Panic! At The Disco are currently in the country plugging their ‘Vices & Virtues‘ album which was released back in March. They’re playing the Counter Revolution tour, with shows in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth remaining. Last night the band also played a special acoustic gig in the Take 40 Lounge in Sydney. Just before they hit our shores, Deborah Konopnicki caught up with Brendon Urie from the band for a chat about the album and tour. See below to take a read, and check out a clip from their acoustic show last night. The full show will air on GO! on Sunday 9th October at 1.00pm and MTV on Tuesday 18th October at 9.30pm.
Hey Brendon how are you?
I’m doing well how are you?
Great thanks! I’m quite a fan of the new record so it’s great to get a chance to talk to you about it.
Oh thanks, man. Thanks heaps for doing the interview!
So you’re due back in Australia soon to play shows as part of the Soundwave Counter Revolution. How are you feeling about coming back down to Australia?
Oh, we’re very excited. It’s been like, god… I think it’s been like four years? Since we were there last. Needless to say we’re excited.
The initial bill has been chopped and changed and there were quite a few bands that pulled out of doing the festival. Was that ever a thought for you guys or were as you said, just super keen to get back down here?
Yeah! We were so bummed when we heard that the festival has been cancelled. We thought that we weren’t going to go anymore and we were so upset. Finally like not even four days later we heard that they were trying to plan a new one so we put our hands up for that and finally it was confirmed and we were just so stoked! It was really fortunate.
What it is that you’re most looking forward to about coming back down here? It’s been quite a while!
Well as you said it’s been a number of years since we’ve been back there so we’re just ready to play a live show again. Live shows are always great. It seems that the appreciation is different down there. People just want to have a good time. We can’t wait to be there.
You’re going to be bringing down your new record from this year “Vices and Virtues.” How is that album sitting with you now several months on from its release?
It’s been great. We did a couple of tours over the past few months in Europe and the UK and the States and that’s really where we kind of get the best reactions and we can really gauge it the best when playing these new songs live for the first time. It’s just nice to be able to see them singing back. It’s still unbelievable. I still can’t believe that people like our band. It’s so unbelievable. It’s amazing. It still amazes me!
It was widely publicized that it was the first album of yours that was recorded as a duo. Do you think that brought on any added pressure with the two of you when writing the record? Obviously there were your fans that were curious to see what they were going to hear as well as non-fans that could have been keen to hear what you’d come up with.
Yeah, but at a certain point we just had to re-assure ourselves and say “Hey, as long as we’re ok with what we’re writing then we shouldn’t worry about what other people think”. That was really the get-go for us and it shot us into writing songs and demos and re-writing old demos that we had and making them new songs. This time around it was definitely different in terms of writing the music and the lyrics especially for me. It needed to happen and I’m so glad that we did because it was a lot of fun.
Yeah, the other major difference this time around was that this time you had the main role in writing the lyrics and constructing themes. How did you enter into that process? Did you want to continue along the same lines as the previous records or were you really keen to put your own spin on the writing process?
Well sometimes I like using the Paul McCartney method where you have a joke lyric like (starts singing) “Yesterday, I felt like making scrambled eggs, maybe I like lovely legs…” you know, just like joke lyrics! A lot of times they kind of end up being the best lyrics because they just kind of sneeze out of you and you weren’t really thinking about it and it’s just a funny little thing. Next you change it and make it a real lyric. That’s my favorite way of writing. You can try and try but it wasn’t always happen that way. You just have to search to see what you’re trying to say.
Do you feel that you have a bit more of an emotional attachment to the newer songs that you’ve exclusively penned or do you feel the same way about all of the Panic! At The Disco material?
Yeah, it is different! It used to be me singing someone else’s lyrics; Ryan’s lyrics but this time around being able to sing my own lyrics is a totally different exchange all together. It’s making it all that much more amazing to see people singing the lyrics back to you. It’s nice and surreal.
Yeah, I can imagine and especially with this record there are quite a few songs that have an emotional undertone. In a lot of ways feels similar to your previous work but it has a much more mature sound in a lot of places. Is that how you feel about the music as well?
Yeah. It’s always a struggle trying to get the idea out of your head and turn it into a record. You end up surprising yourself sometimes, which is nice. It’s nice to get feedback form anybody who has listened to us so I appreciate that.
How did you find the feedback from your hardcore fans upon the initial release; knowing that it was going to be a very different Panic! At The Disco?
It was great actually! We got a lot of support online and when we started touring. We actually started touring in Europe and the UK and the fans that came out to the shows when we were playing the new shows were just super supportive and they let us know. It was really nice. They were telling us how much they loved it or just telling us how glad they were that we kept the band going. It’s nice to hear some reassuring words once in a while! That’s for sure.
Were you guys worried at all at any stage that maybe some of that fan base would drop off?
Yeah, it’s a thought that could easily creep in but it never did for us. We knew that it was going to be a factor and we accepted that. We realized that for us that other people’s opinions, that we didn’t want them to dictate out ideas.
Was there ever a point or moment in your mind where you thought that you might want to stop performing as Panic! At The Disco and start something totally new?
For a while I had the idea in my head of having a different band or just changing the name but we got talking about what we wanted to do with the record and what the music would be like and it just felt right to keep it as Panic! At The Disco with what we wanted to do. It just felt good.
Do you think that you’ll enlist two permanent members in the future or are you happy with how things are going at the moment?
Yeah I wouldn’t say one way or the other for sure but we’re always open to the possibility. Right now it feels great with just the four of us. Dallon and Ian have been amazing. It’s been really nice to feel like a band again and feel like a four-piece band. It gets better and better every day and I think that it could definitely be a possibility in the future.
You were in the studio for a hefty two years creating the record, working with some amazing producers including John Feldman who has been in the industry for many years. What led to spending such a long period of time in the studio?
It took a while for us, trying to figure it out. From song to song it was completely different, trying to figure out which ones were our favorites out of our old ones and trying to write new ones. That’s how it started. We had a few demos that were older but there were just a lot of things happening at once. We were trying to write new songs, meeting John Feldmann for the first time, which ended up being amazing, He’s such a good friend now. The whole experience was just such a good one. It was scary at first, we were a little anxious to step into something new but we jumped in the whole way and it ended up being very rewarding at the end of it.
Did you have an idea in mind of what musical direction you were going to head in or were you hoping that those old demos might help you with that one?
We knew how we wanted things to go per say with the band but musically song-to-song it was totally different. I knew that I wanted certain keyboards again and I knew that I wanted to try using these types of guitars and these guitar sounds on the record but other then that the ideas for the songs were very different. They all kind of stemmed from little bits of different inspiration.
It also feels like there’s a bit of theatricality that’s come back to life in this record that was present in the first record. Was there anything in particular that brought that back to life?
Yeah it was everything from the way that an old demo sounded, like if it was written around the time of the first record then it would sound similar. We listened to a lot of different stuff. It wasn’t really a conscious decision. We’ve always been fans of theatrical stuff; musicals and theatre and the arts in general so we love making it a little more dynamic. It makes it a little more interesting for us. We like all ways of performing. We’ve tried making it theatrical and having a lot of people on stage, we’ve tried getting everybody off stage and keeping everything very bare and minimal and we’re still just learning ways of performing. That’s another way of keeping things exciting, thinking of different ways to push each other to try something different. I just hope that I continue to grow.
“Vices and Virtues” feels a little bit like a loaded title and I can fully understand how it would be after being in the position that you guys found yourselves in over the past couple of years. What do you want kids to be able to take away form that title?
Well, for us it was looking at the lyrics and trying to work out what were some of the tying themes. For us it kind of summed up a lot of the past three years of recording that record. For whatever reason we notice these little traits in the songs of different vices and different virtues and it ended up just being the simplest way of putting it. It’s hard to say how people view it though.
What does it mean to you on a personal level then? Does it feel like a bit of a triumph to come out on top?
You know, for us it’s hard to focus on how well it does by popularity. For us we really just wanted to get some of this stuff off of our chest. It was really just a cathartic experience for us. I think that every time you listen to the record it changes and you find a piece of yourself in the record and that’s going to be stamped on that moment of your life.
One of my favorites is “Ballad Of Mona Lisa” which looks like it’s the universal favorite track. How have you found the reaction to that track?
Yeah that’s definitely one that people seem to know when we play festivals and club shows as well. It’s funny actually a lot of the fan base seemed to recognize a lot of the newer songs that weren’t singles. That was really interesting and really nice to see that as well. “Ballad Of Mona Lisa” though is really fun to play live. It’s really energetic.
What were some of those tracks that surprised you that people were keen to hear?
There’s a song called “The Calendar” and we would switch up with a few other songs night-to-night; we would just change the set list order and that was one that when we added it was surprising the amount of people that were singing it. It seemed pretty crazy, It was cool, with some places people were throwing up little ‘xs’ in the air because there’s a lyric that talks about putting an ‘x’ on the calendar. It’s really nice. It’s validating.
That’s actually the song that stood out for me the most when I first heard the record. I love how catchy the chorus is. Great song. Do you have any tracks that you really enjoy playing?
Yeah for me one of my favorite songs is “Ready To Go” maybe because it was the last song that we wrote for the record and it’s the one that I’m least sick of. Vocally it was a different range of singing – it was a little lower – which was kind of nice to try something different. Lyrically, that song just ended up happening. I didn’t really have to struggle with the lyrics too much because I already knew what I wanted to say. That was one that kind of sneezed out in a sense!
Just finally today; what can Aussie Panic! At The Disco Fans expect to see from you guys on this tour?
Well we’re a least trying to figure out things to do on stage and right now we’re in the process of figuring out what we’re allowed to bring to Australia for the stage show. It doesn’t look like we’re going to have a lot but we’re still going to figure out ways of making it a little more special and just have a good time up there. We just can’t wait to see everybody out there.