: How about using it as a B-side or bonus material?

Urie: Maybe not, he can have it.

TPAWB: With Ryan and Jon leaving the band, the last few years must have been pretty tough. Where did you draw your energy and inspiration from to get going?

Smith: It just felt like the right thing to do. We felt a little bit frustrated. I mean we were all friends and then kind of put in the position where people were paying attention to what we were doing. I think that it just felt good to go back to being friends again, not having the band to be the only thing that you´re really talking about or dealing with the other people for. There were a couple of months were we did not know exactly what we wanted to do but I don´t really feel like it was hard times. It just felt like a new opportunity to do whatever we wanted to do and not be stuck with having to do what people expected from the first couple of records.

Urie: We are such good friends that we just helped each other out in that respect. We still remain friends with Ryan and Jon − that was important. We knew that all the arguments and all the decisions to split up were just because we wanted to do something different musically. We did not want to get work in the way of our friendship because that would have just been stupid.

TPAWB: Brendon, you stated that Vices and Virtues represented a rebirth, a new identity for the band. What does this new identity look like? I mean you heavily drew on the first two albums, didn´t you?

Urie: The demo of ‘The Ballad of Mona Lisa’ was written a year after A Fever You Can´t Sweat Out, even before we had started writing for Pretty.Odd. It was written much earlier than the sessions for our second album, thus it would probably tended to sound more like the material on the first record. With the second record, we had intentions to sounding different, we had these bands from the generation of music that we wanted to mimic or be inspired by, so that we definitely took influence from that. I guess every song individually has its own pour or its own vibe just because we were listening to something at the time and each song has its own direction respectively.

TPAWB: I got the impression that the songs on Vices and Virtues are very diverse in terms of style which strongly contrasts Pretty.Odd. representing a concept album and A Fever You Can´t Sweat Out being divided in two cohesive parts. Some people may regard too much diversity as a sign of directionless whereas I´m wondering if it reflects the phase of self-discovery after Ryan´s and Jon´s departure.

Urie: Yes, we started writing Pretty.Odd. as a concept album, then threw that out and started listening to a lot of bands of a certain era. I mean with Vices And Virtues we had to find different responsibilities to take on, having four people to rely on which implies four different opinions which were then cut down to two. We had to figure out where we worked best lyrically and musically. With regards to the music, we didn´t doubt, I mean we had all written music before and on Pretty.Odd. everybody was working on the lyrics once the majority of it was written by Ryan. So we would come in and do a sentence here and do one there and helped out as we could. This time, it was just both of us doing all the vocals, all the lyrics and all the music. Going from four people to two people was definitely different but ultimately from the challenges it became rewarding.

The Pro Audio Web BlogTPAWB: Did you (Spencer Smith) also contribute to the lyrics?

Smith: No, it was mostly Brendon.

TPAWB: With this album, you embraced the role of the lyricist. Was that something you had been striving for for a while?

Urie: Yea, I mean I have written lyrics in the past. I guess if you have something like a stigma with a band where people expect something of you, you kind of think; “Can I live up to the expectation?” However, pretty early on we had to realise we can´t have that mind-set because then we´d just been living up to other people´s expectations, we do not want to do that. We wanted to prove to ourselves that we can do this and we knew we could. So it was just us being excited about what we were writing about and as long as that was happening then it was ok. Then we just figured out what would be exciting to write about, well, personal stuff, what have you been through – a lot in the past couple of years. A lot of my lyrics just come from getting stuff out in a fun way, like sometimes we´ll be hanging out and we´ll have an inside joke and then you just fiddle around with it into a lyric. A lot of it comes from personal experiences.

TPAWB: Have you been inspired by any lyricists? Who are your favourite lyricists?

Urie: There are a lot of lyricists that we´re looking up to, like Elvis Costello is an amazing lyricist, The Beatles always just have fun lyrics whether or not you understand it there is always something there. There is this bit where he sings “I´m a walrus” and I don´t know what that means but I love the sound of it. They have those cathartic, very therapeutic moments in their lyrics which you can cling to. I mean there is a lot of music we listen to, I mean Arcade Fire´s new record was a huge album. There was a lot of stuff to pull from but ultimately we wanted to make it our record, not just copy somebody.

TPAWB: Your videos and live appearance have a strong theatrical element to them, especially the promotional video The Overture. Where has this predilection for costumes and cinematic imagery originated?

Smith: It was just natural, we never really talked about deliberately doing it. I guess when we had the opportunity to do the first video to ‘I Write Sins, Not Tragedies’, this was what we instantly wanted to do. Even with the stage show we never really talked about doing anything else or I suppose as soon as we had the ability to do more and do a bigger production, that´s where we started from. I don´t know where it comes from but I guess we either do it stripped down or do it as we´ve seen before quite a few times which didn´t seem that 9.05.

TPAWB: Is this a reflection of your surrounding in Las Vegas?

Urie: It could be seen as that but we honestly did not spend that much time on the strip what people see Vegas as. That´s very much the tourist area. I mean if you live in London you probably don´t go down Piccadilly Circus a lot, it´s very touristy. There are those moments where you could go down there and see a show which we have but I suppose a lot of it was just wanting to put on a good show. We were only playing for such a short time as a live band and we had everything stripped down but then we wanted something more. We liked the feeling of dressing up and we liked the feeling of having something visually stunning to catch people´s eyes while there was a soundtrack going. That was always an appealing idea but whether or not we took it specifically from something is hard to say. I guess there were a lot of outward influences, from movies mostly, that we just really loved to copy.

TPAWB: Is there a chance that you describe each other´s vices and virtues?

Urie: One for both of us is we wake up pretty late which is kind of a vice which is easy to fall into. Especially when you´re on tour. When you´re on the bus you´re like; “What time is it? Oh, sound check in an hour. I just want to sleep until sound check” because you didn´t go to bed till really late earlier that night. Well, if you mention you virtues it comes across kind of arrogant I guess.

Smith: We are hilarious.

Urie: Yeah, we make each other love, that´s pretty virtuous.

TPAWB: I´ve seen that you are confirmed for this year´s Reading and Leeds Festivals where you were bottled in 2006 and 2007. Where would you trace those reactions back to?

Urie: We were absolutely shocked. We had heard about bottling but we didn´t really know what it was until we got there. We watched a couple of bands ahead of us where there was some light bottling. And then we got on and there were just bottle flying and I was running across stage swiping them and all of a sudden I was knocked out. I didn´t know what happened but we were able to finish the set after a short interruption. Eventually, it ended up being one of the most memorable shows.

Smith: Fall Out Boy played after us and people were throwing batteries and gold balls at them. They do it to a lot of bands and it´s kind of a childish thing to do. It´s bullying from people who think; “I don´t like you, I don´t have my own band, I´m not artistic but just because I´m frustrated that I can´t be where you are I just do the most barbaric thing I can think of. This is doing something where you don´t have to take responsibility for your actions because you are in a crowd of 50,000 people. Nobody knows who it is so that it is very easy to attack somebody you´re jealous of.

Urie: In the end, it was a good show and we played it the following year as well. It will still be fun this year whether they throw bottles or not.

Ines Punessen

End Of Interview