- Tue, 2013-03-19 16:29
Melodic guitar riffs, bold, sing-a-long choruses and a stadium shaking heaviness; the Paramore blend of emo-pop is a big deal.
Fronted by the imitable orange-haired front woman Hayley Williams, third album Brand New Eyes topped charts around the globe and won multiple accolades (all listed on the wikipedia page dedicated solely to their many, many awards and nominations).
2013 sees the band return four years later with a new self-titled record and fourth album.
Their first record as a trio following the departure of Josh and Zac Farro, 'Paramore' is surrounded by an impassioned sense of vigor, led boldly by the mantra of its first single, "If there is a future, we want it Now."
Meeting the band for a lengthy chat, we spoke about how the record came together, the meaning behind its lyrics, their advice for young bands and what Hayley would say to her teenage self.
ILM: Hello Paramore. How are you?
Jeremy: Good. So good! It all feels real now. It feels like we've been doing all this preparation and this work and we're excited to actually start!
Hayley: Yeah. It feels like we've been working a really long time for all of this. It's been a long time coming. We all have a lot of energy to just get out, you know.
ILM: I've just listened to five tracks from the new record. Still, there's a lot more to hear. It's seventeen tracks!
Hayley: There were even more songs than that! Some of 'em we didn't get around to recording.
Jeremy: We've never given ourselves this much time. It was actually the first time we've been in the studio having more than enough songs written, so it meant this was the first time we've been able to craft an album out of the material we have, you know, think about where do we want to take people? What do we want to say?
ILM: Where did you want to take people?
Taylor: Really, just take people with us. Where we were at after being gone for so long. Emotionally I feel like it tells a story. I think lyrically Hayley always writes from experience.
ILM: The lyrics that first introduced the new album were "If there's a future, we want it now" and "There's a time and a place to die but this ain't it." Where did they come from?
Hayley: The place I was at when we started writing the album, I really needed songs like that. 'Cos after going through just...life really, but also all the stuff with the band, all the drama, it was like, I needed to look forward to something, anything. The place that I was at, I didn't want to be there.
ILM: They're both big statements and though they may not seem it at first, they're actually quite positive.
Hayley: There's a few songs about everything that happened and I don't feel like any of them get too negative, ever. We made that a point on the record. I really, really want to push forward into something really positive and not write angry songs just because we can or we know how to, you know? 'Now' was the first song we wrote where I was like "uhhhh...I've really said everything I needed to say." All these feelings that have been building up just really poured out. I was grateful for it. It felt like such a statement for our fans to hear and for me personally as well.
ILM: I've just listened to the track 'Last Hope'. You sing about how a last hope got you through some difficult times but you never mention exactly what that last hope is? What's the meaning behind that track? What is your last hope?
Hayley: I mean for me, always no matter what... um. There's a lot of change, a lot of inconsistencies in life. For me, and I think for all three of us, faith has been something that is consistent in our lives. That's not something that happens very often in life. There's not many constants. So faith is a big one. It's like that thread that we were hanging on to. You know, I think having some sort of spiritual purpose really led me to not throw it all away or not give up on myself, on all of us. I felt like we wouldn't be brought all the way to this point for nothing, just to be like, "ok. Cool. See you later." You know? Being in this band was about something greater than we even know. It's just this connection to human beings. It's really great. It's this fulfilling life that we're so lucky to have.
ILM: You've said in the past that you're reluctant to talk about your faith because it's such a personal thing. At the same time, as Taylor said, you always write from experience. Was it a challenge for you to embrace the subject of your faith in a song?
Hayley: Um....I think we might all have different answers because faith is personal. So, so personal. But, lyrically, I think it's important to... well, I don't think any of us have really tried to preach, to sit people down and say "this is what's right, this is what's wrong." The day we start doing that, it will almost be for nothing. Faith is personal. There are ways it can come out and be a little less personal and that's in songs like 'Last Hope'. So, people who want to can grab onto that and get what they need out of it.
ILM: 'Ain't It Fun' contains the lyric "Ain't it fun living in the real world." How hard is it for you to live in the real world? To adjust back into everyday life? You have had enormous success as Paramore. Not many people get to experience the things you do.
Jeremy: It is pretty hard for us to adjust getting back into normal things! Just because...we work so much. We're gone all the time. We're not here, we're there. We're all over the place. If we're not doing that, then we're trying to find some creative spot in our heads to write another record and start that all over again. So, I think it was really hard for us at first. It took us a long time to adjust. But once we did, I mean, we loved just being able to have our own life. To be at home and start to create a schedule for yourself instead of one that's just slid under the door by someone else!
ILM: For a lot of your fans, your music has always represented an alternative spirit. The idea that it's alright to be an individual. That said, does being normal even exist?
Jeremy: If it does then we want nothing to do with it.
Hayley: Normal is boring. I don't think any of us were ever normal. I mean, you should see Jeremy's prom pictures! Hahahah!
Jeremy: Hahahah! They are NOT normal. I was like Kid Rock. On a bad day.
Hayley: Yeah. We er... I think all of us found music because we weren't exactly right. We were a little bit left of centre. It's so exciting to meet young fans. A lot of bands are bummed when they have really young fans because it's like, "oh, I want art critics coming to my shows and writing about how great I am." I get that sense from people and I'm like, "you should really embrace young people coming out to your shows 'cos you were one of 'em, I was one of 'em." I mean, when I meet a kid, maybe a young girl, fourteen or fifteen coming up to one of our shows and she's got like blue streaks in her hair or she's wearing glitter all over her face or she's wearing different coloured socks, I'm like "thank God there's still personality out there and people haven't been sucked dry."
ILM: Does music help people embrace their individuality?
Hayley: Absolutely. We say in the music community, especially in this alternative community that we're sort of in, we do really say how important it is to embrace your individuality. But it's hard. It's harder than that. You go to school or you go to your job and everyone seems the same and it is harder than it seems to step out of that and come into your own. Music is a great, positive place to find that side of yourself.
ILM: Having grown up and found the confidence to be an individual, what would you say to your teenage self?
Hayley: Oh my gosh! I would say, boys are a waste of time! Hahah. Um, I mean, honestly, I'd say there's no such thing as perfect. There's no such thing as cool, 'cos it's all really subjective. It goes back to what Taylor was saying. You just have to live in the present. That doesn't mean you can't reach for things, that's even what half the record is about. Reaching out for what might be next or reaching out for hope. But really understanding that today is the best day you've got. It's the furthest you've got in your life and you should be stoked about that.
ILM: The record was produced by Justin Meldal-Johnsen. He's performed as a bassist for Beck and Nine Inch Nails and before working with you he produced the last M83 album 'Hurry Up We're Dreaming'. In an interview with Electronic Musician about his plans for your album he said he wanted it "to sound very visceral and a little bit less locked down and computerized, more 1981 than 2012, with a nod to 2016." Did you achieve that?
Taylor: Hahah! I think he's way further beyond us! Hahahah!
Jeremy: He's in 2025!
Taylor: I'm not entirely sure what he meant by that but...
Hayley: I love it!
Taylor: Yes, hahah! I love it! I mean, well. Yes. We definitely did that.
Taylor: He just constantly pushed us. He really wanted to level with us. He's done so many different projects, a lot of music very different from ours. He wanted to give us new ways of thinking, of creating, to really pull ourselves out of these routines that we've been stuck in. So it was incredible. We wouldn't have made the same record without him. We wouldn't take any of it back.
ILM: What were those new experiences for you, new ways of thinking, of creating?
Hayley: It was like, every single day was brand new. Making this, it really felt like we were a new band. A lot of bands don't get to feel that, especially four records in. One thing that was different was having so much time. We spent a good three, sometimes four days working on each song. And that's how we recorded, one song at a time. Well, we did all the drums first. Then we went to Justin's studio and every song got three or four days to do bass, guitars, synths, whatever extra production, then I would do my vocals.
ILM: What else did that extra time do for your songs, aside from giving you more time to lay each part down?
Hayley: It was just really about really letting each song have its own world. The atmosphere felt different for every song and we let that happen. We let the songs take us where they wanted to go. As cheesy as that might sound! And it worked. It really was the right approach and it really was the right time for us as a band to go that route.
ILM: How do you like to record your vocals? Do you have to get into a certain head space? Do you need a lot of time or do you arrive good to go?
Hayley: I try to be pretty good to go because I think that for me, if I don't get it in the first three or four takes then I don't have it. A lot of singers are better at just doing it over and over again. But for me, if I'm not feeling it right off the bat then it's like "Ergggh!" I get really discouraged. I actually wanted to record in the tracking room with everyone because...
Jeremy: She misses us!
Hayley: Ohhhhh! Hahah!
Jeremy: Like a caged monkey in the other room!
Hayley: Yeah, I really was! But this time around, it felt like there was so much less pressure. We gave everything space and time. And I used a different mic. Everything was just sort of, just new.
ILM: I've seen the track listing and I'm very intrigued by the three 'Interludes'. What can you tell us about those?
Hayley: Um...they're just little, sort of, ditties. There's ukulele involved!
ILM: Ooo. Very nice.
Taylor: Haha! Well, I try! It was very much, sort of, when we first started writing for the album we tried to write songs like we had done in the past. So there'd be a very energetic, melodic guitar riff, with really heavy guitars behind it and big choruses, very complicated...and we were just not inspired. But that was what we were used to doing. So we wrote the interludes when we didn't really know what to do! They were a way to get past that. Like, OK, we're just going to use a ukulele in a song, play a funky bass part and sing silly lyrics. I think having the interludes made us put the record together differently. I don't know. I just think those had to be written in order for us to write the rest of the songs. I don't know why, but it just felt like the minute we finished those, it kind of took off.
Hayley: There's a lot of humour in them! I think that was good for us because there were days where it wasn't coming together and we needed something to break that tension and let us know that this is fun! This is what we're doing, this is what we love, it's not all that detrimental to have a good time doing it.
ILM: What would be your advice to bands just starting up? Bands that look up to you and the amount of success you've had?
Taylor: Um, sometimes...I think people tend to take themselves too seriously. I think being in a band, being an artist, you can adopt a mentality where you're like, "I wanna achieve this, I wanna play to this many people, I want to write these massive songs." I think that can really take away from being in the moment. I think we've experienced that. It's really cool playing big shows, we love it, but it's no better than playing small shows. I think people should enjoy where they're at. If you're in your bedroom writing and you have this amazing emotional experience and your heart is filled, just being able to live in the present and be excited and write things that you believe in.
ILM: Does it get harder to keep connected to the music, to those emotional experiences when the shows get bigger and your band gets more famous?
Hayley: Our band has been through really high highs and really low lows. It's funny. I'm a firm believer that you learn more through the hard stuff, as painful as some of it is. But music, for us, for a really long time was the only thing we enjoyed about it. Other than when we met fans, that's a really light and amazing feeling. But there were nights where we weren't happy until we were on the stage playing. So, music has always been the drive. Now we're at this album, now we've made it here, knowing how much we enjoyed making it... It was so pure, it was such a raw experience. I was really grateful for that. I'm really grateful to feel that naive excitement. You don't really know, you don't really care what's going to happen. You just know that you're making art that you love.
ILM: What does the future look like for Paramore?
Jeremy: I think we'll always be happy if our fans are coming out to shows. To be honest, that's why we do it. We make music for ourselves as well, that's part of the creative side, but as long as we have fans out there and we can have a show to give someone, that's what we want.
ILM: In twenty, thirty years time, do you think you'll still be musicians?
Hayley: Wow. Who knows?
Taylor: Yeah. Who knows, right? Hope so! We want to do this as long as we really believe in it and people can see us on stage and know that we believe in what we're saying and our emotion. I think the minute that we lose sight of that, it should probably be over. But yeah, of course. We want to play bigger shows, we want to go to new places like any band, but I don't think that's the main goal. Listening back to certain records from when we were in middle school or we were teenagers, we get this overwhelming sense of nostalgia, you know, "this is what made me fall in love with music." The idea that we can be that for someone else is just unbelievable. It's so humbling. So, hopefully we can just continue to connect.
ILM: Lastly, will the ukulele be coming out on stage?
Taylor: Oh you know it will!
Paramore release their fourth album 'Paramore' on 8th April 2013 www.paramore.net
Interview by Kim Hillyard.
Follow Kim on Twitter: @kimhillyard