Panic! at the Disco: Always in the pursuit of change
Despite the fact that there weren’t any clubs where they could play, singer-guitarist Brendon Urie and drummer Spencer Smith formed Panic! at the Disco in 2004 when they were both still teenagers. The band’s poppy 2005 debut, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, became a smash hit and went platinum. After numerous line-up changes, the band has persevered for a decade now. Last year, it released the theatrical Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! to rave reviews and spent the end of the year touring with the reunited Fall Out Boy. Urie recently called us from Seattle to discuss the album and the band’s upcoming club dates.
I think you’re currently playing in Mexico. What has that been like?
We were there a couple of days ago. The shows in Mexico were great. It’s been six or seven years since we’d been there. It was phenomenal. Right before we went on stage in Monterrey, they told us there were 40 bodies buried behind the arena. That was a mood changer. It was [Fall Out Boy’s] Pete [Wentz] who told me that because they told him not to leave his hotel room before the show. It sounded like an urban legend.
Talk about what it’s been like for you to witness Fall Out Boy’s rebirth. It must be great to be on the road together.
Sure. It was really nice. I’m glad they got back together and started touring. They hadn’t toured in years. It’s like a bunch of old friends hanging out and having a good time.
When your band formed some ten years ago, did you think things would turn out as they have?
No. I had no idea. I could have never predicted. It’s pretty surreal. It is amazing to see how far the music has reached around the world. You can’t really explain it. It’s awesome.
The band’s sound has evolved over the years. Talk about those changes a bit.
Frankly, we get bored pretty easily. Musically, I like changing it up and I don’t like to repeat a sound. I like the pursuit of change. I like that you can change it up as you’re recording just to surprise yourself. It makes it more fun for everybody, me included.
Your taste in music has been eclectic from the beginning.
Oh definitely. From the time I first started playing piano and guitar, I would mimic everything from Carly Simon to Rage Against the Machine. I’ve been infatuated with music in general. My ADHD wont’ let me stay in just one genre. It’s a good thing.
Talk about how early electronic music inspired Too Weird.
I’m the youngest of five kids. I have to credit a lot of the music I listen to my older siblings. I stole a bunch of CDs from their collection and would listen to The Smiths, Depeche Mode and The Cure. It was a lot of ’80s stuff—that and my parents’ music. My dad was into Cream and Creedence Clearwater Revival and Tom Petty and stuff. It was a good range of music but for whatever reason I fell in love with synthesizers and electronic drums and that sound. I could write a song on the guitar, but to add that kind of production — I was fascinated by that.
I love the Clockwork Orange album. What made you revisit that particular album?
That music is crazy. The synthesizers are amazing. When I was in symphonic and jazz bands in high school, people would shit on drum machines and electronic music. They said it had no soul. I disagree. I’ve heard the soul in electronic music. I’ve felt it. I never agreed with that.
The Kraftwerk albums are great too.
Oh my god, yes. The way they utilize all the synthesizers is so original.
The band formed when you were really young. Looking back on it, would you change anything?
No. I’m definitely happy. I like who I became over the years. I think it was necessary to go through that stuff. I like how we dealt with the stuff. It would have been nice to have been older and wiser, but I wouldn’t have been who I am if I didn’t have to grow up so quickly. I’m glad everything turned out how it did.
Was it difficult to start the band in Vegas?
Yeah. I didn’t think so at the time until I joined this band when I was 17. I had no idea. I didn’t know the jargon so I didn’t know what a music scene was supposed to be. I played with people around town but I didn’t know now much it affected me until we started playing shows. Most of the shows are 21 and over. We couldn’t play live. We took that frustration and fueled it into writing songs. We would play in the practice space all day long.
Do the songs on your new album provide a critique of Las Vegas?
The things I was writing about were things that happened while I was in Vegas. It’s more about stuff that happened when I was growing up. I had this fascination and wanted to celebrate my new take on it. I wasn’t bitter. I wanted to make a celebratory album that glorified my hometown. I was glad to hear that they’re building up old Vegas. I was fascinated by that as a kid; it’s cool to hear that it’s not forgotten. To build it up as an art town and celebrate the creativity is really great.
What drove the decision to write about so much personal stuff on this album?
For me, I have always been an honest guy. I always give too much information. When I write songs, I want to put a bit of myself in there. Some of it was simple. I like the simplicity and being able to use that. There are songs that are tough to talk about. Some are about drug addiction and feeling guilty about past relationships. I wanted to use the music as therapy.
Upcoming 2014 Tour Dates
Seattle, WA – Showbox SoDo
Vancouver, BC – Commodore
Salt Lake City, UT – In The Venue
Denver, CO – Ogden
Kansas City, MO – Uptown
Minneapolis, MN – Skyway Theatre
St. Louis, MO – Pageant
Columbus, OH – LC Pavilion
Cincinnati, OH – Bogart’s
Cleveland, OH – House of Blues
Washington, DC – The Fillmore
Wallingford, CT – The Dome
Boston, MA – House of Blues
Montreal, QC – Metropolis Sound
Toronto, ON – Sound Academy
New York, NY – Roseland Ballroom
Philadelphia, PA – Electric Factory
Atlanta, GA – The Tabernacle
Miami, FL – The Fillmore
Orlando, FL – House of Blues
Houston, TX – House of Blues
Phoenix, AZ – Marquee
San Francisco, CA – Fox Theatre
Los Angeles, CA – The Wiltern