It’s been a decade since Las Vegan pop-rockers Panic! At The Disco exploded to worldwide prominence via their multi-million selling debut A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out.
A lot has happened since the paisley suited Pete Wentz proteges with a penchant for baroque-pop and a knack for a monster hook were seemingly everywhere all at once, and the shrieking sounds of teen hysteria that once greeted their every waking move have dissipated as both band and fan base have grown into themselves, with both sides shedding members as time has passed.
Throughout this process Panic! At The Disco have remained a staple of the American pop-rock scene, offering a point-of-difference to other radio friendly rock acts as they’ve evolved their sound with every release.
In the lead up to the release of their fifth full-length The Death Of A Bachelor (due for release on January 15), Panic! At The Disco’s creative visionary and only remaining original member, vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Brendon Urie caught up with Music Feeds’, Brenton Harris, for a refreshingly candid discussion about the upcoming record, the legacy of A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out and the realities of dining out when you’re a bonafide Vine celebrity.
Music Feeds: The new Panic! At the Disco record, Death of a Bachelor, is going to drop in January, just in time for my birthday, from the songs I’ve heard so far, it seems like it’s going to be quite a diverse album?
Brendon Urie: You said it right there. That’s a pretty good summation. It’s very different, each song is different from one another and I pride myself on being able to do that. I tend to get bored pretty easily, so I wanted to write a couple songs that started from a Frank Sinatra type of place, a couple songs I wanted to do like a Queen type of thing, kind of big rock and roll.
A lot of hip-hop influences are on there as well, so it’s kind of all over the place. I’m really excited, man, I cannot wait, and that’s awesome that it comes out on your birthday, it’s like a little gift to you from me, that you have to pay for.
MF: That’s a good birthday present to me. Now I believe that you actually got the opportunity to record almost every single instrument on this one. How did that experience differ from what you’ve done previously?
BU: I’ve done it on a smaller scale in the past, where not every song is recorded by me, but I recorded on every song, but not every second of it, until now. Now literally everything was recorded by me, well, everything except the horns, anyway. Which is so fun, dude. When it’s in my head and I hear it a certain way, I know exactly how to play it, so it makes it more fun for me to just go into it.
I do that, and it’s me being me. I do that every day, when I’m in the studio. I jump to the drums and I jump to the guitar, and I do backup vocals, and I jump to bass and I jump to accordion. It just kind of made sense to record exactly how I write, all the time.
MF: That sounds incredibly fulfilling as a musician and freeing as a vocalist, as you’d have all the space you need to fully realise the melodic ideas, so with all that freedom did you find yourself venturing into any new territories as a vocalist? Did you try to push yourself outside of your usual influences?
BU: Definitely. There are tracks where I take influence from Queen by trying to do more rock vocals for backup. So I was in the studio, backing myself thirty times over, just to make that big choir like sound. To achieve that I was singing two octaves out of my range, which I never do, but it sounded so cool. It kind of made me a new person.
It made me play this character, where I had to become a different person to sing this certain part. That played a huge role in a lot of the songs. Emperor’s New Clothes, is a good example, as is Victorious, where I did all the backup vocals, but I’m playing different characters. That just became another instance where I got to be more creative and just vent creatively. It was really fun.
MF: Obviously, you’ve taken that full scale creative approach into the video clips, I mean; you’re a freaking demon in one of them!
BU: Most definitely. I’m glad you brought that up. The music video aspect is such a big deal to me. Visually, I love to create a full on artistic experience that adds something to the music. So these visuals become as important if not more important than the music, when you’re experiencing the band.
MF: Is that going to lend itself to another trademark Panic! At The Disco theatrical live show?
BU: Definitely man. With the live shows, I like to make it just as great and grandiose and theatrical as the music and the videos. That particular video you’re talking about, Emperor’s New Clothes, I spent four hours a day in makeup becoming a demon. So I don’t know if I’ll be able to pull it off logistically on tour, but I want to do something that is a more practical recreation of that.
I’ve been talking about setting myself on fire on stage, shooting myself out of a cannon and slowly but surely changing wardrobe and becoming a demon, throughout the show. So there are a couple of ideas I’ve thrown around that I want to get down for this next tour coming up. I’m just really excited about where it’s going to end up.
MF: On a slightly more serious note have the attacks that occurred in Paris impacted any of your planning for your upcoming European dates?
BU: No, not for me. For me, doing anything differently would mean that the people that attacked won, and I would not give them that kind of credit and pleasure. The people that attacked, terrorists can go fuck themselves, and I will be coming for them and I think that the fact that they put so much fear into people is an insult to humankind. I don’t think that they deserve that kind of attention, and I know we will see the end of them. They will not put the fear in me, and I will fucking see Paris very soon.
MF: That’s great to hear. That spirit seems to be running through the entire music industry at the moment. Moving back to the record, you’re very well known for your ability to craft witty, unorthodox lyrics. Is there anything in particular that stands out to you on this record as being different from your prior releases lyrically?
BU: There are a couple instances where I feel it is cleverer, or a little more fun than the previous records. A lot of stuff I pull from movies, so this time around, I don’t even know how it happened, but I was in the studio and we were writing and I was in there recording Emperor’s New Clothes and while I was doing the backup vocals I was trying to think of a good tie-in for the second verse. I was like, I have a line but I don’t know if it’s right. It’s from a movie called The Sandlot, which is an old Disney movie about kids playing baseball. You know the one?
MF: Of course man, it’s a childhood staple for me!
BU: I pulled a lyric from it, where heroes always get remembered, but legends never die. That’s loosely based on that movie. When I heard that for the first time, the kid wakes up from his dream, and the Great Bambino, Babe Ruth, is talking to him and I was like, that’s a fucking bad ass lyric. I want to kind of put it to an evil connotation. I took it and made it a little more arrogant.
MF: It’s been a decade since A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out absolutely blew up. One, can you believe it’s been that long, and is it annoying to you that people still consistently want to hear those songs as opposed to some of your later works?
BU: Ten years, it does not feel like ten years to me at all. It still feels like that was last year. Everything has been constantly moving and I’ve been so caught up in the moment, which is great. I love it. It helps with my creative process, but because of that I didn’t even notice it was that long ago, until people started telling me. On the other side of it, I love that people want to hear that stuff. That is the whole reason I get to do what I do, that whole first album.
I Write Sins Not Tragedies is kind of the main reason I get to tour and talk to you right now about my music. That was the first eye-catcher, ear-catcher where people took notice of my band. That’s huge, man; I can never disregard that or throw that off to the side. I will never cast that off to the side; it has been everything to me. The fact that people know any of my music is a huge fortunate blessing for me.
MF: Awesome, I know you’ve probably been asked this before, but have you ever considered doing one of those retrospective tours where you play all of that record and then you play songs from your other records afterwards?
BU: I’ve thought about it, but then I heard that Weezer didn’t do it until twenty years. So I was like, okay, I can wait another decade before I start doing the Fever tour. That would be fun, I would love to. Maybe five to ten years down the line, I might consider it.
MF: You mentioned I Write Sins… before, and kind of how it has staying power as a radio staple, alongside a couple of other tracks from A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. Is there a reason why you think those songs remain memorable and remain accessible to people, when a lot of other acts songs that took off at the same time as you did not?
BU: Honestly, I would hope that it’s a testament to the writing, that record, it just hits at such a level that people connected with it. I would hope that it comes from a real place, about a real connection to the music. I really honestly can’t say, who knows? Who knows why it’s had staying power, or why people are still latched onto it? That’s huge man that just means to me that something went right.
Exactly what I believed at that time is happening now. In retrospect, it’s kind of cool to think about. It’s just huge, fortunate, I’m just grateful to be where I’m at, man. It’s just so crazy to even talk about that considering where it all came from.
MF: The new record is called Death of a Bachelor, is that a reference to the fact that you’re now a married man? Was your wife the biggest influence on the record?
BU: I see my wife every day, I see my friends every day. Every piece of my personal life is going to come across on this album. What I was trying to touch on with the title of Death of a Bachelor was actually more of a producer’s creative process, where I saw myself as this one person writing for an album with other people.
Now it’s become a thing where that part of me is dead, and I get to recreate myself as a new individual, a new entity, and I get to become a new person. I’m dying off as a bachelor, and I’m becoming this new person entirely with this new era of music, a new grasp of what I want to do production wise. It’s been a lot of fun, man, and that’s really what I wanted to get across.
MF: Getting into different territory, have you ever considered ditching the Panic! At the Disco moniker and putting out music under your own name, or a different name? Have you felt pressure to write a certain way as Panic! At The Disco?
BU: The answer is outright no. I’ve never had a second thought as to whether I should keep the Panic name, because over time it just became me. It ends up organically over time, people left, for whatever reason; it just ended up as me. Panic! At the Disco has always represented some amount of excitability and creativity, where I’ve had carte blanche, where I can do whatever I want, there’s no rules. It has meant the world to me, it’s brought me here.
To ditch it now would kind of be a disservice to myself. I love the band name too, everything that it has brought me, it’s so symbolic of where I’m at now. I have no plans to ditch it at all.
MF: On a personal note. You’ve got quite the fanbase on social media; on Vine in particular it’s reached a point where you’re somewhat of a Vine celebrity. How do find that experience, and what makes you want to put yourself out in that manner?
BU: I think it’s pretty great. You know what’s funny, dude, is like two months into having Vine, I went out to see a movie with my friend and getting out of the movies, these girls stopped me like “excuse me, you’re that guy from Vine” and I was like, well yes, I am.
I didn’t even say no, I’m in a band. I didn’t even fight it. I was like, yes, I am. I am that guy from Vine. The fact that I reached somebody else other than using my band as a catalyst was a huge moment for me. That moment of realization, like holy shit, this has become bigger than me or the band.
MF: Do you spend as much time thinking about what to post on Vine as you do writing your songs, or is it all more natural?
BU: No, it’s more natural. The Vine thing, I don’t think about too much I mean, I have to put some thought into it because for me it’s a six second joke and a punch line and I’m mindful of what it’s going to be, and at least have an idea of a payoff or else it’s just boring, like most Vines are. But it’s not on the same concentrated level of creativity as the song writing where everything has to be pieced together. With Vine, sometimes magic happens and you can’t control it or predict it and that’s a lot of fun. I’m trying to embrace that aspect more often.
MF: Of all the collaborations you’ve done, and you’ve done a lot, what do you think stands out as the best, or your favourite? Who are your favourite people to work with?
BU: Oh man. I’ve done a lot of collaborations. I like working with those friends like Travie McCoy, he’s awesome. I love working with the guy. Dillon Francis is actually a new friend of mine that I met through Twitter. He sent me a song and I was like, I’m in love with this, let’s hang out. We hung out, we became really good friends, and that was one of my coolest times collaborating with an artist.
I also got to work with Action Bronson, that song hasn’t surfaced yet. I hope to work with him in the future too because he’s such a talented individual. Also, Lil Dicky he’s a fucking phenomenal rapper. He’s a funny guy, and I’m just proud to be on his album. There’s a bunch of people that I love working with, that I would actually love to branch out and work with again.
MF: If you had to tell somebody to listen to one song off Death of a Bachelor, what would it be?
BU: I would honestly say the title track. It’s the title track. It’s some of the most fun I’ve had writing a song. I was trying to write a Sinatra song but I put it to a Beyoncé beat, and that’s like one of my favourite happy accidents that happened.
MF: Amazing. Happy accidents usually produce the best songs.
BU: I agree, I agree!
MF: Before I let you go I have to ask when you’ll bring that infamous Panic! At The Disco live show to Australia again?
BU: I really hope during the summer, to be honest with you. Maybe toward the fall. I was hoping that we’d come out that early, but I honestly can’t say because we have no dates planned right now. That’s one of my favourite places to tour. The shows are amazing, the people are awesome, and the drinks are really good. We just have a good time when we go.
‘Death of a Bachelor’ is out January 15, grab a pre-order here.