Paramore are one of the few surviving by-products of the emo phenomenon of the early 2000’s. In fact, led by frontwoman, singer-songwriter and hair colour chameleon Hayley Williams, the graduated pop-punk outfit’s fan base is as fervent as ever. Now 13 years in and five albums deep, the Nashville natives have treated their followers to a fresh sound on their latest record After Laughter.
Released in May this year, it was a milestone for a few reasons. Firstly, it was the band’s first record since their 2013 self-titled release and it saw the trio explore a new 80’s pop-rock sound. But the synth-y, new wave vibes were often used to veil disillusioned lyrics. On the debut single ‘Hard Times’, Hayley sings: “Hard times, gonna take you down and laugh when you cry. These lives, and I still don’t know how I even survive,” over a poppy chorus.
Secondly, the new record was also a product of the band’s regularly revolving lineup. In 2015, former bassist Jeremy Davis called it quits and — for a while there — the remaining members were ready to hang up their guitars and mics. But it wasn’t until guitarist Taylor York approached Hayley with some new lyrics and drummer Zac Farro (who had left the band in 2010 with brother and former guitarist, Josh) returned like some sort of proverbial Prodigal Son, that Paramore finally escaped their funk to create the new record.
Currently riding the success of their latest album, the trio are touring the world and returning down under with support act Bleachers in February. We had a chat with Paramore about their upcoming Australian tour, revisiting dark moments on stage and why the three friends are closer than ever.
Music Feeds: You guys haven’t toured Australia since 2014, so it’ll be four years since you’ve been back by the time February rolls around. What are you looking forward to the most about this tour?
Hayley Williams: We just love Australia. We wish we were touring there all the time (laughs), so we’re just ready to come back and see you guys. It’s so nice, we’re going to come down when it’s freezing cold at home, so we’ll get to enjoy some nice weather and some really big shows. So it’s going to be a good time.
Music Feeds: This album saw Paramore take a pretty massive sonic and aesthetic shift. What can we expect from the live show?
Taylor York: Well, there’s going to be the three of us. Well, four of us playing on stage. We’re gonna play a bunch of Paramore songs and we’re gonna try to play them the best that we can. You can definitely expect a few mess ups. You can expect some songs you like and you can expect some songs that you maybe don’t like as much as the other ones. But you can also expect us to be very excited and be the best we can and to have fun.
Music Feeds: So, it’s not just going to be a ‘Best of Paramore’ tour, then?
Zac Farro: I think what Taylor meant by that is that every record you put out is the one you’re the most pumped on. So it’s hard to want to play older songs even though we still love them, because it feels like we’re different people. We can still connect to them and we know they’re important to the fans, but when you put a new record out, it’s like getting a new shirt or something. It’s like the only thing you wanna wear. So, we’re gonna wear a lot of our new shirts (laughs) and a couple old ones.
Taylor: We’re gonna give fans the full time. We’re never going to be one of those bands that’s only doing this for ourselves. We know people love our old songs, but you just can’t make everyone happy can you?
Music Feeds: Exactly, and I can imagine it would be tough trying to condense over 10 years of tunes into a single set list as well.
Hayley: Yeah! We’re trying to play stuff that we really love and are excited whether we’re playing it for the first time or songs we can maybe give a new life to that are older. A lot of the people who have been supporting us for a really long time, they’ve seen a tonne of Paramore shows. So, we do care and want to make sure we entertain the fans who have been supporting us for so long. But we also… this is what we do for a living but it’s also our passion. It’s really, truly what we enjoy. You know, we’re playing music together and creating something out of nothing. So we do want to be on stage and play things that excite us and that we can connect with not only individually but with each other.
I’m sure it’ll be well rounded, but I know speaking for me personally if I could, I’d just be playing nothing but After Laughter. If we were just a band of Hayley, that’s all we’d be playing because I’m excited and proud of it. So that’s another good reason to be in a band, is to have everyone pitching in and everyone sort of helping to pick and round it out and to look at things from another perspective. All of those things we have in mind when we write a set list.
Music Feeds: And what about songs like ’26’? Because obviously the heart of that song is very much in that beautiful string arrangement. Will you have a full house band touring with you to recreate some of the new songs? Or will they be a little more stripped back for the live shows?
Taylor: You’re assuming we’re going to play that song (laughs)!
Music Feeds: Look, I’m just trying to drop some hints for you guys.
Hayley: Well, do you know any quartets or octets? (laughs)
Music Feeds: Yeah, sure. I’ll drop a line to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra for you. I’m sure they’d be down.
Taylor: For that song we’ll take a helicopter to the Opera House and play that via satellite and then helicopter back for the rest of the show (laughs).
Hayley: (Laughs) Yes! We’ve still yet to play that song with strings. One day we’ll get to do it.
Music Feeds: Even without ’26’, I’m sure it’s been amazing playing a lot of the songs off After Laughter live. The songs are very poppy and synth-y, but they also have quite dark lyrics. What’s it like revisiting some of those moments on stage?
Hayley: There are nights where I think it’s harder or we’ll be playing and I’ll sing a line that I haven’t thought about in a while and it’ll hit me differently. But I think that’s good. I mean, I’m only speaking for myself here but I think that’s healthy. You sort of have to sort of look in the mirror every now and then and really reflect on what it is you said about your life and the difference in maybe how you feel now. And in a lot of ways, I think it’s been healing for all of us to get out and play these songs for people.
I think seeing other people relate to them in their own way is good because then it gets you out of your head and you realise you’re not the only person dealing with it. It’s more of a universal sort of thing. And that’s why music is so awesome. There are still some songs that we haven’t performed from the record yet and I think it’ll be nice to play some of those and feel those emotions and give those stories a new life.
Music Feeds: And what’s it been like for you Zac? You’ve obviously been back with the band for a while now, but has it been surreal getting back on the road and playing live with these guys?
Zac: Yeah! I mean especially because I hadn’t really toured since I left the band in 2010. It felt really foreign but at the same time it felt like the back of my hand because I’d done it since we were like toddlers. So, it’s been amazing.
I actually lived in New Zealand for a couple of years and, no offence, but I definitely have a new perspective on touring and travelling which is something that I lost for a while in the old days. So it’s really fun and really exciting now after everything. It’s just sweet as.
Music Feeds: “Sweet as”, ay? Is that something you picked up during those years in New Zealand?
Zac: (Laughs) Yep! I just had to float that in.
Music Feeds: You’ve all been quite candid that there were a few moments in recent years where Paramore almost called it quits. How has this album changed the headspace of the band since then?
Hayley: Well, we’re definitely breaking up (laughs). No, we’re good. We actually talk about it pretty often. I think we’re still pinching ourselves and it’s nice to be healthy and around friends. I think that’s just something we’ve been learning in the past 15 years being around each other, like the difference in being really, really honest and supporting each other and where we’re at and also helping pick each other up. You have to learn the balance of faith and support and we’re just really fortunate that we love being around each other.
I actually think we love being around each other more than we love playing music together right now, which is a first in a long time. But the cool thing is you get to do all of it at one time. So yeah, we’re thankful.
Music Feeds: And what about any new music? Have you guys been working on any new stuff while you’ve been on the road?
Taylor: I’m gonna give you a hint… no (laughs). We want there to be but… I’ll give another hint…it still isn’t a yes (laughs).
Zac: Yeah, we’ll have to give you a plain no for that one (laughs).
Well, I guess we can just play After Laughter on repeat until that changes to a yes. Paramore will hit Australia for a bunch of shows in February next year.