PANIC! AT THE DISCO
Panic! at the Disco, much like the exclamation point portrays, is a high-energy alt-rock band with Queen-like drama at its core. In the formative years of emo and pop punk, Panic! was on the frontlines, playing alongside more traditional counterparts like Fall Out Boy. Their onstage theatrics added a vaudevillian edge to the genre that no one else was even attempting.
In 2006, the single “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” hit No. 7 on the Billboard charts, putting the band on all major pop radio stations and turning every driver sitting at a stoplight into a performer. I will spare you the details of how my friends and I, all relics of early 2000s emo culture, recently had a very serious moment singing this song in a 5×5 karaoke room on St. Mark’s Place. Nevertheless, to the disbelief of our everlasting teenage hearts, it has been ten years since their most famous album came out—and now they have a new one.
After several members have come and gone through various tours and recordings, Brendon Urie, the band’s handsome and arguably most recognizable lead singer, has decided to take the future of Panic! into his own hands with their latest album, Death of a Bachelor. Throughout the process of creating the record, Urie developed every element by himself as a one-man show. The album speaks less to his recent real life nuptials to now-wife Sarah, but more to his relationship with the band, one he’s not leaving behind anytime soon.
The new album has the same melodrama that you would expect from any former iteration of the group, but Urie’s maturity and self-discovery shines through on the title track. The vocals are familiar but the surrounding tempo is a modern take on Sinatra-style pop. His genuine excitement about the future of the music is refreshing and apparent throughout the album as we witness an artist finally coming into his own. Despite a decade in the industry, his ideas about touring, collaboration, and musicality are raw and impulsive—something that fans both new and old will certainly appreciate.
You have a new album, the first in several years. How is this different than the previous album, or the first album that got you guys on the map?
Yeah, I mean writing-wise it is totally different from the first album because it’s all me. I’ve spent so much time writing ideas and recording ideas on my own and I recorded all of the instruments and I wrote most of the stuff. I feel like it’s been a long time coming but it feels so right now. I’m hitting my stride. I feel like I know how I want my ideas to come across so it makes more sense for me to record everything. I hear it in my head so specifically and I am able to record it the way I want it… I have even more of a vision of what I want to do with the sound and the band and that’s exactly what this is. It’s me one hundred percent. It’s me jumping from instrument to instrument trying to get the ideas across.
Is that where the title comes from?
Yeah, it is. Death of a Bachelor, the title, is all-inclusive because it really does touch on the idea that I was this one person, mostly as an artist, a songwriter, a producer, but now I’ve become this entirely new person and it’s totally great. It’s really fun to be able to look back and have a fondness of the past and be more excited about the future and where I’m taking myself and this band.
Panic! at the Disco is a nostalgic band for many of us who grew up in the 2004-2009 time period. How do you think the new music will affect that perception?
I’ll say this: I am more excited about this album than I have been in a long time. I compare it to the first album in [terms of] passion and my excitement and anxiety of wanting to get this out to people. I haven’t felt this excited about a record since I made the first album. And that’s really what this has come from. I’m trying to get that across and I think it comes across pretty well. It’s all so different, you know? It’s been ten years but I love that people feel nostalgic about my band and about my first album. A few months ago was the tenth anniversary of Fever. I stepped back and listened to the entire album in its entirety from front to back and I was so happy. I was like “Wow, you know, isn’t this cool?” A trip down memory lane. It also set me in a good place to feel even better about [the new] stuff I’ve written. I feel like I have jumped; I’ve made strides as a writer and producer.
The new album still has that very theatrical sound to it. Is that something you purposefully wanted to keep?
That’s something that will never leave me, to be honest with you. I’m just kind of a dramatic, theatrical person all the time. That creeps into the songs. That’s one of the things that actually excites me about music in general, something that is so unique that can play off of the musicality and the Broadway sensibility. I’ve always been a fan of musicals and I think that me being able to do that is a natural thing. I never have to think about it too much because I wanted to just do something different and different to me is theatrical. When you’re doing something dramatic that takes up so much of your passion, then that’s you one hundred percent. It’s me telling my story and it’s me using all of my emotion to convey this message.
What was the toughest part of recording this album?
I would say telling myself to go work because a lot of times I would just want to go hang out with friends, but also, that is important to the whole writing process because I use inside jokes and conversations [I have] and people I meet in my songs. Any piece of my personal life becomes a part of my, I guess, business-life, but it’s really my creative life. I use it creatively and flip it in a way where I can exaggerate or exacerbate situation and make it a song—make it a new entity or character where I get to play a different person in each song. I guess the hardest part would be just showing up. I haven’t gotten a grasp on that. Just waking up and getting out of bed is the hardest part, but once I get in the studio I’m working for ten hours straight like there’s nothing going to stop me.
Do the characters that you create in your music play a role in what you are planning for the tour?
One hundred percent. I’m glad you brought that up because live shows for me are such a big aspect of this band. The visuals in general are huge. Music videos are a huge part of making this band what it is and I’m a firm believer in contributing as much as I can creatively. I’m just, you know, insanely excited to show [that creativity] to people. The live show is so important because I pride myself on being a good performer as well as producer, so being able to bring that to the table, to the stage, is a great opportunity to showcase what I am capable of.
What does that entail for you?
There are so many things. I’ll tell you some specifics, a couple of ideas I’ve had for years! I want to shoot myself out of a cannon and land on a net over the crowd. Though, I don’t know if that’s possible with fire codes. I also wanted to wear a fire suit and actually set myself on fire on stage. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to do because I say these ideas and I bring them up to the people with the practical brains and they say, “Yeah… I don’t know if we can take out an insurance policy on that.” So I throw out whatever crazy ideas I have and if it works out, it works out.
They probably don’t want you to die…
I’m not trying to die! I just want to make a good show! If I die in the process, what a great show.
Are you expecting to see the old Panic! fans or have you been sensing a new generation of fans coming through?
I’ve been playing a lot of shows these last few weeks and I’ve seen a much broader audience. I see some familiar faces, I see kids that I’ve seen from ten years ago and then I also see younger kids that have older siblings who maybe got them into the band… I guess I don’t know the reason, but I do see younger people. I’m also seeing their parents come to the shows and enjoy it so it’s kind of both ways. I find myself to be the Legos of music, where it’s [ages] nine to 99 and you can be however old and still have a good time!
You’ve seen some really big successes, and you’ve seen some not so big successes. I’m just curious, where do you think this record is going to fall?
I’ve seen the ups and downs for sure. I’ve seen the good and the bad. For me, all I can expect is to be able to play shows. It doesn’t matter how many people come. The fact that I can still keep touring and playing for people that want to see me perform is a huge, huge opportunity for me. They’re the biggest blessing. I feel so fortunate to wake every day and get up and do what I do. It’s so crazy in the best possible way. Honestly, what I expect is for me to just be able to perform. That’s all I ask. I just want to have a chance to perform for people and show them what I am and give them a good live show, make sure it is interactive in some way, and make sure people walk away from it feeling better or feeling like they were so enthused by being in an environment that was so controlled that it brought them into a completely unique world. That would make me so happy.
Lastly, if you could collaborate with any artist who would it be?
Rihanna. I think she is just phenomenal. I like female singers because there’s not a lot of them. I think the majority are boy bands. There’s a lot of guys in rock bands and a lot of hip hop artists who are guys. But I’m a fan of Imogen Heap. That was a huge influence on the first album. I remember the first time I heard “Hide and Seek,” and it changed the entirety of my songwriting. I thought, wow, you can just sit there with a keyboard and literally sing a melody in one key and it sounds so good if you have the right melody! I would love to work with Imogen Heap, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, and, if Justin Bieber isn’t as crazy as I’ve heard, I’d love to work with him… But I also have no time for crazy.