There aren’t many bands in the world that evolve like Panic! At The Disco. With every release, they craft their sound into a completely new beast, and the band’s latest effort, ‘Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die,’ is no exception. The group will be coming down under for Soundwave next month, and front man Brendon Urie took the time out to chat to us ahead of the visit.
Hey Brendon, how are you this morning?
Yeah I’m good, how are you doing?
I’m doing great. You guys are in the middle of a US tour in support of your latest album ‘Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die.’ How’s that going so far?
It’s great, really good. I love playing the new stuff. I love creating a new tour and being able to show that to people and be able to see their reaction when they come to the shows. So far it’s been amazing! I mean, I’ve been sick for the past couple of weeks, but that hasn’t slowed down the touring or the energy of the show. I feel like I’m trying to compensate for my sickness by going even crazier, and I think it’s making me sicker, but f**k it, it’s great!
I was looking at the tour schedule on your website, and I saw the word’s ‘SOLD OUT’ popping up quite a lot for this run. It must feel good to have such an incredible response from your fanbase.
Oh, definitely. Before we started the tour, it was all but two shows, and then a couple of days in, another one sold out. That’s phenomenal! I can’t believe it’s an almost sold out tour. It’s amazing. Our fans have always been super dedicated. We’re playing a show tonight, and our fans have been waiting outside since 7am, and it’s now 6. It’s been amazing.
You guys released the album you’re touring at the moment, ‘Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die’ late last year. How everything’s gone since release?
Once we released the record, we had done one radio tour. Like, small shows, and people only knew one song, so we only played ‘Miss Jackson,’ and then we started touring with Fall Out Boy, and that was awesome! That was the best thing ever! It was like, old friends hanging out together again, and we’re really proud of how far they’ve come. It was great seeing how far they’ve come and how much better they’ve gotten as a live band. It was really special.
There aren’t many bands in the scene that change as much as you guys seem to with every release. It’s almost as if, as soon as people think they’ve got your sound pegged, you come around the next time with something that’s wildly different. How do you go about creating such a drastic change with every release?
Well, that’s very awesome to hear. I really appreciate that. (laughs)
I like being able to do something different. I think with boredom and repetition, it just becomes monotonous. It really frustrates me when I feel like I’ve already done something before in our music, or if I recognise it as similar to some of our past work. If I think ‘We’ve done that before,’ then I’ll just challenge myself to do something different.
This time, I had something of a clear vision of what I wanted to be inspired by. I grew up in Vegas, and a lot of the music is synth-inspired. I was learning a lot of synth when we were recording, and I didn’t want to have to re-record too much of it, so that had a big part in what the songs became. In the end, that played a big part in what shapes the song took.
Did the Vegas inspiration play a big part in the decision to move in a more electronic direction for ‘Too Weird To Live…’?
A little bit. When I was growing up when I first started writing songs, I only had a keyboard and a little karaoke microphone, so I would just record it onto that. So it’s always been a big influence for me. Synthesisers were always very interesting to me, and I really like electronic music. Like Kraftwerk. Or Depeche Mode. Even when rock bands use electronics, like The Who with Baba O’Reilly. It’s just amazing. I’ve always been a fan of hip-hop, and I love the way they sample synths and other things. It was a bit like getting back in touch with my roots, and the things that I loved as a kid.
You worked with Butch Walker as producer for this record, who also co-produced your 2011 effort, ‘Vices & Virtues.’ Why did you guys decide to work with him again?
He’s one of my favourite dudes to work with. He has a really cool work ethic. I love the way he goes about things too. He sort of sits on the sideline and coaches you, never stepping on your toes. He doesn’t play the game for you. There’s no ‘I can do this better,’ where as other producers do.
He has a really unique take on making albums. There’s a rule we have in the studio, where if you spend more than 10 minutes on a specific idea, struggling with it, you just move on and come back to it later. I really like that. It keeps the frustration out of it. It makes it a lot more fun.
I’m sure this is a question you’ve gotten a lot recently, but why did you make the decision to do an homage to D’Angello with your ‘Girls/Girls/Boys’ music video?
(laughs) I love that question! I’ve actually wanted do an homage to that video for a few years. I wanted to do it with the last record, but there was no song that I thought had that vibe. When we wrote ‘Girls/Girls/Boys’ it was perfect, and I kind of forgot about it. About a month before we shot it, I thought “Oh s**t! You know what I’ve always wanted to do? Be naked on camera!” and so we shot it!
It was very much a situation of ‘f**k it, let’s do this.’ I like being naked. I’m naked most of the time. If I’m not in public. So it kind of worked out.
You know the song says ‘love is not a choice.’ You should feel comfortable with who you are. You don’t choose if you’re gay, straight, black or white, so just take what you’ve got and run with it! Being able to accept that is such a beautiful thing.
The album’s been out for a few months now, and you’ve had a chance to start playing the songs live. Have you found them to be translating well into a live context?
That’s always an interesting transition. When you’re done writing the record and you start playing it live, it sort of brings it new meaning. To have something you’ve written that is so personal yelled back at you at a show, it takes things to another level that you can’t get without it. It’s something that I’m eternally grateful to our fans for. It’s sort of breathtaking.
You guys will be in Australia next month for Soundwave. How are you feeling about being on the line-up?
I’m so stoked! There’s so many bands on this line-up. I feel like we’re a bit left field, and most people wouldn’t expect us to be playing this. So I think we have an opportunity to play to some people that we wouldn’t normally play live to. We’re hoping to do something very fun.
While you guys haven’t done Soundwave before, you worked with promoters for Counter-Revolution, the spin-off festival, in 2011. How was that?
Yeah, that was weird. We were supposed to play the other festival, and that caved through and I was just like ‘What the f**k is going on?’ Something happened, and we had no idea. [At the time] we thought the dude might be trying to just screw bands over. It was weird. When we did Counter Revolution, we played with a bunch of friends like, in hellogoodbye, and The Damned Things, and Every TIme I Die. It was really cool to hang out with those guys, We played a couple of covers. We did a Darkness cover that went down really well. It was an interesting time.
What are some of your favourite experiences from touring Australia previously?
Let me think…
(laughs), all right f**k it, I’ll tell this one. The first time we ever played in Australia was in Brisbane. We played at a club show, which was about 2500 people, and that was the first show that a girl got topless for us, and I remember just being like “oh, this is what it’s like to be in a rock band. This is f**king awesome.”
Since then, I’ve always just been like, ‘I love Australia.’ I have an affinity with your country. (laughs)
What bands are you excited to see when you play the festival?
I think my top two are Green Day, who I haven’t seen them in about six years or something. The other is Placebo, who I think it was around the same time I last saw them. So Placebo and Green Day, I can’t wait to see both of them.
What can we expect from you guys at Soundwave?
I tried to convince our management to get us some production, but when we finish this tour, we’re basically flying straight over to Australia, so we don’t really have time. I’m hoping we can rent some stuff, but either way, our set’s changed in that we don’t take time for a breather. I don’t really talk that much. It’s like, song, song, song, song, song back to back. It’s a tireless set. I hope people are tired by the end of it, because we definitely will be.
Four albums in, how do you guys go about making a setlist?
I’m sure we’ll only have like, 40 minutes at Soundwave, so I want to play the higher energy stuff. Some of the older stuff that everyone knows. I also wannt to showcase some new stuff as well. It’s weird, it’s hard to find the mix of four albums to play in 40 minutes. It’ll be pretty fast paced and loud though. (laughs)
Are you guys planning to play any sideshows while you’re down in the country?
We’ve planned on it, but I haven’t gotten the confirmation yet. I wanted to play Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth. We haven’t been told yet. Our booking agent’s kind of f**king up. He hasn’t told us s**t, so I’m kind of annoyed with him.
I think that’s all the time we’ve got, so thanks for taking the time out to chat to us this morning Brendon. I can’t wait to see you guys at Soundwave!
You too, I’ll see you next month.
Panic! At The Disco play Soundwave 2014. Details here.