Interview with Panic! At The Disco.
It’s a chilly Tuesday in Leicester and scores of hardcore emo types have been queuing outside tonight’s venue for a few hours more than is strictly necessary. Tonight Leicester Charlotte plays host to Panic! At The Disco and The Academy Is.
I’m sitting on the bus after the gig with three out of the four members of the latest American sensation to hit our shores. I’m with drummer, Spencer Smith, vocalist Brendon Urie and guitarist Ryan Ross. Bassist Brent Wilson is nowhere to be seen.
We start by talking about the tour. As I caught up with the band they’d be in England “ Probably about a week” says Spencer “ Tonight was maybe the sixth show, and its been going great. Every show has been sold out and the kids have been, ya know, singing along. Which has been amazing coz the record’s not even out here. It’s been better than we expected.” Are they enjoying it? “Yeah, today has probably been the coldest day, but, this is all of our first time in the UK.” Spencer tells us. Bless the poor lads, first time in the UK and the come in the middle of the coldest January I can remember. I imagine it’s quite a change from the Las Vegas climate that they are used to. He goes on to talk about what makes England different from his home. “Like here, everything’s old…The oldest thing in Las Vegas, I mean, Las Vegas was, like, founded in, like, 1890. Ya know what I mean? Like, nothings more than like, 30 years old, or its been torn down and rebuilt. So like, you see established, like, 1790 signs, and it’s like that doesn’t exist in the US, not where we live.”
We move on to talk about the album, which came out over here not too long ago. “Ryan dropped out of college half way through his first year, and me and Brent had to finish school on the internet, our senior years, and Brendon actually was in high school the entire writing process and we left to go record four days after he graduated high school. So yeah it was a hectic time.” Spencer explains. We can all relate to how they must have been feeling, its enough to hold down a weekend job, attend all your classes and hand your essays in on time, with out even trying to hold together a band and write a debut album as musically and lyrically amazing as ‘A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out’. As for how the record took shape the way it did, one half being a bit electro and using synths, the other half being a bit vaudevillian and using old school harpsichords, Spencer tells us that “ We got about three or four months into recordings, had about six or seven songs down and noticed that, like, half the songs were going in one direction, the other half were going in another direction. Rather than trying to make it, like, a cohesive thing and do one after the other we decided to do it in two halves.” Spencer goes on to explain that the split approach allowed the band to push the concepts further in each direction, rather than try to restrict them. “We’re pretty happy with it for our first record” says Spencer . and so they should be. “ I think there’s a lot of stuff we didn’t get to do, or would have liked to have done, but I think for the time we had, and where we were, with the writing…” Spencer tails off, smiling, he’s a happy young man right now.
Moving on to influence and inspiration we talk to Ryan, the chief writer in the band and guitar player. “Like music, and other bands?” asks Ryan, just clarify what we mean by ‘influence’. Ryan talks about how a lot of the lyrical stuff on the first half of the record is “talking about the local music scene in Las Vegas” and “ the general musical scene in general and… what its kinda become” He goes on… “ It’s just a weird thing…” explains Ryan, “…With the internet, its great… but…” Ryan goes on to talk about various sites, and webzines that exist. About the influence these have on people, in how they express opinions and influence hundreds of young people. Clearly a reference to the line “ Well, we’re just a wet dream for the webzine, make us hip, make us it, make us scene” from ‘London Beckoned Songs About Money Written by Machines’. Ryan continues on the subject of influence “ As far as music… We listen to a wide variety of stuff…Counting Crows, or Muse or something, that’s more recent stuff.” He goes on to list various band including Queen, The Beatles “Right NOW…” he emphasizes the now “… probably listening to stuff like Arcade Fire.” It also emerges during this conversation that our beloved Panic! At The Disco started live covering Blink 182!
Continuing talking about the album Spencer explains “ A couple of songs are written about a book, and about half the lyrics are completely fictional. Isn’t that something that not a lot of bands have now.” We move to Ryan again who explains “ Umm… Most of them are based of real events and stuff [the lyrics on the album], it’s just not so straight from the diary I guess. I took it a little out of context and put it in more of a story…its more fun for me to do that.” We ask Ryan about his lyrical influences… “I think Brand New has really good lyrics… I dunno I like reading books to kinda get influence for lyrics.”
At this point Adam Siska appears from the back of the bus somewhere to join the interview fun.
Onto the subject of the next album, Ryan begins…” Well, there’s always a little concern just because we’re gonna write the record that we want to, and that we’ll be happy with but also we want our fans to, like evolve with us and enjoy it too. So, just trying to figure out where that balance is, a little scary, but hopefully…”
“Its kinda surreal, like, I never thought that would happen when I was writing that stuff…” says Ryan when asked about how it feels to be onstage every night with hundreds of loyal fans singing every word back at him. “…its good to see that people care enough to come and sing along with us.” We continue on the subject of fans, and about how it can be difficult sometimes to keep fans in todays fickle music environment. “Hopefully our fans are the kind of people that, umm, ya know, as they grow older, then their music, what they like, changes also, just like us. So we can grow together… ya know, if that’s the case we’ll be fine.” Ryan decides.
Next we talk about the success of the album, and the tour, and the huge amount of success the band are having generally. “Everything has already exceeded our expectations…” says Ryan “… when we were writing the record and got done recording it, we never thought that we’d be over here even, just doing stuff like this, and the record’s doing so well. The band to me, has already exceeded any expectations I had.”
Moving on to the interesting subject of girls, and groupies. Ryan laughs as we talk about how the band deal with this aspect of their new success “Uh.. yeah, its definitely a change, cause we’re just the same people as we always been. But now, we’re kinda thrown into the spotlight more and people expect to know you, and want to get to know you. So that’s been a little bit hard to adjust to… you just have to realise that all these people are allowing you to what you’re doing so you have to, ya know… you kinda owe them that sense of personal relationship if you can, if you can talk to your fans.” Ryan gets a little thoughtful towards the end of this, but he makes a valid point, maybe more bands would do better to take a leaf from Panic’s… book and remember that the fans are the people who pay for their cars and mansions and fancy clothes.
We’re talking about family relationships and how the band deal with family and friends while they’re away. “ Yeah…he’s good now” says Ryan, of his relationship with his father”… you know its really hard when you don’t see somebody for maybe two or three months at a time and… while you’re gone everything at home is still moving and changing, and then you get back and you’ve just missed out on the past two months and you try to catch up with it. I dunno… it’s a little strange and its kinda unfortunate that that happens, we asked to be here… you just have to deal with it.”
Vocalist Brendon Urie joins us at the this point and talks about the value of friends and how they have to deal with it too, its not just the band that suffer from long distance relationships.
The band now discuss what would happen if the success ended tomorrow. Spencer starts with “Probably start a new band… a better one. That’s the only solution.” In the background Brendon agree’s “ ‘Better than Panic!’ that’d be the name of my band.” smirks the vocalist, who reveals a side that is not quite what you’d expect of this shy, sweet looking young man.
Plans or the future of Panic! At The Disco? Ryan begins “We really want to step up our live show, and do some really interesting stuff with that. In the next year I really want to become a better musician …”
From here on our interview begins to unravel a little, as the band and their crew are “getting ready to load”. We still manage to talk about the video to “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”. Which Brandon says “was not fun” because he and Ryan had flu. Poor guys.
Finally… as usual we ask the guys which superhero they would be, and why. For this question we are joined by the lovely Mr Adam Siska of The Academy Is. It appears that Siska has given this question a great deal of thought already. He wants to be Wolverine from the X –Men, his first reason being that the metal that is attached to Wolverine’s skeleton is Adamantium, and since his first name is Adam, it makes sense. Siska goes on to deliver a long list of reasons, most of which are lost in the conversation that erupts. It’s lovely to be doing an interview with these guys, but also quite an interesting experience, this bus is never quiet, ever, it seems. Various band members and road crew are always around, and the hammering on the door from adoring fans never seems to go away.
Copyright 2006 - Laura Smith